You’re a coach? What’s that?

Unless you’ve experienced professional coaching first hand, you may be wondering what exactly is coaching?. It’s one of the most common questions I receive when someone introduces me as a coach….what is that, exactly?

It surprises me every time, but maybe it shouldn’t. I’ve always been an early adopter of things, and coaching is no exception. I’ve been interested in and studying coaching for over 2 1/2 decades. I thought by now, coaching as a profession would have had more exposure. Publications like Fast Company and Harvard Business Review, not to mention corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Dell Computer, and Charles Schwab all promote and praise the power of coaching. But coaching still remains a mystery to many.

That’s why I want to shed a little light on the profession. Starting with a basic overview and then getting into some specifics. Today it’s about the definition of coaching and the types of coaching that are available.

coaching is…

I think of coaching as a cross between management consulting, teaching, and counseling. It is none of those exactly, but has elements from each. It is part of the greater leadership development industry which is continually looking for ways to help leaders (at all levels) improve their skills and performance.

ICF (international coach federation) defines coaching as

partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Ultimately, coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

The Coaches Training Institute defines coaching as:

a powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness and fulfillment.

coaching does…

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 (according to ICF). A coach provides the environment . You provide the effort.

It’s not what coaching does for you, but rather what you do as part of the coaching program. You see, this is a highly participative relationship. You get out of it, what you put into it. You and your coach become a powerful team that is committed to deepening your learning; about yourself, your strengths, how you interconnect and interact with others. You and your coach use this information and momentum to forward your progress toward your specific goal. You and your coach:

  1. Define and clearly articulate your goal,
  2. define strategies and action plans,
  3. collaborate with you to create a vision of success,
  4. challenge you to achieve that vision.

coaching types…

There are as many types of coaching as their are clients. You will find coaching descriptors that help you understand the specialty of the coach. For example ‘Marketing Coach,’ ‘Start-Up Coach,’ or ‘Writing Coach.’ But there are a few categories the may help you distinguish between the major types.

  • Executive Coaching. Focused on executives or leaders to help them reach a specific goal or set of goals in their professional leadership development.
  • Business Coaching. Focused on individuals and organizations to help them establish and grow their business through strategic planning and execution of structured action plans.
  • Life Coaching. Helps individuals identify and reach personal goals.

As you may have guessed, there are unlimited number of coaching types. However, each uses a facilitative style in their methodology.

In the next article, I’ll take a look a coaching versus mentoring and other similar professions.

do you have a coach?

Have you ever been coached in a formal program? Has anyone you work with or live with been coached? If so, what type of coach? I’m truly curious and would love for you to write a comment below.