Life coaching – 5 tips for amateurs!

(1) You’re already a life coach

You’re a life coach whenever you help a person with a difficulty: teacher, manager, parent, friend, professional coach’.

The term life coach describes a person whose profession involves helping others overcome their difficulties and achieve their goals. But we all act as ‘amateur’ life coaches from time to time.

  • You’re being a life coach whenever a friend or colleague or member of your family asks for your help in dealing with a problem
  • If you are a team leader or manager you coach people as part of your role – especially in appraisals
  • And many parents aim to offer coaching to their children as an alternative to telling them what to do or think.

Now for the other 4 tips…

(2) Coaching is not advice-giving

When coaching put your opinions & advice aside. Advice-giving dis-empowers. Instead help person find their own solutions.

Advice-giving is not coaching. Yes, it’s a lot easier than coaching. And, for some people, it feels good when someone accepts our advice – we feel wiser and a little superior to them. After all these people have accepted our directions on how to live their lives!

When you give advice you are in effect telling the person what you would do if you were in their shoes. But you’re not – they’re in their own shoes. They have a completely different background to you. Live in different circumstances, have a different lifestyle, and have a different inner world to you. So how can your advice possibly take all of this into account?

Advice-giving is easy. And it’s a lot quicker than taking the time to patiently guide them in finding their own solutions. Yet even if they accept it, and especially if it works, your advice does the person a disservice. It creates dependency.

They’ve accepted your ideas over their own so now you’re the Wise Expert. You may even have come up with a successful strategy for them – but the cost is that their self esteem is reduced.

(3) Life coaching through empowering questions

Two key types of coaching question: ‘What do you want/not want?’ and ‘What do you need to do to achieve this – and by when? (Incidentally, the art of using questions as our main coaching tool is an essential part of all of our NLP courses – since questions are so much better at engaging attention that statements).

Once they decide to seek guidance with their difficulty most people are happy to talk about it… a lot! Initially this can be useful for them since they have the opportunity to think aloud. But, even as an amateur coach, you want them to begin exploring solutions pretty quickly – otherwise it can become a self indulgent session for them.

To move things along in a constructive direction, from ‘talking about’ the difficulty to ‘looking for solutions’ use two sets of empowering questions:

(1)     What do you want – instead of the current situation?

(2)     What do you need to do to make this happen?

In #1 you want them to imagine how they want to be instead of how they are i.e. to imagine their goal. And this must be how they want to be rather than how they want others to be – since they can only change themselves.

In #2 you want them to come up with detailed action points for how they will reach this goal.

(4) Make sure you arrive at action points

Are they really motivated to change. Some people just want to talk & talk but not ‘act’. Demoralising for you…

Some people appear reluctant to consider life beyond their current difficulty. Their difficulty is like a brick wall and the rest of their life is hidden behind this! And this is reinforced if the possible solution requires them to change rather than for other people to change!

As an amateur, or even as a professional, coach this can be frustrating or even infuriating – yet there can be many reasons for it e.g. they truly believe that lots of talking will help things, they are afraid of change, they cannot accept that they, rather than other people, need to change, and so on.

Whatever their reason, you need move them to action points – otherwise you’ll be forever offering them ‘tea and sympathy’.

(5) Engage their motivation

Help them get motivated to change – use two sets of questions:

(1)     what exactly will happen if you don’t change?

(2)     What will happen if you do change?

Make sure they give you lots and lots of detail. Doing this ensures they consider these two scenarios in great detail – and makes it more likely that they will be motivated to make changes in their lives.

Ideally your goal will be to evoke in them independence and clarity of thought. To get them to recognise that complaining and wanting the world to change is a waste of a time. To get them to recognise that they do actually have all their own answers – and that your job as a coach is simply to help them find these – for themselves.


  1. Martin Rodgers on 13th March 2012 at 9:31 PM

    Hi Reg,

    Lovely blog (as always).

    One of the challenges I find is contracting with coachee’s about coaching being the potentially better option to receiving advice. I sometimes find they like the ‘easy’ option of being given advice/suggestions. What suggestions would you have for overcoming this situation?



  2. Reg on 13th March 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Hi Martin

    Yes, I agree – and it rings true from when I used to see people one-to-one. There were lots of people with the attitude: ‘Tell me how to live my life (so I can blame you if the advice doesn’t work)’

    Not because they were stupid or lazy or whatever – but simply because they believed that this was how coaching/counselling worked – after all, in their world view, we are the experts…!?

    So it was a matter of clarifying, as early as possible in the process, the realities of (easy) advice-receiving versus the harder and even painful process of being coached in finding one’s own solutions – plus enabling them to recognise the harsh, dis-empowering consequences of simply asking for advice


  3. Sharon P on 14th March 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Fantastic reminder Reg!

    Thank you

  4. Luis on 14th March 2012 at 2:36 PM

    It is a wonderful coaching and advise so as not to be advisor but coach. That´s a reason why I believe nlp is a better way of seeing life. By the way, have you articles/books on the matter of coaching? Were could I find a methodological way to learn more on it?

  5. Reg on 14th March 2012 at 8:04 PM

    Thanks Sharon 🙂


  6. Reg on 14th March 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Hi Luis

    thanks for the comment – and, yes, being a coach rather than an advisor is not only better for the coachee/client but (once the skills have been developed) is easier for the coach – a real win-win

    Nothing available yet in written form but a course (open to NLP Practitioners) is likely to begin in the Autumn (i.e. ‘the fall’)


  7. Tudor Barker on 17th March 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Listen, listen, listen.