What the F**K is Coaching?


This is a Guest Contribution by Emily Haruko Leeb. Visit her site at www.emilyleeb.com to know more.

I’ve been a professional coach for seven years, and I still cringe at the term ‘life coach.’ It makes me uncomfortable.


Why? Probably because the coaching industry is unregulated. Your grandpa, your gardener, or your dog can call themselves a coach. It means you need to actively seek a coach who took the time to meet the certification requirements with a professional body.

Some coaches have honed their craft over the years, spending countless hours training and developing their skills to earn their reputation. Unfortunately, some decide to call themselves a coach, possibly with little or no experience or training at all. And isn’t that cringeworthy?

Some media outlets or sitcoms have treated life coaching as a punchline. That has been detrimental to its perception in the public sphere. It’s painted a picture of a life coach as either a spaced-out mystic summoning spiritual wisdom or a Svengali controlling every aspect of their client’s life. 

Neither of these comedic caricatures is true.

A life coach doesn’t have all the answers; in fact, coaching isn’t about giving advice at all.

Here’s the truth, coaching can be one of the most profound and impactful things someone could ever embark on. The thing to pay attention to is that there is a low bar for entry within the coaching industry and a very high bar for success!

What do I mean by these bars? Well, a low bar for entry means anyone can call themselves a coach. Because coaching is an unregulated industry, it means that literally, anyone can start calling themselves a coach and start ‘coaching’ with little to no experience at all.

I know a handful of people who have started calling themselves coaches with no training at all. I even had an old acquaintance share that she would purchase a coach training program online for $10 – yes, TEN FREAKING DOLLARS!

I advocate for coaching 100%, and that means you need to do your due diligence. Work with someone who is certified has reputable training. Most importantly, someone who will spend some time with you at no charge to see if you’re the right fit for working together.

There should be a synergy, a connection and an inkling that your coach can help you if you work together. The right coach will guide you through this process and support you to make the best choice for you, and sometimes that means not coaching with them.

There’s a saying I love: ‘needy is creepy.’ No one wants to work with a ‘needy’ person, especially if that person is supposed to support you shift your life in a more fulfilling and joyful direction!

So who am I? And why do I have any authority to speak on this subject?

My name is Emily Haruko Leeb. I’m an associate certified coach with the International Coach Federation (considered the gold standard in coaching certifications). I’m also a 2nd generation coach. My father is regarded as one of the coaching industry’s old-timers, having worked side-by-side with Werner Erhard. Erhard is one of the grandfathers of the coaching space and personal development movement.

I’ve spent my whole life exposed to this industry, the good sides of it and the bad—the deep, profound work and all the bypassing that can sometimes come with the territory.

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

What is the difference between coaching and therapy? My distinction between coaching vs therapy is that coaching is future-focused and therapy is past focused.

It’s not that the past doesn’t enter into coaching, it’s just not the focus. As someone who has done years of both coaching and therapy, this is how I see them differently.

The past shows up in coaching in the realms of reflection, habits, comfort zones and loops. Things that you’ve been running over and over that might be preventing you from breaking through to something new, something you’ve never achieved or accomplished before.

The focus on coaching is to create the future; it’s future-focused. It’s reverse engineering from a vision of the future that is one of joy, fulfillment and alignment.

Therapy is a lot about looking at what from the past needs healing. How the past has influenced the present, and what is incomplete that has you dragging it around in the present day.

As a teenager, I went to therapy to process my anger, hormones, rebellious behaviours, drug use and depression. Later as an adult, I went to therapy to process navigating my separation and divorce, healing from infidelity, betrayal and co-parenting.

Therapy helped me navigate the emotional side of my attachment tendencies in relationships and codependency issues. Simultaneously, I worked with a coach on my business, making more money, gaining more exposure as a coach, deepening my level of impact and service. Coaching helped me get to know myself more deeply from my essence as a human being—my divine inner qualities and how to make manifest those qualities in my work, life and relationships.

I believe there is a time and place for both therapy and coaching, and because I’m a coach, not a therapist, I’ll tell you how this works from my perspective. Coaching supports you to bridge the gap between where you are currently and where you want to be. Coaching helps you get in touch with the version of yourself that can accomplish things you haven’t before.

Coaching is a supportive space. It lets you explore breaking your comfort zones, taking risks, being courageous and getting into deeper alignment with who you are at your core. And that is what it looks like to live a joyful and fulfilling life.

The gift that coaching has given some of my clients looks like Kelly Kehn, now Global Relationships Director at SBC, when she came to work with me during a career transition. After doing some work around her values, she co-founded the All-In Diversity Project, benchmarking diversity, equality and inclusion for the global betting and gaming sector.

When she also came to work with me, Fawn Labrie was at a time of career transition. She started an extremely successful Amazon business, which is now a successful side hustle. She works as the Agency Director of Ayre Media.

And on a more personal note, my client Dwayne was able to tell his son that he loved him for the first time in his life. That story always moves me, knowing that a 12-year-old boy’s life is changed forever.

Sheringham Distillery, creator of the World Gin Awards, Best Gin in 2019, our work together helped the brand identify their core values as a luxury craft spirit.

Or my journey with coaching has yielded a successful practice, two years clean and sober, and I’m writing and recording an indie-pop album.

Doing coaching has fostered the best relationship with myself that I have ever experienced. It’s given me the courage to dare to suck.

It’s allowed me to see and accept things the way they are and empowers and inspires me to create a life I’m proud of and one I genuinely love.

If you’d like more information about coaching or what it can do for you and your business, visit my website at www.emilyleeb.com.