Life coaches guide, inspire, and empower others to reach their potential and get real results, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Professional Life Coaching Certificate (PLCC) program prepares people to succeed in this growing profession.
In its Jan. 8, 2015 issue, Madison’s Isthmus newspaper reported that the profession is gaining both credibility and growing in demand in South Central Wisconsin:
One reason for life coaching’s increased popularity is the state of the economy, says Jay Loewi of Madison human resources firm the QTI Group. When a recession hits, he says, companies pull back on leadership development to save money. As business improves, they begin investing more in employee growth initiatives like coaching. The increasing number of people starting their own businesses is another factor. According to a 2012 study commissioned by theInternational Coach Federation (ICF), there are approximately 47,500 professional coaches worldwide, with the industry taking in nearly $2 billion annually. A report (PDF) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that two of the fastest-growing industries between 2010 and 2020 will be “individual and family services” and “community and vocational rehabilitation services.” Life coaching could fit under either category.
Individuals are hiring coaches to help with everything from improving time and task management to navigating a career change.
Madison is becoming a hotbed for startups, and that creates a need for leadership, says Sarah Young, who worked at Epic Systems for seven years before she became a leadership and life coach in 2013.
Young says 70% of her clients are either full-time entrepreneurs or considering starting a business. While these individuals are full of ideas and exuberance, there’s a seldom-discussed “dark side” of entrepreneurship that can reveal itself when things hit a rocky patch.
“The life of an entrepreneur can be lonely. It opens up a whole new world of potential burnout, stress and sabotaging thoughts,” Young says.
UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies began offering the PLCC program in 2013. Lead instructor and professional life coach Darcy Luoma collaborated with Continuing Studies program director Aphra Mednick to position the university as a leader in the emerging field:
“As we started to do market research and created a spreadsheet of coaching programs, it became clear there was a huge gap in the Midwest,” Luoma says.
The timing has proved fortuitous. The UW now has the Midwest’s only academic program that meets certification requirements for the ICF, the industry’s biggest accrediting organization.
The UW’s nine-month program is marketed to aspiring coaches, current coaches seeking extra polish and professionals who coach their direct reports and others in their organizations.
Mednick explained to Isthmus writer Jeff Buchanan that students in the certificate program work with their own life coaches throughout the program, and how this “role reversal” helps graduates go on to establish their own life coaching businesses:
“It forces you to think about why people should want to sign up with you,” says Mednick. “That first contact is especially important. How did the coach make you feel at ease? How did you know this is the right person?”
Students learn to take a holistic approach to coaching, looking for patterns across clients’ work and home lives. Luoma believes the two cannot be separated. “Who you are and how effective you are in a professional setting is impacted by your other relationships,” says Luoma. “You could be a hotshot lawyer or vice president, but be having a divorce and your kids hate you. Is that a definition of success?”
Mednick says students, who range in age from 20-something to 60-something, learn the “pure coaching model”: Coaches ask clients questions without offering advice or solutions.
Pam Peterson, one of the first students to complete the program, says adhering to the pure coaching model was her biggest challenge.
“I learned I need to go into conversations with no judgment, be completely open and let the client drive everything,” says Peterson, director of human resources and organizational development at UW Credit Union.
Peterson is one of two certified coaches on staff at the credit union, which she says has a “coaching culture” that permeates all management ranks. Coaching is available for entry-level workers all the way up to executives. Most employees seek coaching voluntarily, though “sometimes we nudge or strongly encourage someone,” she says.
Peterson says since the credit union developed a formal coaching framework four years ago, it has been able to fill more management openings from within: 83% last year, compared to 77% in 2012 and 50% in 2011.
Peterson describes what sold her on UW-Madison’s program, even though she already had a life coaching background:
To learn more about the UW-Madison PLCC program, visit the program website.