In Depth: Human Resources Guide - Special to the Austin Business Journal
From the February 11, 2000 print edition
D. Ann Slayton Shiffler
In life, a game plan can be just as critical as it is in an athletic
sport. Increasingly, businesspeople are turning to a new breed of
professionals called "life coaches" to help them formulate such a
Life coaching is a relatively new profession that is sweeping the
country. People from all walks of life -- especially professionals
-- are working with life coaches to help them develop a game plan
for their lives and to show them how to stick with it to achieve
greater professional and personal satisfaction
"Life coaching is kind of a dually created alliance designed to
maximize a person's life," says Marlene Mier, a Georgetown-based
life coach whose company, Joie de Vivre, caters to clients who are
trying to create a winning game plan for their lives. "The goal is
to take a person to greater levels in his or her personal or
Life coaches offer a mix of professional development, career
counseling, mentoring and advice. Mier says her mission is to help
people create or design the life of their dreams.
"People hire me because they want more of something -- more
success, more time, more fulfillment, more freedom," she says.
"Through coaching, they are able to experience less frustration,
delays, lost venues, waste of time. My clients are people who don't
want to let the years slip on by and find out they are still in the
Unlike a professional consultant, a life coach offers strategies
that are broad in scope, and a life coach is committed to all
aspects of a person's life. Unlike a counselor or therapist, a life
coach does not deal with emotional problems or past issues, but
works with an already highly functional person who wants to get more
out of life.
Molly Alexander, former president of the Georgetown Chamber of
Commerce, who recently resigned to begin an Internet startup
company, worked with a life coach a couple of years ago. She says
the experience helped her align her priorities and values and to
make sure the direction she was going in was truly the direction she
wanted in her professional life.
"It gave me an interesting perspective on how to use my skills
and talents and energies and the environments that encourage those
skills, energies and attributes," she says. "I learned the
environments that I thrive in and the areas I need to work on. I
learned where my sources of energy come from."
Alexander says she knows many successful professional people in
the community who have worked with a life coach to hone their
professional and personal strategies and direction.
Timothy JohnPress is an Austin life coach whose focus is
unblocking professional and personal "blocks."
"[My clients] really know where they want to be and what they
want," he says. "What I help them do is get to the source of what's
blocking them. I help them develop strategies to get past the block
-- strategies to move forward."
JohnPress says common blocks include self-esteem,
self-confidence, lack of communication skills and poor planning.
"My focus is to work with functional people and help them to
become excellent," he says. "All the people I've worked with are
usually very successful people. The majority of my clients are doing
quite well, but they are looking to do better."
He says stress is often a culprit in the inability to create a
successful game plan for life.
"I've got one client who is very successful, but he is very
high-strung," JohnPress says. "We've been working to identify the
sources of why he is like this. We've made leaps and strides at
having him become more relaxed so that his work can be more
JohnPress and Mier say that while their businesses are located in
Central Texas, their clients aren't necessarily local. JohnPress,
for example, works with a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who graduated
from the U.S. Military Academy.
Mier says her clients run the gamut, from professional movers and
shakers looking to become more proficient in their careers to
college students trying to decide on a career path. Because
individual coaching sessions are often conducted over the telephone
and even through email, Mier's clients live all over the country.
Sue Bassett, a middle-school teacher who lives in Keene, N.H, has
been working with Mier for more than a year.
"Marlene has helped me get some real clarity as far as what my
life goals are and some more immediate goals as far as
relationships," Bassett says. "She has helped me more or less trust
myself and believe in myself and trust my own instincts. I'm
learning to focus on the present rather than the past or the future
and I've been able to set some boundaries that I needed to set."
Coaching sessions like the ones Bassett participates in are
action-based and highly dependent on completed "homework"
"My assignment was to write myself a permission slip to do a
certain thing," Bassett says. "It really worked. I had to give
myself permission to do something I wouldn't normally think of
doing. I learned a lot about myself with that assignment."
Some people still question the effectiveness of life coaching,
Bassett says, but in today's complicated world, "we need all the
support we can get."
Life coaches are highly trained professionals who have completed
a complex training program through Coach University, a national
organization that certifies coaches. Life coaches must continue
their training with Coach University to remain certified.
They must complete more than 200 classroom hours and log 1,000
hours of documented coaching before becoming certified. The training
and certification process is explained at the organization's
Coaching prices vary. A new client can expect to spend
approximately $200 a month -- about $50 per 45-minute weekly session
-- and are often required to sign an initial three-month contract.
For Mier and JohnPress, introducing coaching to the Central Texas
community hasn't been difficult.
"I am building a business based on referrals because of the
personal nature of the business," Mier says. "At present, I'm doing
a lot of networking."
Mier and JohnPress also provide coaching for companies, in a
consulting capacity. They instruct management and sales teams and
teach executives and managers how to coach their own staffs.
"With a sales team, you have to teach them to present their
product as an opportunity for the buyer as opposed to slamming it
down their throat," Mier says. "A good sales person will listen and
try to offer their product as an opportunity. A good sales person
will hear what the buyer is saying. A good sales person makes the
buyer feel cared about."
JohnPress says he works with mainly small- to medium-sized
companies -- in the 100- to 200-employee range. When he accepts a
corporate coaching job, he makes sure that the management team is
supportive of the concept.
"I will not coach unless I can start at the top," he says. "Even
if the problems are in sales or production, I start at the top
because that's usually where the problems are. Change doesn't come
from the bottom up. Rather it comes from the top down."
As coaching catches on, more businesses and individuals are
expected realize the value of the "distinctly 1990s" concept,
according to a 1998 article in Newsweek magazine.
"Coaches say they're in the vanguard of an entirely new, and
distinctly '90s profession," the article reads. "Part consultant,
part motivational speaker, part therapist and part rent-a-friend,
coaches work with managers, entrepreneurs and just plain folks,
helping them define and achieve their goals -- career, personal or,
most often, both."
D.ANN SLAYTON SHIFFLER is an Austin-based freelance writer.
© 2000 American City Business Journals Inc.
Patricia Hirsch. MCC, MBA, RN