Sometimes, we just need some coaching

08/26/2010 12:00 AM |

Life coach Michael Feeley used his own basic life coaching skills to direct his own career when his employer went out of business a few years ago.

Unemployed or worried about being laid off? Or is your job unfulfilling? Are other aspects of your life less than vibrant?

You can mope and complain, or you can decide to take a path that may put you on the road to a brighter future. At least that’s how two North Fork life coaches see it.

Michael Feeley, 58, of Riverhead and Joseph McKay, 72, of New Suffolk come to life coaching at different points in their own lives, but both have used the basics of life-coaching themselves to improve their own lives and careers.

Mr. Feeley was a successful recruiter for a New York City company that closed its doors a couple of years ago, leaving him to reinvent himself. He had worked as an actor and singer on Broadway, but found the typecasting and constant need to be auditioning weren’t giving him any satisfaction. He loved recruiting because it gave him an opportunity to guide others in their careers. But when the proverbial rug was pulled from beneath his feet, he began his own exploration of how to hone and use his talents.

That led him to the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC) in New York, from which he expects to receive certification soon even as he’s building his practice.

Mr. McKay, after devoting years to human resources jobs and counseling, discovered when the term “life coach” surfaced several years ago, that that’s what he’d been all along. And while he’s guiding others to explore their potential, he’s helping himself to expand his own horizons, these days writing and speaking about many subjects that interest him, including the meaning of peace and how to find inner peace.

Both men have a lot of international connections that guide their work.

Mr. Feeley has done much of his life-coaching via the Internet and Skype, working with clients in Turkey, Germany and other countries where he developed contacts during his training at IPEC. He also has local clients, often people between the ages of 40 and 60 who are looking to “recreate their lives.” Most are looking for career changes or enhancements, but others come for divorce or couples counseling or other personal aspects of their lives.

Similarly, Mr. McKay had a lot of international connections developed in his earlier career working in industrial labor relations in places including Burma and Beirut. During his many years training personnel and doing outplacement work for companies and individuals affected by layoffs, he developed the skills that serve him as a life coach today. For about eight years, he ran his own outplacement company, Kline-McKay Inc. in New York City, where he helped people find new jobs.

The average person starting on a career path today can expect to change careers two or three or even more times during their lifetime, Mr. McKay said.

What separates coaches from psychotherapists? They don’t want to delve into your psyche to try to help you to change. They want to guide you on the path to becoming your best self. “A coach doesn’t deal with your problems,” Mr. Feeley said. “We are solution-oriented.” But both men say they often work with clients who are also in therapy and find that to be a useful partnership.

Both recommend some books to help people start on the road to a better future. Among them are: “Do What You Love — The Money Will Follow” by Marsha Sinetar; “This Time I Dance” by Tama Kieves; and “What Color Is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles.

Those who feel they need a partner on the journey to a new life should meet with a potential coach to see if there is a good fit, just as they would when choosing a therapist. And if they do decide to go the coaching route, they should know they’re hiring a partner, but not someone who will do the heavy lifting for them.

What the coach does is to ask empowering questions to help the client come up with a plan, Mr. Feeley said. Using various exercises, the coach will guide him or her to uncover passions and develop a realistic plan of action, he said.

“You’re getting someone to help you be the best you can be,” Mr. McKay said. He sometimes uses visualization exercises to help people see themselves taking steps that seem difficult along the pathway. He also encourages his clients to keep journals.

Various exercises and steps between meetings are designed to guide a client to overcome procrastination, focus on realistic goals, get rid of negative messages, and move closer to attaining success.

But if the client expects some magic or an easy way to achieve his goals, forget it, the coaches said.

“All of the work and all of the success comes from the client,” Mr. Feeley said.

What does it all cost?

For Mr. McKay, the fee is between $125 and $150 an hour. For Mr. Feeley, it’s between $150 and $200 a session. But both work with their clients to make the fee bearable.

Expensive, yes, but Mr. Feeley calls it “an investment in your life.” People pay similar and higher fees for personal trainers and gym memberships, he said. They spend more on food and entertainment.

The field has changed in recent years Mr. McKay said.

“The culture is much more introspective than it was,” he said. People “come to the table allowing themselves to be life coached much more readily.”

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