5 Things to Look For in a Life Coach

Lumia Coaching co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss what they look for when hiring a coach, and how to choose the right one for you.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

5 Things to Look for in a Life Coach

In this episode, Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss how to choose a coach.

Episode Transcript

John: Hey guys, on today’s episode we’re gonna tell you the top 5 things that you should look for in a life coach or if you’re a life coach, these 5 traits you should possess. Noelle, how are you?

Noelle: I’m doing great John, how are you?

John: I’m doing well. You think 5 is okay? Or should we do more than 5? I just put 5, it’s just a good round number.

Noelle: It’s a great number. I think we should do 5 but I also think we should tell people who we are, and what we do, and why we’re qualified to tell them the 5 things to look for.

John: Absolutely. I think you’re better than that than me. So why don’t you start and I’ll follow your lead.

Noelle: Sure. I’m Noelle Cordeaux. I am head of the Catalyst Coaching Intensive that my co-pilot, John Kim and I developed over the years. I am CEO of our organization called SHFT and we train coaches. We built a marketplace for life coaching and we are coaches ourselves. John started this whole thing in his underwear and donuts.

John: Underwear and donuts. My name is John Kim. I’m a licensed therapist and went through that (inaudible) — realized that it was broken and I just thought there’s better ways that we could help people help people. So I started — just added the kitchen in my underwear, like Noelle was saying, and created a course. Brought Noelle on board and ever since, we’ve just been growing it and making it better and better and now we have a podcast to go with the course. We keep wanting to create a dialogue for coaches but also if you’re looking for coaches or if you just want a better life.

Noelle: Yeah. You know what, the really cool thing that’s been happening is I’ve had some of our podcast listeners book calls with me just to talk about coaching and the course and life. Guys if you’re listening and you want to connect with me, I really love this field, I love people who want to become coaches, and I’m happy to talk about it. So please find me through the website and let’s get together to talk about what you want to do but, this is a great place to start.

John: Yeah so 5 things to look for in a life coach. So if you’re looking for a life coach, — right now there’s so many life coaches that keeps growing, I guess we’ll just start naming them up. What are some things that you would look for Noelle, if you’re looking for a life coach?

Noelle: I’ve had several really amazing coaches in my life and I think the first thing that I personally look for in a coach was a level of expertise in whatever it was that I was going through. Somebody who had kind of been through the fire themselves and could adequately coach me.

John: Right. I wanna mention, guys, you’re gonna notice this. So Noelle has her list. I have my list. I don’t know Noelle’s list but they’re probably different and that’s okay. I think that, that’s the point is that whenever we’re looking for life coaches, it’s not going to be the same for everyone. It’s always important too, it’s going to be different and also depends on where you’re at in your life and what exactly you’re going through. So for Noelle, the number one thing is expertise, right?

Noelle: Yup.

John: For me — and that’s totally fair. I think it’s legit. For me, the number one thing would be authenticity. You know, I’m all about the whole transparency thing. I really believe that if a coach isn’t authentic, it’s hard for me to trust the person.

Noelle: I completely agree with you. I mean — authenticity, empathy, I mean that’s what we call coaching presence, right? That is an actual thing that you have to have if you’re gonna be a good coach — it’s coaching presence. And that means that you show up, as yourself, no bulls*** and that builds trust.

John: Yes and if you’re not authentic or you try to present yourself in a way that you’re not or —. You know, one of the things that kind of turns me off about wellness today is that it’s become so commercialized. There’s a lot of people — I don’t know how to explain this. I think they’re intentions are good but they’re not authentic because they’re trying to be inspirational for the sake of being inspirational or for likes, or for followers, or for whatever and it doesn’t come off as true. It comes off as someone that’s trying to get membership, get buy-in, sell you something, all that stuff.  

Noelle: Yeah. It comes off as the commodity right?

John: Right.

Noelle: Yeah, totally. I think this kinda cuts across all relationships. I was working with a client today and she said something really profound. She said that, “You know, I’d finally realize that not everyone has to like me and I don’t have to like everyone. I’m just really looking for the quality relationships that make my life better.”

John: That’s a huge revelation to have.

Noelle: Right?

John: Yeah. Absolutely.

Noelle: Right? And I think that’s so true. So look, when you’re working with a coach, it’s a partnership. It’s a partnership of two people who come together to work on your life and if you don’t feel like that person is authentic, and you trust them, and you like them, and you believe them when they tell you s***, it’s like, why would you want somebody who doesn’t know how to do that working on your life?

John: Yeah. You could have, you know — the person that cuts your hair, it doesn’t matter if their authentic or not. I mean you have a (inaudible) experience but you know, as long as your talented in cutting your hair or even your personal trainer. They have programs — you have to do these exercises or your nutritionist and all that but with life coaching, it’s different because it’s based on the dynamic of the relationship and I think it’s a lot more intimate.

Noelle: Yeah. I don’t know, I’m really sensitive so even the person who cuts my hair, my personal trainer. Look, I need to like, ‘like’ them and feel safe with them or I’m not gonna be able to do it.

John: Yeah. Absolutely, so especially with life coaching. Uh, what’s your number 2?

Noelle: Uhm, coaching presence as I described earlier but for me, that has to be really specific. So for me, — you know me, I’m no shrinking pansy. I’m kind of a pain in the ass. I want what I want and I know what I want.

John: Wait, what is exactly is a shrinking pansy?

Noelle: A shrinking pansy?

John: I’ve never heard that term.

Noelle: You’ve never heard? A shrinking pansy is somebody who backs down.

John: Oh I see. Someone [without walls?]

Noelle: Yeah. Somebody who (inaudible) problem and will let people walk all over them.

John: Oh, right. [Beta?]

Noelle: Yeah so that’s not me. So I need a coach that is physically, mentally, and verbally capable of holding me accountable in a way that kind of strikes the fear of God into me a little bit.

John: Yeah so you need someone that is not going to be intimidated by you, afraid of you..

Noelle: ..Or let me steamroll them. Get away with s***.

John: You know what, that’s such a great point. I think a lot of coaches, they bend over backwards, they compromise, or they’ll swallow their opinions because they want to be liked or because there’s money exchange. They feel like this is what a good coach does but a coach can disagree with you. A coach can give you a bitch slap. Not physically but you now what I’m saying.

Noelle: Totally.

John: Or give you a cold shower or tell you something that’s gonna hurt you maybe or whatever.

Noelle: Or call you on your s***. When you’re working with a coach, you’re moving forward in life and if I didn’t do the s*** that I said I was gonna do, well what got in the way? And let’s talk about it and that’s an uncomfortable conversation to have with someone.

John: So Noelle’s number 2 is a non-shrinking pansy.

Noelle: Yes.

John: My number 2 is, the coach should have a voice and what I mean by that isn’t that their loud but they — there’s something about them that is unique. I think life coaching is an art. I think that’s what separates life coaching from therapist or therapy which is more clinical. So with life coaching, because it’s so broad and the canvass is just — whatever you wanna create on that canvass. And because there’s no board, I think that there’s so much room for people to be super creative with life coaching and how they coach, and how they present themselves, how they wanna go in. So because of that, I think that you need to have a strong voice or you’ll just disappear into the background.

Noelle: Yeah. I think your coach having a voice really shows kind of like the quality of their craftsmanship as a coach, almost. I think you and I do a really good job of modelling that in our tribe, with our students, and on this podcast. The ‘me’ that you get on the podcast is definitely gonna be the ‘me’ that shows up as a coach.

John: Right.

Noelle: That would probably be unsettling for people if they heard me, got to know me, learned all about me, and then they met me as a coach and I was a totally different human.

John: They wouldn’t trust you. That would break their trust.

Noelle: Yeah. It would be weird. But you know what, I think young coaches struggle with this the most. I’ve heard so many people who are in their 20s say, “But why would anyone wanna listen to me? Why would anyone — I don’t have that much life experience compared to the people I may be coaching.” , and it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. As long as you have a voice and a coaching presence, and you’re capable of intuitively listening to the person in front of you, and asking them questions in order to guide them to their own conclusions, you can coach anybody.

John: Yeah. I love that.

Noelle: Yeah. Absolutely.

John: What would be another — what would be your number 3? If you have another one.

Noelle: Uhm, you know.

John: And it can also be the same as mine. It doesn’t matter.

Noelle: Have you ever heard the term where you hold space down for someone?

John: No. I’ve heard of hold space but not hold space down.

Noelle: Well I guess, same thing like holding space for someone. To me, that means providing me with the space to sort my s*** out, and to be vulnerable and to be vulnerable with me. And let me kind of fall apart and put it back together again, and give me that space to do it because there’s not a lot of time in everyday life where you actually sit down and strategically think of about what you’re gonna do next and that’s f*****g valuable. And to have somebody who can do that with you is skill is amazing.

John: So the ability to hold space?

Noelle: Yeah.

John: Yeah, that’s great. Absolutely. And let me ask you this, to hold space, what does that look like?

Noelle: Uhm.

John: To be non-judgemental, to not label.

Noelle: To be non-judgemental, to not label.

John: To create a safety.

Noelle: Yeah, to create a safe environment where I can be vulnerable and honest with myself in that environment and admit things that I maybe wouldn’t admit out loud or to people who are close to me, and to just give me a different context.

John: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s soil for any kind of coaching.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: My number 3 is kind of simple, it’s confidence. Listen, if you’re new life coach listening to this, I don’t want you to think that you have to be confident to start. No one is confident in the beginning. What I mean by confident is just — it’s more about knowing your worth as well as your shortcomings. Confidence is about being honest with yourself, practicing the truth, standing on what you believe in. Confidence is about taking ownership of the things that you don’t know. Right? So a lot of life coaches, especially when they’re new, they feel like they have to know everything and if they don’t have the answers, they’re not a good life coach and that’s not true. That does not mean that you’re not confident. You can be just as confident — just own up to it and say, “This is something I don’t know but I will research or help you with or whatever”. (inaudible) from heart instead of ego. Confidence — like Noelle said, vulnerability is huge. Confidence is communication. Confidence is knowing if you can or cannot help a client and you referring them out. So listen, if a client falls on your lap, and you’re like, “I don’t think that I really can help this person or I know someone who could help them better.” Confidence is referring them out instead of trying to help them anyway because of your ego, you know.

Noelle: Yeah and I was just going along with that. If we’re talking about knowing yourself as a coach and being confident in your own worth, that means that you are the most important person, and that you have to set appropriate boundaries and listen to your body, and that you shouldn’t proceed with a coaching relationship if it feels bad. Just like you shouldn’t proceed with any other kind of relationship in your life if it feels bad, you know. It’s being able to draw the line.

John: Boundaries is huge. I think it takes confidence to draw boundaries. I think a lot of people smear their boundaries because they’re seeking whatever — new clients or approval, validation. People can smell it and you don’t seem as confident, you don’t seem as safe, you’re not someone people can lean on.

Noelle: Yeah and I think too. It’s like we’re all kind of programmed to be polite in society. We grew up with rules and standards. When somebody consistently tramples all over your boundaries and they paid you money, it’s really hard to push back and be like, “No dude, that wasn’t cool, this behavior isn’t gonna fly.” And then to end that coaching relationship especially if there’s money on the table.

John: Yeah and that’s gonna happen. I’m sure it’s happened to you Noelle. It’s happened to me. Once someone pays you, there’s a sense of entitlement. Like, “Now that I bought a session, give me your phone number” or whatever it is. You have to set the rules, the boundaries, and hold on to ‘em really with two hands — to be confident and to run your practice in a healthy way.

Noelle: Absolutely and figure out what works for you as far as how you wanna work, you know.

John: Yeah and not that it’s wrong to give someone your phone number, I mean especially with texting and messaging now, a lot people do that but whatever is comfortable for you.

Noelle: Yeah. I mean my deal is I work by phone so obviously I give my clients my phone number but I only respond to emails and I’ll respond within 24 hours, Monday through Thursday. If somebody’s texting me — blowing up my phone or even worse, Facebook messaging me, that is such a violation. Like that’s like, my life you know. It’s like I do not wanna be hearing from clients at 11pm on a Saturday night.

John: Right. And if you don’t draw that line, they will do it.

Noelle: They totally will do it. They will do it non-stop.

John: Absolutely. My number 4 is passion. You know what, we all burnouts, we all hit plateau, we all go up and down. It doesn’t matter how much we love our craft, that’s gonna happen. But there’s no bigger turn off than a passionless life coach because you don’t have to have a perfect life. But if you’re not passionate at least about helping someone or creating space for someone else or challenging them, it’s very hard for them to want to pay you for because they want hope. They want someone to give them something that is going to be contagious, like passion.

Noelle: Absolutely. Somebody said it to me a really long time ago and I now repeat it to all of our students. Is that as a coach, you have to fall in love with every single person that you work with or at least I do. I fall in love with every single person that I work with because I have to believe that, that person is not only f******g beautiful but is capable of transformation beyond their wildest dreams.

John: Yeah and listen to the passion behind Noelle’s words, I mean I love that. I think coming from that mindset and the approach that she takes, there’s so much love there.

Noelle: Yeah. I mean I let myself go. I let myself get emotionally invested in every single client that I work with because sometimes I need to believe harder than they do that they can get back up again and that’s what a coach is. A coach is the person who’s gonna tell you to get back up again.

John: Now that being said, you can’t have such a bond with your client where it affects your own life.

Noelle: No.

John: So if they don’t do well, then suddenly it cripples your life too.

Noelle: No. I was actually talking about that with one of our students today. Somebody booked a call with me and what I suggested was setting up a ritual where you kind of — and I learned this from one of my professors in grad school. He lights a candle before every session to kind of signal that he’s going into this space of working with a client and he’s no longer himself. And then at the end of the session, he blows the candle out and he emerges from that mental space and he becomes himself again. There has to be —

John: Oh I like that.

Noelle: — yeah, mental and emotional boundaries to it or else you’ll just end up carrying everybody’s problems around with you.

John: I like the ritual of that. So you actually get into it.

Noelle: Yeah. So you get into it and you get out of it. I don’t light a candle but when I go into a session with a client, the best way I could describe it is I go into almost a meditative state and I become like a conduit for their life and it’s like going into a painting where I’m no longer me. I am a mirror and a guide and then when I’m done (inaudible), it’s kind of like, “Oh shake it off” and like, “There’s my dog and okay kitchen, cool”

John: Yeah. That’s really interesting cause I’ve had some very spiritual moments when I was working in non-profit running through four groups a day. Just in the middle of the night with like thirteen to sixteen kids and I did the exact same thing where I kind of imagined myself as a conduit. I went into it and you almost hit like a flow state where the experience kind of becomes bigger than you. You don’t even know what you’re saying but you’re saying the right things — the perfect things and when you’re done, people are having revelations. They’re going through these (inaudible) and stuff. And then you’re like, “Wow, how did that happen?” and some of my best sessions were when I was in that state.

Noelle: Yeah. I mean the hardest lesson to learn as a coach — especially a young coach, is that it’s not about you, at all. It’s so confusing because you have to market yourself and tell your story and really build yourself up as this great, confident person that people wanna come to but when you’re actually in session, you’re just a vessel.

John: Yeah. What a great way to think about it and what a great reminder. And also guys, if you’re looking for a coach and they don’t have that element, it may not be something that you want.

Noelle: Yeah. I mean if you’re clearly on the phone with somebody or on Skype with somebody and they’re checking their email or responding to text messages, you might wanna put your dollars elsewhere, for sure.

John: And if you’re a coach and you’re listening to this, maybe try a ritual too like Noelle was saying. Whether it’s a moment with yourself with a candle or doing something where you are kind of checking in and checking out. So you are putting whatever — your problems, your ego, whatever it is, kind of at the door as you enter the session. Noelle, I’m gonna find an old phone booth and before every session, I’m gonna go into it, change into my little superhero outfit, and then go into my session with a cape.

Noelle: Okay, I like this. I like this idea. We can — how about a cardboard phone booth? We can get you one of those. We can just take it out of your car.

John: A big J on my chest? I like it.

John: Uhm, okay cool. So my last one is actually my favorite and it’s magic. Magic is very — this was difficult to define. It’s the X factor, it’s the special sauce, the unexplainable. If your best friend had a session with a coach and it changed their life, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that coach is going to be just as impactful with you and I think a lot of that has to do with the dynamic of individual relationships. I think a lot of that has to do with the magic that they have. So I think in every coach — they’re very unique and I think it’s about the magic between you and the coach and the dynamic you guys have.

Noelle: Yeah and I love that. I love the magical factor and it’s so true. I mean it’s like, you know — so coaching reminds me of dating so much and I think everything we’ve said here can absolutely translate —

John: It’s true. I didn’t think about that.

Noelle: It’s so true. I mean it’s like you know when you have a f*****g connection with someone. It’s apparent, it’s in the room, you can’t make it up, you can’t explain it, it’s there and each and every single one of these tenants goes into a coaching relationship because it’s the same thing as a romantic relationship — it’s a partnership. It’s two people coming together to make something better.

John: Right. Thank you for reminding me. I’m just gonna change this title, cut, and paste this and use it in our other podcast.

Noelle: There you go.

John: The 5 things to look for in a relationship.

Noelle: Yeah, nice.

John: I wanna remind you guys that magic isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Magic can also come in a form of resistance because I think that resistance — assuming your coach and you process it, and explore it is where amazing growth can be produced. So just because something doesn’t feel good, doesn’t mean that that’s not magic.

Noelle: Yes. I mean your coach’s job is to challenge you and hold you accountable. And if you’re feeling uncomfortable, ask yourself if it’s because it’s a growth point that you need to explore.

John: You have any others Noelle? Or should we end on magic? It’s seems like you agree with the magic part.

Noelle: I do agree with the magic part. I really do. I can still sit back and recount moments that I’ve had been in a client in session where I’ve just kind of gone, “Holy f**k!”

John: Right.

Noelle: My mind has been blown and all of a sudden I feel like I can really do it, you know. So it’s a — chase the magic kids.

John: Absolutely. Those are the moments when you really feel like — it’s almost like a — I think coaching can be almost a spiritual out of body type of experience. You may not get that in every session but there’s some that you will. When you hit that, you’ll just realize how amazing life coaching can be.

Noelle: Yeah, absolutely. As a coach you know, there’s nothing better than like on the third session when your client shows up and you’re like, “Oh, how are you today?” and they’re like, “I’m great” and I’m like, “Oh yeah, this is working”

John: Right. Or they say, “You know what, whatever happened in the last session, it changed my perspective and blah blah blah, and now this has happened or all of this has happened because of that session.” When you get something like that, you feel so just meaningful you know.

Noelle: Totally.

John: Alright guys, so if you’re looking for a coach, think about what traits matter to you. Think about some of these. If you are a coach, think about if you are executing these things or if you are growing these traits in you and what else Noelle? We have a wake. You wanna talk about a wake coming up?

Noelle: Yeah we have a lot of things. A wake is our own retreat in Los Angeles. It is free. It’s open to the public. If you wanna come by and meet John and I, you can find it through our website. It’s July 23rd in Santa Monica. Also if you’re looking for a coach, you should consider the coaches that John and I train. We handpick and train our very own army of coaches. And if you’re not sure who you wanna work with, we actually have a dedicated trained clinical therapist that will interview you, and work with you, and pair you with the perfect coach for whatever you’re going through.

John: Yeah and we’re North of 115 now, 120?

Noelle: North of 115, 120? What are you talking about?

John: The amount of coaches we have.

Noelle: Okay. I was like, “It’s that a longitude, a latitude?”

John: I was just trying to be creative.

Noelle: It’s the middle of your day, the end of mine.

John: Alright guys and don’t forget to subscribe. If you enjoy this dialogue, Noelle and I will keep creating it and be well.

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