Prospective clients often approach me with the question: "What kind of coaching do you do?"
My typical response is: "What kind of coaching are you looking for?"
My intention is to be the coach that my client needs, not a general category of coach. The reason being, if done properly, coaching is coaching.
Adjectives in front of the word "coach" are marketing terms, not coaching terms. They can help coaches narrow their target audience because they happen to prefer working with a particular section of the market.
Coach A, for example, is a former corporate executive-turned-coach who feels comfortable with the language of a corporate environment and has a personal style that appeals to executives. Therefore it would make sense for her to self-identify as an executive coach. Naturally, executives will be looking to focus on work-related goals and the conversation will likely center around how to improve leadership and performance goals.
Coach B, tends to use the term "life coach" because his preferred clients are interested in addressing personal communication goals. Perhaps Coach B comes from a health industry background and enjoys helping individuals with personal challenges. He enjoys working outside of the commercial realm and wears jeans rather than a suit.
Examining the conversations that Coach A and B have with their clients (assuming they are duly trained, licensed, and committed to the core competencies and ethics of coaching), will reveal many similarities. The content of the conversations will vary - one client might address how to manage his team to improve quarterly financial results, and the other might tackle how to express herself more clearly to enhance connections with friends and family.
However, the content of the conversations are the tip of the iceberg. What the coach is doing is fundamentally the same in both circumstances. The client looks at the content, and the coach looks at the client's thinking.
Human brains do not vary in terms of job title, but rather in terms of your overall life experience. If you are challenged as a leader, you may need to develop your communication style and address personal relationships. If you are challenged in personal relationships, you may need to confront how this is affecting you at work!
Every coach will have a different set of tools on their belt to help clients improve their thinking and move forward toward goals. These tools will vary to match the client's needs, but they are all rooted in the same coaching psychology.
(As an aside, it's important to note that there are ZERO requirements to be a coach. Anyone can label themselves a coach of any category. You don't need a degree or a certification to practice. There are incredible coaches with no official titles, and awful coaches with many titles).
My ideal client is ambitious, introspective, entrepreneurial in spirit, and hungry for change through a creative and collaborative exchange. So I might label myself a "performance coach" to help me match with those individuals. But the topics we cover range widely from leadership skills to navigating online dating!
So, how do you know which coach is right for you? It's not about whether they wear a suit or jeans, or whether they have a resume resembling yours. Look for chemistry, a commitment to placing the client's needs and goals at the center of the conversation, and a coaching philosophy that resonates with you. That very well could fit into a broad category of Life/Executive/etc Coaching, but make sure you are looking more closely at the individual coach to make an informed decision. Shop around, ask for free consultations, and do your research!