Changing Paths: When and How a Life Coach can Help


Life coach. Career coach. Wellness coach. The world of professional coaching has “grown up” and exploded in both the personal realm and the business world. Ten years ago, the conversation was about what coaching is; today, the conversation leans more toward the training and experience of the coach and what results he or she has delivered.

The leading global coaching organization, the International Coach Federation (ICF) has grown to 16,000 members since its inception 15 years ago. Six thousand of those members are credentialed, having attained high levels of specific training and work in the field. Other experts peg the number of coaches at 100,000 worldwide.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a professional service designed to assist clients in setting and reaching goals faster than they would on their own. Or put another way, as a coach, I help people create the life they want. There are skills I use and have honed over the years that get at the “juice” of a situation quickly and help people make the changes they long for.

Who uses a coach?

Successful people who are stuck. They want to be better communicators or they want to have more life balance or they want to quit their job and transition to something more soul-satisfying or they just want more confidence. As a coach, I am a safe place. The place where we can have candid conversations about what went well, where you blew it and what you want going forward.

Coaches come to the conversation without bias, unlike a boss or a spouse or even a good friend. A coach is a confidential ally, a cheerleader celebrating your wins and an accountability partner who will be asking about your “homework” from the previous session.

How does coaching work?

Most coaches offer a complimentary session or free initial meeting to determine fit. If the client feels able to develop a trusting relationship with the coach and the coach feels the client is ready, then both parties are in agreement to move forward. The coach will then start with a series of open-ended questions. (What gives you energy? What drains your energy?) Some coaches also use assessments to determine a client’s natural strengths or optimum modes of operating.

From that starting point, the one-hour conversations continue twice a month. The coach looks for patterns, for shifts in energy, and is there to assist the client in this thought-provoking and creative process. Coaching agreements can last from three months to two years and beyond.

What results can people expect from coaching?

As strange as it sounds, success lies with the client. It’s the client’s agenda, the client deciding to be in action and to move forward, the client doing the hard work of learning new habits. I can ask powerful questions all day long and prod the client to move (and I do offer tools and resources), but it really is the client doing the work.

Take my client Karen, for instance. She is a driven, type-A CEO of a small community organization. She came to our first conversation burned out and enduring her job instead of enjoying it. We looked at what was going well and what wasn’t. Our conversations were a mix of strategic (what’s the long-range vision?) and tactical (what’s a mess right now that we can start to unravel?).

We looked at her crazy-busy schedule, jettisoned several standing meetings and re-designed her staff meetings. We also worked on adding in self-care, a challenge for many of my clients. Karen was a model client and did everything we brainstormed about in our conversations. She was quite serious about creating change. A year later, she reports taking more vacations, connecting better with her husband and sleeping better. And a bonus: work is better now, too.

In the coming months I will be writing on finding a qualified coach, finding that elusive work-life balance, looking at assessment tools to discover your best work style, and best practices around managing our time and energy. In the meantime, I welcome your questions about professional coaching. I am honored to have been part of so many people’s journeys of discovery throughout my 10 years in the profession.

Tags: life coach, life coach lansing, susan combs, what does a life coach do, what is a life coach


Susan Combs

Susan Combs, MBA and Professional Certified Coach, works with coaching clients to create fresh starts, enhance their leadership skills and increase their confidence. She is an authorized licensee of the Fit Leader's Program. Susan provides one-on-one coaching, DiSC team-building training and manages corporate mentor programs. She lives in Lansing with her son, Max, and their golden retriever puppy. Visit or for more information.

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