For those people who have difficulty getting out of the house—you can utilize the Internet. You can get on your computer, and if you belong to a large organization, you can constantly be a part of that evolving community. For instance, I’m very active with the International Coach Federation, and there are newsletters, articles, research—there are constantly new resource materials available.
In addition, it’s also very important to stay connected to the coaching community for the purpose of networking and referring clients to one another, because there so many different slices of the market, and every coach has their own niche, and more and more niches are surfacing every day.
For instance, as a transformational coach I deal mostly with life and career challenges. When someone needs to understand their finances better, I would probably refer them to a coach with a financial background. When you belong to a professional group, it’s always easier to get clients, to learn more, and to grow professionally, and even personally.
I: You donate your time to the ICF as a Credentialing Examination Assessor. What is the general attitude now toward ICF accreditation, both for coaches and for people who are looking to hire one?
ML: That’s a very good question. Since coaching is not a licensed profession, unfortunately, virtually anyone can call themselves a coach; however, the public is becoming more educated and more discriminating about who they’re going to choose as their coach.
Things like training, past experiences, credentialing, and certifications become the guide for a new client when they’re choosing a coach. As a matter of fact, that question and that answer feeds into marketing for coaching: What are your credentials? What do you have to offer? How are you going to help your clients? Do you have a specific message that can relate your talents and skills?
I: Does being an ICF assessor help you in mentoring your students to gain their credentials?
ML: Of course. I have an insider’s view, and since I’ve been doing this for a few years now, I know exactly how to train my students for the oral exam. It’s not a secret that the exam is based on ICF coaching core competencies. However, just to read them is one thing, but to live them as a coach within a session is a very different thing. Again, it’s a process, and this process is not taught overnight.
I: For about five years you were the creator and executive producer of Life Coach TV, a popular primetime cable show that helped the ICF in New York City greatly increase its membership along with public awareness of coaching. It also served as a model for other ICF chapters in the United States to create their own local shows. Where did you get the fantastic idea to create the show?
ML: When I initially joined the New York City ICF Board of Directors—which was in 2003—there was very little awareness of coaching outside of skill sets such as sports coaching, acting coaching, and so on. There was a need to introduce the idea of life coaching to the general public.
As a board director, I felt it was my responsibility to bring all of my resources to the table. One of those resources was my acting background. As a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) professional actress and theater director, I knew about production, how to conduct an effective interview, and how to create an interesting and informative show that could benefit not only the chapter, but the coaching industry as a whole. The show dramatically helped in almost doubling our ICF-NYC membership—and it provided an opportunity for our coaches to connect with the general public and share what they knew, how they coached, about their coaching style, and about their coaching niche.
All of this really increased the awareness of coaching by the general public, and specifically in New York City. When I left the board, I trained some of the board directors to take over, and it’s still alive and kicking under a new name.
I: What a great testament to your work. What advice can you give someone trying to decide which coaching school to choose, and what are some key questions to ask when interviewing a school?
ML: It’s a very important decision, because it’s anywhere from a six month to a two year commitment. Deciding where you’re going to be for that period of time and who you’re going to learn from is critical.
Key Issues to Consider When Selecting a Coaching School
Coaching Philosophy: Every school has its own approach and a specific coaching philosophy. You need to be in sync with that coaching philosophy if you want to become part of it. Usually this information is clearly defined on the school’s Web site.
Method of Training: Next you have to decide for yourself if you want to be trained on the phone or in person, or using a combination of these two methods. Questions to ask yourself include, “What is my learning style?” “How do I learn?” and “What makes learning easier?”
Budget vs. Costs: What is your budget for your training? When you interview a school, you must ask what is included in their quoted price, because I notice that many schools charge extra for things like exams, certification, and learning materials. All of that adds up. Also, if you have to travel somewhere, that also adds to your cost. There may even be an extra charge for some courses when you want to get their full training and become certified. These costs are often not included in the advertised price you see on the Web site. Your cost may sometimes even double from what you think it will be. It’s extremely important for you to understand what your complete and total cost is going to be, and if that fits into your budget.
Instructors and Class Sizes: Consider who your teacher will be and how many people are going to be in each class. In coach training, small classes are critical. Needless to say, the teacher’s expertise and even their teaching style is even more important. If possible, I would recommend that you arrange a time to have a conversation with the actual person who teaches the course, not just with the receptionist or with someone who handles sales for the training. If the school is large, this may not be possible, but it’s worth a try.
How the Size of the School Affects What You Receive: Nowadays, bigger is not necessarily better. In fact the opposite may be true depending on a number of factors. Find out what the school actually offers in terms of how big or how small the classes are, who is teaching each class, etc. Don’t look at the size of the school, but look at what you are going to get as a result of your training and how you are going to be trained.
Alumni Support: What does a school offer in terms of follow up and support? Is there any marketing help for their coaches? Are they going to consistently support you when you are done with your training? I think these are important questions to keep in mind and to ask.
I: These are all very good points—especially about costs.
ML: When I opened up my coaching training course, of course, like every other business person, I wanted to be competitive with other schools that offered similar services, so I was trying to understand the pricing for a similar amount of hours and training. It was the most confusing research because of that problem.
I would see someone advertising themselves for $3,500, but when I dug deeper, I found that if I actually paid for the whole thing, it would cost me $8,000, which is a huge difference. It was very difficult to understand who’s charging what and why, and to discern what the bottom line is—what I am going to spend at the end of this.
I decided to make it very easy to understand in my program and to make sure that all of my marketing materials clarify that it’s all inclusive, so people don’t have to get a headache trying to figure out how much it’s going to cost them.
I: What made you choose this arena for your life’s great work?
ML: Every friend, every colleague I had told me I was crazy. They were telling me there were so many coaching schools, why would I want to add one more?
I wasn’t really sure in the very beginning, but what I always knew was that I am a teacher at heart. Anything I know and am excited about, I want to share with others and teach them how to do it even better than I can. That was my initial impulse—just to teach what I learned and to share what I’m excited about. Then I said to myself, “Everybody is trying to tell me that this is not a good idea, that there are so many coaching schools, and that new coaching schools come along every day. Why would I want to have my own? Maybe we don’t need one more.”
But as I was looking around and saw that everyone had so many different ideas about what a new coach should know, I really felt that we desperately needed a more well-rounded education where you wouldn’t have to chose between the importance of thoughts versus feelings, or the importance of being versus the importance of doing. I wanted to create a truly holistic school that would unite all of the above—plus, things that I’ve learned and taught at NYU and other educational institutions, such as Positive Psychology, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), and Emotional Intelligence.
I think when you finish any training, you are going to be attracted to some techniques more than others, and you’re going to want to learn more about this or that, and that’s great. But I think that you have to have an overview of all the tools that are effective.
I: What is your definition of success as it pertains to coaching schools or the coaching industry?
ML: I teach my own classes, which separates me from directors and founders of many schools. What I think is important for any teacher is knowing that your students really get it by the end of the course—I want to know that they graduate as capable coaches, that they can do what I do, that they feel good about offering their services, and they feel confident they can produce results in their clients. That’s the true measure of success—seeing the results from your students. My students define my success.
And, to answer the second half of your question about success in the coaching industry—it’s all about us helping our clients to reach their goals and dreams. Actually, that’s how I came up with the name for my institute. Goals represent consciousness since we consciously choose what we want to accomplish. Imagery represents our feelings, the subconscious, and imagination. Therefore, Goal Imagery represents the unity between conscious and subconscious—a truly holistic approach to success.