What Is Coaching ?

Definition Of Coaching

The International Coach Federation defines coaching in the following way:

“Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.”

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client, they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

What is Coaching ?

More than one coach has used the bicycle analogy to describe what coaching is and is not. It helps us see the differences with some clarity.
Let’s say in life you can walk or ride a bicycle to your destination. You will get there quicker and with less stress if you rode instead of walked, right?  Especially so if you have a motivating and supportive guide to explore options with, someone who points out a potential new path and then let’s you decide on the way to go.
Before you know it, you’re discovering new directions and pedaling toward an exciting destination with the wind in your hair and sun on your face. (Don’t forget the sunscreen).
This differs from a consultant who tells you where to sit and where to put your feet, when to pedal, and when to brake. And then leaves you on your own.
A therapist on the other hand explains why it is important for your self-esteem or psyche etc. to successfully ride the bike. And a mentor shares with you their experience or expertise of cycling and advises the most effective way they have found to ride one.
A coach first listens to your desire to try riding. The coach asks you if you need instructions on how to ride and asks where you might get them.  The coach asks you to decide the color or kind of bike you want. The coach runs along side the bike “checking in” to see if you’re enjoying the experience and asks what might make it more fun. The coach might ask about your experience and what was valuable, and whether or not you want to pursue mastery of bike riding. If you do, the coach helps devise a plan where you can attain that mastery.  If you don’t, then the coach may help you devise a plan to sell the bike.

Coaching and Therapy

So as the bike analogy shows, coaching is not therapy, counseling or psychology. Although intervention often follows some psychological models such as behavioral theory, the actual process of coaching should not be mistaken for a therapeutic intervention. One of the most obvious differences between the two approaches is that therapy tends to focus on feelings and experiences related to past events, whereas coaching is oriented towards goal setting and encourages the client to move forward. A therapist typically works with a dysfunctional person to get them to become functional. A coach works with a functional person to get them to become exceptional. Therapists typically work with people who need help to become emotionally healthy.

A coach works with people who are already emotionally healthy to move them to magnificent levels. Coaching does not rely on past issues for achieving growth, but rather focuses on goals towards the future. Coaching is action oriented. The focus is on where the client is right now, where they want to be next, and how to get them there.
If you are working in the past, then you are involved in therapy. If, the client is stuck and can’t seem to move forward or if there is a drug or alcohol problem, then you are more doing something other than coaching. Often starting a coaching process will help a client realize a need for therapy. Be alert. If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy about where the conversation is leading, tell your client. Part of being a good coach is knowing when and when not to coach. If the client needs therapy then refer them to a therapist.

Coaching and Consulting

Coaching is often likened to consulting. However, there are distinct differences between these disciplines. A consultant is usually a specialist in a given area. They are hired to give recommendations and provide solutions. A consultant works with a client to solve a particular problem or to address a specific issue. Once the problem is solved or the issue addressed, the consultant leaves. Generally, a consultant doesn’t get involved with areas outside of their specialty. Coaching uses a more holistic approach. With the client, the coach examines the situation, creates a plan of action, and works side by side to resolve the issue. The coach does not have to be an expert in the client’s business. The client is the expert. The coach collaborates with the client to create a solution using the client’s knowledge and answers.

While people, and companies, will often choose a coach who has previous experience or expertise in the field that they work in, the coaching methodology does not require this. Consultants however, build their businesses around the knowledge they have gathered over time in the specific field in which they then offer consulting expertise. They are expected to provide advice, information and anecdotes about the field. The coach, on the other hand, does not have the answers and does not claim to have them. They have the questions that allow the client to find their own answers and clarify their own values.

Coaching and Mentoring

In general, a mentor is more experienced than the person being mentored. The mentor bestows their knowledge and wisdom while the mentee looks up to the mentor and seeks guidance and advice from him or her. There are both formal and informal mentoring relationships.

In a business setting, mentoring is a formal relationship that is established with someone who is an expert in his or her field. Like consulting, mentoring involves passing on the benefit of a set of specific experiences.

A coaching relationship, on the other hand, is a partnership whereby the coach walks side by side with the client. The coach supports the client in drawing on his or her own wisdom and following their inner guidance.

What he or she needs. But from a marketing perspective CEO’s of companies like to employ people who have come from that culture. Likewise small business owners like to know that their coach understands what it is to run a small business.

Why A Coach ?

Coaching is a unique, new and exciting field to become a part of. Coaching is based on a core set of skills and practices, which apply to all coaching situations, plus the opportunity to specialise in a niche area.

The International Coaching Academy programs are based around this model: a solid grounding in the core skills of coaching plus the opportunity to explore a niche area through study and networking with others.

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