Career Killer Phrase – “I Have a Life-Coach”…

A while back I did the post "The New American Dream…A Union Job" about what I thought was the last-greatest job left in the world.  Like with most things, I was wrong. My dream job is now – Life Coach!  Where else can you get a job telling everyone else to do what you think they should do, without any responsibility to the end-action (well maybe besides – Wife! – Oh, I'll pay for that one tonight!).  Being a Life Coach has to be the single greatest gig left on the planet.  Plus, the cool thing about becoming a Life Coach is it fits perfectly into the career path of burned-out-failed HR management career.  You get to sit in your home-office, facing a lake or forest or beach or some other beautiful scenery (you choose), and then schedule phone meetings with your suckersclients around late morning, early afternoon (whichever suits your personal bio-clock) and listen to their problems.  Sounds almost like a psychologist, but you don't have to have the education – another bonus because you then don't have the medical accountability to actually help them.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article "Pile On Mentors In Tough Times" in which it all but espoused not only getting mentors/coaches in your life, but get multiple coaches!  Yes, that's what I need for my new career choice – mass mediaDesktop_Life_Coach letting the herd know you need to use more of your income on my said chosen profession (I wonder if we are allowed by law to call this a profession? But, I digress).  I have to admit that I have some previous corporate experience with Life-Coaching.  In a previous regional HR role, we often were encouraged by senior HR leaders to offer Life-Coaching to high performers, who for a multitude of reasons, maybe were no longer performing at the same high level.  Not a bad idea – you have a huge investment in your talent, if you can get a top performer to be top again, why not?  The problem begins when top performers, who are actually still performing, see these life coaching sessions being doled-out like Oxycodone at a Rush Limbaugh Themed Halloween Party. They tend to be put off a bit. So, Jimmy screwed up his life, or is trying to "find himself" and now he's going to take up corporate "development" resources that could actually go to me!  

The ironic part of my experience with Life-Coaching has been that the individuals who had the most "success" with life-coaching almost always ended up leaving the company.  It stands to reason. Life-Coaching life-cycle:

1. Let's get to know each others motivations;

2. Let me as Life-Coach tell you how great it is to be me, because I'm free of corporate chains;

3. What is it that's holding you back from reaching your full potential?

4. What steps do we have to make to help you reach that potential?;

5. Did you begin sending out resumes to those non-profits we spoke about, once you get with an organization that isn't tied to profits, you'll free your aura?

6. Did you turn in your resignation?

7. We should still do sessions to ensure you reach potential, and get me a meeting with your new senior HR leader so I can share with the new organization the zen we've shared.

Being in the recruiting world, I might be a bit cynical (ok, a bit plus one), but I wonder if there is a worse phrase you could hear from a candidate than "I have a life-coach."  What I really hear is "I can't take care of small things that pop up in everyday normal life, so now I have an unqualified person shaping my future."  So, what you are telling me is, I should bring you (and your life-coach) on board, because you've proven that making decisions that further your career, personal future, business, and dinner plans, seem to be a bit too taxing that you need a wing-person helping you along. Really?

Let me give you a better option. "Business-Coach" – this is a current employee of your company, solid performer, established experience, ability to transfer knowledge – don't have to be in a leadership position, but should have organizational influence.  Partner them with those employees who have great skills, but maybe a career derailer that might get in the way of them moving forward, or have yet to figure out organizational politics.  I've seen this work very successfully from the standpoint that both have the organization's best interest in mind and are working to move a potential higher performer forward.  Works well with younger professional types, who want to change the world, but haven't figured out that probably won't be happening from the middle-manager role they're moving into. 

Until then, I'll be in the hammock out back waiting for my 2:30pm call with Bobby – who isn't sure he still wants to be an accountant.

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.


  1. John Hollon says:

    Anyone who thinks they need a life coach needs to go get a life …

  2. Steve Boese says:

    If I ever hire a Life Coach their first action better be to punch me directly in the face.

  3. Steve G says:

    My experience is that a “life-coach” is the new term MLM’s use for their reps. I have also heard them refer to themselves as “health/ wealth coaches.” Typically, in order to break free of corporate chains and live up to your potential you will need to read the Secret or some other self help, positive affirmation book. Then learn why your new business opportunity’s comp plan is not a pymramid. Of course, there is the other option of becoming a social media expert and charging for seminars.

  4. Steph McDonald says:
    Sorry to any members of CCF (Federation, really?!) but I saw this on a LinkedIn group I follow and thought..2 days. You can become one in two days. Anything you can become in two days (other than pregnant or addicted to meth) has got to be fake.
    Hmm..I can’t make decisions about my own life in two days, but other people (who probably have more at stake than I do) SURE!
    See you all there. I’ll bring coffee and meth.

  5. Ouch. As an executive coach, I feel compelled to make a distinction here.
    The type of “life coaches” you mention here should NOT be working with high-potentials, executives or in businesses. And I’m pretty sure that many “life coaches” will set me straight on this, since there is an opinion amongst many that you don’t have to have an education, training, or background to “coach” in business. WRONG. If you are hiring people like the types you mention in your company, you better stop. And I know organizations that have paid big money for “life coaches” with no other credential.
    An executive coach should have a solid background and track record in business (as an executive). Education and credentials might be important in a specific discipline to the organization and the exec. We are usually differentiated from life coaches in that we are paid by an organization (not an individual), who should be watching for, and holding us accountable for results.
    And yes, executive coaching is a “profession”, in my opinion. It is hard work, entails long and irregular hours, financial ups and downs, and a lot of travel for the successful few. We use a process as well as a skill set that supports the exec. The best don’t just “coach” – they use assessments, observation, interviews, an action plan, measures, an internal sponsor (usually HR or the individual’s manager), etc. We focus our work on the individual, but in the context of achieving business results (often included in the measures).
    There is beginning to be a body of work that shows ROI and other statistics on the value of executive coaching, not to be confused with “life coaches”. We need more, and I welcome the good results as well as those that indicate this what we do is a waste of time and money.
    I find it sad that the purveyors of “coach in a box in two days” seem to negatively color a profession that is wide open as a wild west right now. Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves any type of coach, and the best money is to be made in business, so this is where the posers may head.
    An internal “business coach” is usually a mentor. Different animal, different dynamic, and there is a time and a place for that. There is also a time and a place for an executive coach from the outside. I’ve done both, and I understand the value of both.

  6. Great post.
    Would you believe that I actually have a personal coach? Her name’s Ruth, and she’s Catholic, as am I. In fact, our Catholic faith is the basis of ALL of our coaching sessions.
    Imagine: “Hey Ruth … The hiring manager at a client who short-paid my invoice by $10K last year is leaving her company and she wants to use me as a job reference. What would Jesus … or Aquinas or Augustine or St. Teresa of Avila do?”
    People (like Michael Moore) misunderstand Jesus, and they think He was a pushover. Actually, Christ was tough as nails. Recall that Christ physically whipped the moneychangers in the temple, and He’s pretty clear in scripture about eternal damnation.
    I know, I know. You don’t wanna hear it. This is not the forum. Now’s not the right time. Fine. I wasn’t going to go there anyway.
    My point is: Our sessions are always very instructive, especially because neither Ruth nor I see morality as a subjective construct. We both agree that right is still right when nobody’s right, and wrong is still wrong when everyone’s wrong.
    It’s through this lens that we see the world of business — and with every issue, there’s an 8-point acid test we apply, which includes dimensions of humility, faith, hope, charity, wisdom, justice, temperance, and fortitude.
    It’s not about goal setting. And it’s **NOT** about evangelizing to my candidates and clients. It’s about living a morally straight life that (hopefully) allows God’s grace to be refracted through me — thereby inspiring others to do the same.
    In any case, I can’t imagine any Fortune 500 company subsidizing my sessions, even if I had a real job.
    But they sure are worth the money.

  7. Lisa Gates says:

    I know, I know…the incendiary headlines and perspectives get people talking. Good on you. What the underlying errant perspective is here, and yes, I’m a coach, is the very American view that we all should be able pull up our bootstraps and getterdone. “I don’t need nobody.”
    If I had a coach when I went through the merger at the “disease nonprofit” I managed…If I had a coach when I ran an industry association…I might have opened myself up to a world of information and constructive, implementable possibilities. But I wasn’t so fortunate. I thought they were bunk. Until I hired one in desperation. Best choice of my life.
    We don’t do this world alone, my friend. Artists collaborate. Playwrights brainstorm and do staged readings for feedback. Companies do surveys to find out what people want and need.
    Humans? We are not an island. If coaching means we ditch our present employment, so be it. If coaching means we find a way to love the one we’re with, even better.
    Why I hired a coach? I wanted someone to kick my ass.
    2 cents and a wink.

  8. Rita Ashley says:

    The astounding thing about the crush of new life coaches is that they mostly don’t have any credentials to support their work. You can get a certificate online…no experience required.
    I am a job search coach (with 25 years experience in recruiting, as a board member and other insider to employment jobs including executive) and am appalled at the bogus advice and employment carpet bagging achieved by anyone with a great website and a mailing list.
    For example: I received an invitation to purchase a beautifully laid out book on job search. The author had no experience in the employment world but wanted to share her impressions. The book’s circulation is impressive. The content, much less so.
    People don’t seem to vet the coaches whose advice they take and therefore wind up worse than when they started.
    So, rock on real coaches; we do provide services that help. And fie on all the pretenders.
    Rita Ashley, Job Search Coach

  9. Bret Simmons says:

    “What I really hear is “I can’t take care of small things that pop up in everyday normal life, so now I have an unqualified person shaping my future.”
    Glad you said that so I did not have to!

  10. Wally Bock says:

    The term “coaching” means so many different things to so many different people that it’s hard to decide what it actually is. And “life coach” is a tall order indeed because life includes a lot of stuff.
    If I’m looking to hire a coach, I want one who will help me with something specific. You can’t be expert in everything, certainly not everything in my life, so I want to get specific. I’ve got my priest for some things. There’s Richard, who does my taxes and is my financial coach. Mac is my beer coach. He helps me select interesting brews and brews up a few of his own. Dave helps me with IT issues, after all that’s what he’s expert in. If I’ve got a question about entrepreneurship, I’ll call Tom.
    What these people have in common is that they know a lot more than me about something that I may want to get better at. If I were an executive and looking to do better in my job, I would not call a life coach. I would call someone like Mary Jo Asmus. Why?
    Mary Jo has experience. In her case there are two kinds. She’s actually (wait for it) been an executive. And she’s done a lot of coaching. She has a string of clients and she’s worked to develop those coaching skills.
    If I’m looking for a coach, I want someone with a specific kind of knowledge base and specific skills that will help him or her hook that knowledge up with my needs. Otherwise I’m liable to get the result that Bret describes.

  11. Elijah B. says:

    Liked what you said about the “Life Coaches”… what a crock. I’m starting to notice that there are a whole hell of a lot of “occupations” out there that are in constant need of justification. Unfortunately, that justification (and $) comes from residual clients looking for intangible understanding… at a high billing rate.
    See: Psychics, Feng-Shui Decorators, Political Commentators, etc…
    The term “Life Coach” is inherently an oxy-moron. You can’t do it; you can’t “coach” LIFE. That would insinuate that we are all on a measurable and quantifiable path towards one, uniform goal… therefore we can coach someone to reach that goal, through some tangible process… because that is the objective. Since people find and define “success” within their own lives (by their own measurements), no one can certifiably say whether a life coach is making a difference or not. Whereas I can say, in one particular season, Charlie Manuel was better then Joel Madden because he WON the ONE goal of an MLB championship… I can’t say that he won at LIFE better then Chuck. Life is comprised of too many objectives. The rules as well as the goals for each are different. Specialize your coaching. The guy traversing the US on his Harley w/ the “No Fat Chicks” bumper sticker, pickin’ up contracting jobs here and there… may argue with the Life Coach’s tactics and practices for helping others succeed at life. Until we lessen the spectrum and categorize exactly what the coach will be coaching… “LIFE” Coaches are a sham.

  12. william says:

    Nice job, Tim.
    To have a coach or a mentor is fine and dandy, especially if it yields the desired results. It assumes you’re willing to make a change and that’s always a good thing.
    The odd thing about saying “I have a life coach” is it’s no one else’s business. There is no redeeming value in disclosing this. It raises doubt about you/the are you’re already trying to address. Why sabotage it? Your mother doesn’t need to know. Your 12 step group doesn’t – but in this case you don’t have a “coach”, you have a “sponsor”…. so (I guess) go right ahead.

  13. working girl says:

    LOL. Great point about life coaches, but is calling them ‘business coaches’ really going to fool the people who have caught onto the drawbacks of life coaches?

  14. Anna Holmes says:

    I needed to laugh this morning. One of my favorite annoying phrases is “Let’s have some dialogue about that”. Here’s some dialogue for you shut up and do what I told you because I am the boss and they pay me to be the boss. Now I feel better.

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