Today’s New York TImes raises a good question: Should your life coach have a life? Read the full article here.
At first I thought they meant, “Should the life coach have fun, family, etc.?” but they were referring to the increasing number of 20-something coaches. One 27-year-old coach works with several clients in their fifties.
The article talks about working with someone who’s young enough to be your child. How could a young person have something to help someone who is so much older.
On the plus side, a young person probably has a hip website. Female coaches look great in their online photos. The premise of coaching is that the coach doesn’t function as an advisor, but instead as a sounding board and facilitator. The idea is to help you understand more of your own intuition and wisdom.
On the other hand, I’ve found that coaches often cross that line. Just by asking certain questions ,the coach can direct your thinking along specific paths. Even Thomas Leonard, founder of CoachU and the man who brought coaching into the mainstream, told coaches to feel free to share their views. Many coaches go to their own coaches, who encourage them to view themselves as experts.
Quite honestly, I have trouble with the idea of talking to a 20-something about complexities like divorce, home ownership, frustrations with age discrimination and more. I remember being on a teleseminar with a 30-something coach, several years ago. She downplayed the idea of age discrimination as nonsense. “Think of the wisdom of elders,” she said. I pointed out that elders may have wisdom but few companies are willing to pay for it.
I also think that certain career paths make more sense for someone under 35. A temporary restaurant job might seem like a lark when you’re 25; at 45 or 55, it’s not the same.
When I work with clients I don’t pretend to be a coach. I’m a consultant. Here’s the difference.
Tom is a successful 50-something business executive who’s thinking of going back to school to become a teacher. He might talk to a life coach if he’s not sure that’s what he really wants. He might want to explore feelings, emotions and family pressures.
On the other hand, Tom may want to learn more about his options. For instance, he wonders how he can pay for a return to school. He just read about a new program that’s offered online; he wants to know if that’s a realistic option. As a former college professor, I know the ins and outs and sometimes can recommend creative ways to choose a program (and sometimes creative ways to pay for it). Often we can address his questions in a single session with a few follow-up emails. If he brings up issues of fear, I’ll share examples of others who faced similar challenge and suggest ways he can deal with it, based on my experience.
Who’s the best choice for Tom? I don’t know. And I don’t know how he’d feel about working with a young life coach. If he wants a consultant, he needs someone who’s knowledgeable. If he’s building software, a teenager can be a consultant. But if he wants to know about a specific set of choices, he needs to draw on someone’s real experience.
How do you feel? Do you care about the age of your coach?