• Source: Scotland on Sunday
  • Date: 11 April, 1999
  • Author: Antonia Swinson

We live in an age where very nice pickings can be made instructing the rest of us how to live. Trainers, counsellors, therapists, advisers of all disciplines plus assorted gurus of varying spiritual persuasions can take us in hand (for a fee) and using plain common sense show us the true way to effectiveness and achieving our goals. Do we lack the self-confidence of our forebears, who knows? Yet in a secular age, we continue the spirit of the confessional, but now it is our inadequacies rather than our sins which are explored and expiated. And sharing our fears and failures we feel so much better! It is probably the only time when we write largish cheques gladly. That is its genius, as the Church discovered very early on.

Now there is a new profession to help us go forth and prosper. Coaching. No, not the cramming for exams sort of coaching so many of us experienced as teenagers, but Coaching with a capital C which helps us establish goals and score them! I confess I need one. What a relief. Group hug.

Coach University founded in the US in 1992 has had 1000 pupils through its tele-classes and written materials of which, in the UK, 200 have paid the ?1800 fee. The 36 modules are billed as ?the management degree of the future? and are studied through tele-conferencing. It is interesting to see a new profession establishing itself, and in the Internet age this seems much easier, for the website on is impressive. I learn that Coaches help people and businesses to ?set better goals and reach them,? that they ask clients to focus better and produce results and provide clients with tools, support and structure to achieve more. ?They hold you accountable for your life!' How unnerving.

Now if I work at it, I too could become a coach earning between $50,000 - $100,000 p.a. even though 50% of registered coaches have dayjobs. I begin to wonder if I too could coach, for journalists are very good at telling people how to run their lives. Coaches include career counsellors, actors, entrepreneurs and educators. Coaching is available in a huge numbers of areas, but I tap in ?personal finance? and thinking of my monthly phone bill which is already hitting three figures, restrict myself to the UK.

Aberdeen IFA Fiona Sutherland has a dayjob with Moray Firth Financial Services, but coaches in the evening. As she is still training, her fee is just ?20 per session. "I have always thought being an IFA is part-psychologist and so coaching comes naturally. People come to me often because they do not have enough money and want to know why, or because they somehow do not value money and so spend frivolously. As we establish structures to help them understand their habits, often it becomes clear that the spending patterns come through a lack of self-love, and that people allow themselves to be bound up in chains of energy and emotion which stop them from moving on. Sometimes I start off advising on a client?s business life, only to find the problems seep into their personal and emotional life as well."

Clients are coached for a 3 - 6 month period, talking over the phone perhaps once a week. They are expected to do homework and prepare for each session. Testimonials from satisfied clients appear on the website. You have changed my life being the general drift. I wonder if this is not a form of one-to-one Weight Watchers, for you would be far too embarrassed to phone up for your next in-depth session without having sorted yourself out.

Guildford based Barbara Edwards, an economist with an Oxbridge background, is an experienced coach with 8 clients paying ?150 per month for a weekly half hour session over the phone. They number PR consultants and publishers whose financial concerns include Imelda Marcos shoe buying habits and multiple credit card debts. She in turn has a mentor coach in California, a pastor, who peps her up. Coaching has proved a flexible profession which can be fitted into her family commitments and she talks comfortingly in terms of establishing values and balance in your life.

Both women are hugely simpatico and successful and I could confess my every financial inadequacy to them quite happily. Other Coaches I speak to however seem less impressive and I wonder whether coaching, like the other advisory professions, is liable to attract professional failures in denial. A case of if you can?t hack it, advise. This does not mean they would be ineffective, but as potential clients we must develop a nose to suss them out and ask sticky questions about their c.v. before we pay up and join in. I think of the London IFA with a high flying City clientele who admitted she had eight credit cards and was running her business with a loan secured on her home. Eek. Or the never made it lawyer/businessman who became a priest for the free housing, or the neurotic mother who became a psychotherapist. But judge not lest ye be judged. I hastily add of course that journalists are no better, heard the one about the financial journalist who kept his money in a sock under the bed?

Wednesday, 24 April, 2019
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