The term ‘life coach’ may not be used very commonly in Kenya, but its principles are hitting home for a lot of people.
A life coach is simply a mentor who identifies a dream or need in a person, and helps them meet their desired goals by walking them through their journey.
This is what Thomas Omollo, 38, does for a living. Thomas is a life leadership and executive coach.
He identified his passion for people at an early age after the circumstances in his life changed drastically when his father walked out on the family.
His mother had to raise six children on her own. “Things were tough after my father walked out on us. We were forced to move from one of Nairobi’s affluent neighbourhoods to a very low-income estate. Of course we had to change schools. We changed everything really.”
Thomas’ transformational moment came when he realised that many of his friends were getting caught up in crime because of the extreme financial difficulties they faced, and a lack of leadership.
“I saw my friends get shot. I saw their minds die as they got into drugs and alcohol. Many of the people I knew growing up didn’t make it past high school. One of my really good friends committed suicide. It wasn’t because these boys didn’t have potential – it was because no one spoke into their lives.”
Thomas studied political science at the University of Nairobi, and as a student, he started a programme to educate children aged 10 to 12 on the effects of drug abuse.
That was his first direct role as a life coach.
He later became a pastor in line with his desire to impact lives. It is while he was in church that he decided to go into full-time life coaching.
“It wasn’t something that many people did back then. But I kept asking myself, how best can I reach out to people on a personal level. I did research online and spoke to some friends who referred me to a certified life coach trainer based in Nairobi. After speaking with him, I decided to take a course on life coaching.”
Thomas’ course with Dr Les Brickman lasted a year and involved three 13-week modules, practical training and working in partnership with other life coaches.
“The hardest part was starting the business after certification. I basically used my existing networks. The first few jobs I took on, I did pro-bono just to get my name out there. Like in any business, if you do a good job, you get referrals. That’s what happened with me.”
Another big challenge Thomas faced was explaining exactly what a life coach does.
Ironically enough, the corporate world was more open to using his skills. Thomas was on many occasions hired to mentor employees to help improve their productivity.
He also worked with many NGOs to help craft community projects in a way that would have the most impact and bring change.
Eventually, he started getting a number of individuals as clients as well.
“Many of my individual clients are corporate executives who feel stuck in a role or position and want to advance in their career, or are simply looking for a way off the corporate ladder.
“What I do for them is guide them on first discovering or re-igniting their passion, and secondly, drawing up a plan on how they can move from their present 9am-5pm jobs to their dream vocations.”
Thomas tells Hustle that more and more people are dissatisfied or frustrated with regular employment, especially if they got into it solely to make money or climb up in life.
Using a guiding system, Thomas helps such people recreate themselves.
“I’ll give an example of how we guide someone. Say you want to quit your job. First, we explore the reasons – is it because the money is not enough? Is it because you don’t feel fulfilled? Are you overworked? Or do you want to explore something else that makes you feel more relevant.
“The ‘why’ is always the most important thing in any situation. This stage of my coaching is called observation.”
The next stage, Thomas says, is called probing.
“We look into the life history of the client. What made them take this job in the first place? Was it money? Was it the first thing they happened upon? What is their belief system about purpose? We also figure out how this client would best reach transformation.
“For instance, is what they want a change of situation at work or is what they want a new start? Which of these prospects gives them more energy?”
The last step is determining what stage of life a client is in.
“If someone is in their 20s, what they are likely looking for is how to impact their world. If someone is in their 40s, what they are likely looking for is purpose,” says Thomas.
Because of the detailed steps of life coaching, a consultation can run from three months to a year or more, depending on the needs of the client. And even after coaching, there is a follow up to ensure that the client continues to meet their goals.
Thomas earns approximately Sh1.5 million every three months.
Despite his growth and success in the industry, Thomas lives out his belief in the continual improvement of oneself. He is currently doing his master’s degree in leadership to empower him to help people even more.
“There are so many mentors out there, people who can impact their world because they have the gift and ability to change lives. I am always looking out for people like this,” Thomas says.
“Our country and continent has never needed more guidance, more positive influence and more direction than we do in this current age. As we move towards greatness, we need more people equipped to lead and guide others.”