why I don’t call myself a coach

by | Oct 6, 2013 | Blog Challenge, Business | 19 comments

not a coachThere has been a lot of talk lately about people abandoning the term “coach”. Life coach, business coach, health coach, career coach. I’m not sure if it’s just in the communities I’m involved in, or if it’s much bigger. But it’s fairly clear there is some unrest and dissatisfaction with how this term is used, how people are perceived and of course, how they wish to be perceived.

But what I find even more interesting is that people, in an attempt to avoid using this term, start to come up with all of these other alternative terms that make little or no sense to anyone outside of the coaching world.

Instead of coach we’ve started using terms like:

“I’m a life catalyst!”

“Your Shazamm specialist” (I’ve literally bumped into 4 people recently using a similar term – I don’t have a clue what it means, but I can only guess it’s a pop culture term I haven’t been exposed since I haven’t watched TV in 7+ years – I’m probably missing something super important)

Not to poke fun at anyone who has come up with a creative name, title, description of who they are.

But why can’t we just call it like it is?

If you’re a coach, great! Be the best coach you can be.

When I asked a group about alternative terms, this is what we came up with:

  • mentor
  • guru
  • teacher
  • advisor
  • strategist
  • consultant
  • leader
  • head lad
  • specialist
  • guide
  • life catalyst

Some new names in March 2018

  • I’ve had clients refer to me as Boundary Czar and the Mr. Miagi to their inner Karate Kid – Rona Mlnarik
  • I’m a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach but I call myself “EnjoyLife” Coach or Lifestyle coach- because my passion is to empower people to EnjoyLife again – Anya Clowers
  • I’m a Soul Alchemist (life, health and spiritual coach by training-s) my focus is in guiding people to accomplish seemingly impossible transformations by reconnecting them with what their soul already knows. ~ Meghan Mitchell
  • Wise Woman…as the other women have posted, you can come up with a title that resonates with the role you play for your clients. – Terese Guettler
  • I’m a Soul Nourishment Coach. What is the outcome that your clients want from you?
    I found asking those questions helped narrow it down.  – Chelsea Burge
  • I use guide/consultant. Also been told “wound whisperer” and “path walker”Lacy Laubacher

Mary Baird shared why she calls herself both:

I think this is a fascinating conversation…specifically, the difference between “coach” vs. “mentor”. I call myself a Business Coach but I also call myself a Mentor…And the reason I say both is that I take a “blended” approach towards my work with clients in my mastermind (group program) and my private coaching clients.

Let me explain:

A) As a Coach, I ask questions that help my clients pull the answer out from within them…from their intuition. Their inner guidance. To make shifts in their mindset, to transform.

If you went to life coaching school, what’s wrong with being a life coach. Unless of course, you don’t like coaching. But if you are coaching. If your offerings include me signing up for 6 months of ongoing coaching sessions,, or 4 weekly calls to work through a specific issue, then you are a coach, right?

but also…
B) As a Mentor, I give my clients strategic how-to advice…so like, steps 1-10 of running a super smooth in-person sales meeting that closes more high-ticket deals. Do this, do this, then do this. As a mentor with 14 years experience, I share with people the things that have worked for me so they can replicate my success.

So, I blend my approach towards traditional coaching. It’s not just “what do you think the answer is?” style life coaching. It’s a mix of the two.

You can learn more about Mary on her website The Simplifiers

I really wanted to talk about why I don’t call myself a coach.

One really big reason? I’ve never gone to coaching school. I don’t have a coaching certificate. I do on the other hand have credentials that label more other things, like, “advisor”, “trainer”, “preparer”, “consultant”.

But then I took a look at the webster definition of coach: : a private teacher who gives someone lessons in a particular subject

I’m not a coach by the definition we usually use. . Nothing about the way I work is “coachy”. Yet, I do teach & give lessons on a particular topic. Oh, now I see how this gets so confusing.

Maybe I‘m just not a label kind of gal?

I’m not a huge fan of any of the terms we came up with either, but the one that I always come back to is Advisor. Not entirely sure why, but it fits the best when I think of the work I really do, and the way I love to help.

How did I decide? I asked myself these questions.

  • Do I love working with people in long term contracts?
  • Do I love watching people change their behavioral patterns over a period of 3, 6, 9, 12 months working with me?
  • Do I enjoy having calls booked in my calendar ongoing for several months?
  • Do I enjoy routine?
  • Do I enjoy talking on the phone?
  • Do I enjoy spontaneity?
  • Do I love working with action takers?
  • Do I love being around people who need me long term? Or short term?

When all is said and done, I love working with people who I get to know in deep heartfelt conversation about something we have in common. I love being able to provide that person with a little insight into life that helps them feel less stuck than they were when we first met. I love being able to connect them to resources (people or things) that give them hope that they’re not alone.

I love that people don’t feel alone after they spend time with me. That they feel like they’ve made a friend in business and life. And that they don’t need to sign up for something that lasts months, years and beyond. I’m here to help them at the stage they’re at. I’m keen on empowering, not enabling. I’m here to offer my opinion, offer shared wisdom and advice based on things I know work.

I crave helping people save precious resources (time, money, life) so they can enjoy other things in life, like family and travel.

And that can often be done in a quick chat. An email, a facebook conversation, a phone call. We don’t need to commit to working together for 12 months – in my humble opinion.

And even though I need a coach in my life. And I think most people do. I’m not one. I won’t ever be one.

Oh, and one more reason? See that picture up above? I took that picture last week when I probably “should have been working”. I’d much rather be there, most days! And that means I’m often not near a phone or wifi & keeping regularly scheduled appointments – let’s say it’s not easy calling from the nearest oak tree?  🙂

What do you call yourself? and why?

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  1. Julia Wooster

    Great post.

    As someone who has just become certified as a life coach and preparing new business cards – I went searching for alternate terms to “Life Coach”. Like many, I am not concerned about the word “Coach” but more the “Life” part. I’ve decided to use “Personal Success Coach”. I agree that “Life” is too broad a word.

    I wanted something different than “Life” because everyone seems to use it. Thinking of comments around using the word “Coach” reminds me of the move away from the word “Secretary” around 20 years ago. We moved to Admin Assistant, Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant. 🙂 I never stopped calling myself a Secretary

    • Loralee

      I love this Julia. You’re someone who embraces the traditional naming structure & you’re super clear about it. Back in the day, my very first mentor was a “Personal Success Mentor” and I don’t remember being confused about what she did, or what she offered. She was on my team to help me achieve the goals I set out to achieve in my personal life.

      Congratulations on your certification too! Are you doing something fun to celebrate?

      • Julia Wooster

        I ended up using “Life Coach” on my business cards for two reasons, first space considerations, I am also a Reiki Master and Consulting Hypnotist – Life Coach is on my website but I may change that at some point. I checked with a friend and my husband and they felt that people seem to be more familiar with the term “Life Coach” so why confuse matters. I may change that with time.

  2. Cat

    For me, it’s not so much the word “Coach” that trips me up but rather using the word “Life” in my title. Life sounds so large and even though I’m a certified life coach and have learned many ways of mastering the mind, I certainly don’t have life figured out. I’m looking at alternative ways of describing what I do. After that, adding mentor, guide, consultant, instructor or catalyst is the easy part.


    Hello. Thank you so much for your article. I was confused too about my ability to call myself. I went to school, did certificate but didn’t pass diploma. Life situations were hard and couldn’t focus enough to pass exam. But have certificate, knowledge, motivate people, love people and definitely have been born with defined by ICF coaching skills… So am I coach?

  4. Angela van Son

    I have a rough draft of a blogpost, called I’m proud to be a coach 🙂

    I totally respect your reasons for not calling yourself a coach. I must say I don’t agree with the definition you found on Webster. It’s so NOT about lessons and teaching…

    I know in the US coaching is often a long term thing, spending ages with the same coach. It’s not like that in Europe, we create shorter times to work with people. I aim to make myself redundant as soon as possible – though I really miss some of my clients after we finish working together. I get to work with lovely people.

    It’s a pity I have different priorities today, I really long to finish that post now 🙂

    • Loralee

      Oh! I hope you do finish it soon. Will you come back and share it here, when you do?

  5. Lidys

    Loralee I TOTALLY love this article! I hate labels and being such a multi-everything me it’s hard when people want/expect me to define myself as anything in particular.

  6. Mike Huiwitz

    A catalyst sounds great. Sounds even better than “coach”

    • Loralee

      I like it too Mike, but I’m not sure people search for a catalyst. Once they find one, I’m pretty sure they’d love the concept. Curious what you think of it from a marketing/brand standpoint?

  7. Avery Wilmer

    Hey Loralee! I’ve always thought of you as a consultant (less coach and more advice columnist) for business and for life and for techy things. Kind of like having a friend come alongside you. 🙂

  8. Agata

    Great article – great food for thought.

    It helped me realise that I actually DO identify myself as a coach.

    For me a coach is someone who imparts only the necessary theory and gives training tasks to the client so that they learn through experience. This is what I do. For me a coach is more of a task giver, supporter, cheerleader and supervisor than teacher. Clients teach themselves by discovering stuff. I accompany them.

    This approach is very much shamanic – this is the way shamans teach their disciples. Oriental masters, too, in fact. It works much better than preaching. Mentor, advisor, consultant – they’re all in the head. Coach is more integrated so I’ll stick to this term whatever the industry says – rebellious me 😉

    xx Agata

    Agata recently published:

  9. Okto

    I think the best way to describe ourselves are through others opinion. What we can do is to set goals on what we want to be called, if we want to be a coach then make a plan to be one. See how others react on what we’ve done. If we do great, people will say we are coach.

    Well I’m not sure what I want to be called for now, but I’ll do my best to provide easy solution on what I am doing 🙂

  10. Rebecca Hulse

    Loralee I love this.

    I don’t call myself a coach because I do so much more than that.
    I play with calling myself a Soul Cravings Expert – people tend to resonate with that.

    Thank you for being honest about what you like to do and you’re part in the support and service network.

    My awareness around coaching is that outside the industry its a fuzzy image of what coaches do – am I going to follow you around on the baseball field and give you pep talks?

    If I present myself as an expert on something then it can be directed in a bunch of ways – 1:1s, speaking, books etc.

    It opens up more doors.
    Great post 🙂 love your stuff

  11. Lisa Mallis

    Love your post! As someone who will be a certified coach in February . . . I have a little different view. Before taking coaching courses, I called myself a coach – not knowing that in fact I was consulting. Now that I know what coaching IS I feel quite confident in “labeling” myself as a coach and a time strategy visionary. I know that sometimes I coach, sometimes I mentor, sometimes I consult – but I’m always working with clients to hold the space for them to reach their biggest, best, and most efficient selves. The type of programs that different clients and I develop has a direct impact on how I describe myself at the time.

  12. Sherrie St. Cyr

    I don’t call myself a coach, either. Partly because of the sports analogy that I don’t care for. And then for many of the reasons you mentioned – I have NO interest in engaging clients in a long-term coaching contract. I much more specialize in the strategic zinger that gets someone going in the direction they wanted to head. Then they go off and do their deal until they need help again. And they call me. Or creating a program and leading a group through it over a short period of time. And then we’re done. Coaching may happen, but I think if I use that term people have a different association.

  13. Jaqui Barnes

    I’m not sure what I would call myself, ‘Supporter’ seems to fit well. I am a trained coach but find that I work much less formerly and stray into mentoring regularly,

  14. Tamala

    A life catalyst huh? I am not a coach and I had no idea that there was a shift within that industry from actually using the word “coach”. I really enjoyed this article…. and I think your reasons for not identifying yourself as a coach are really good reasons. Also I love being disconnected from the world too… and just being immersed in nature. It’s GREAT!!!!

  15. Trisha Townsend

    What a great post! This is actually something that’s been on my radar the last couple of months as well for several reasons. Because the term is being used so freely of late, I think it’s confusing to people and doesn’t really give them a good idea of what each person that calls themselves a ‘coach’ does. Of course, grabbing a term and calling yourself that instead is a great deal of fun (I love shazaam coach, it makes me smile!) but again, it doesn’t really give a good idea of what you do. I’ve taken to calling myself an Inner Landscape Coach, just because it uses the familiar term to give a general idea, and also says that I’m going to bring it out of them, not guru them by telling them what to do and how to do it!

    No one likes to be put in a box so we have to walk that line between titles and letting people know who we are and what we do. <3