What coaching is and is not
Ask anyone in the general public what coaching is and you will get many answers, some of which are quite accurate, but most people only have a vague idea of what coaching is. Some think it is only to do with sport or physical fitness and others will get it mixed up with counselling or other mind therapy – wrong!
What coaching is…
A simple definition of coaching is:
“A positive process which enables a person, (or team), to progress from where they are, at present, to where they desire to be in the future. This is done at a pace which is correct for them following a process of internal exploration of the challenges they face and acting upon the discoveries found”.
The coaching process creates clear decisions with well thought outcomes leading to focused plans for committed action. This is achieved through a safe, supporting and trusting relationship between the coach and the coachee, (group of coachees). The process uses specific questioning techniques, emphatic listening skills and intuitive thought leading to purposeful feedback. (This is the definition ACCPH adheres to).
This definition does not describe the processes involved in coaching. This varies dramatically from approach to approach depending on the psychological basis of the methodology being used by the coach. The processes and tools used in a Cognitive-Behavioural coaching session will be significantly different to those of a Transactional one. The different approaches tend to use their own models to elicit changes in their coachees. Some of these are mentioned on other pages. The structure of the sessions will vary greatly – some are very rigid in its format compared to others.
The definition below is a more detailed outline of what coaching is:
“A respectful partnership that enables clients to produce meaningful results in their personal and professional lives. By using the processes of coaching a client may increase their learning, performance and enhance their quality of life. Coaching takes the clients’ desires/needs and by the use of reporting, exploring and a total commitment to change moves the client forward. Coaching boosts the clients’ progress by giving a greater focus and increased awareness of the choices available to them and concentrates on clients’ ‘here and now’ and where they want to be in the future”.
You can look up many versions of coaching definitions but they all basically say the same. However; it is much more than the above but it is very difficult to put into words how powerful coaching and the coaching relationship is.
Coaching aims to achieve the following:
- define clear, relevant, time-limited and motivating goals unique to the individual coachee
- identify obstructions and interferences to attaining those goals – real, imagined, internal and external
- explore those obstructions and interferences then develop realistic and time-bound strategies to eliminate them
- identify and overcome emotional or physical difficulties, external interferences or barriers
- develop and then enhance self-awareness and confidence of the coachee
- develop and then enhance interpersonal interactions of the coachee in all situations
- utilise these skills to create better decisions and behaviours to move the coachee forwards to being the person they deserve to be
- allow the ownership of the full range of feelings or emotions and behaviours and then take responsibility for them and create better ones
- build on previous achievements no matter how small they are and help them to grow as a person
- allow the coachee to be committed to and own the unique positive changes made.
The list goes on. It is almost endless!
What coaching is not…
It was mentioned that many people do not know what coaching is or they mix it up with other things, especially sports coaching. Some think that coaching is the same as consulting or mentoring, even a form of counselling. (ACCPH knows a few coaches who claim to be all of those!) On the whole, the coaching approach is significantly different from the other methods of helping people.
Many of you may ask “Is coaching better than the other methods?” Or; “Are other methods better than coaching?” The answer is an emphatic: “No” to both questions. The other methodologies are designed for particular situations, so by default will be better than coaching at helping them.
Coaching is different in that it has a wider provision in all areas of life and business, whereas the other methodologies on the chart are usually limited to a specific subject/profession.
If you had a specific emotional problem relating to abuse the chances are you would visit a counsellor. A coach may be able to help with the practical aspect of your rebuilding your life but does not have the skills to deal with the emotional trauma.
Mentoring focuses on specific knowledge deficits in a work or a career situation – you need the expert advice of the mentor. A coach does not have the experience of a mentor but can encompass career as another aspect of life. Consultancy will be sought for a specific issue in which the consultant has expertise, whilst coaching can be brought to bear on any issue by any coach.
These are foundations that are based on solid facts. Coaching has been tried, tested and NOT found wanting – it has worked for hundreds of thousands, almost certainly millions of people.
The basic premises outlined below are followed by every brilliant coach, not because they are taught to but because they are proven to be highly powerful and exceedingly successful.
Some of the basic premises or principles of coaching:
- a coach will encourage the coachee to explore and discover, and from their own inner reserves find their own solutions
- the coach does not supply or advise by giving the right answers
- how can a coach know what is right for an individual?
- advice carries responsibility
- if it is poor advice that is offered and it does not work it will wreck the coaching relationship
- who is the one responsible for letting the client down badly?
- the coach does not judge any of the decisions or behaviours of the coachee at any time
- the coachee is held in positive worth at all times
- the coach creates a safe and non-critical environment that allows the coachee to explore other choices and options before making a decision and taking action upon it.
- coaching is about results, and nothing but results – positive changes
- the action driven process allows change to manifest in the coachee and propels this change forwards to bring about real and genuine practical results that are still felt when they are away from the coaching environment
- as stated in the last paragraph coaching is measured by results (positive changes) towards the future; the coachee knows where they are in their life
- at this moment in time and then with the help of the coach, they work out a clearly defined goal, or goals with desired outcomes for their future
- these goals have to be measurable so the coachee can calibrate the improvement;
- they must be time-bound.
- they need a fixed date for the goal to be achieved by, without a completion date a goal is just a dream
- these results are clearly felt when these are attained and the benefits manifest.
- the coach has to be very flexible and adaptable to the needs of each coachee. There is no such thing as a rigid game plan that is applicable to every coachee
- there may be times when a coachee makes rapid changes and then the next session they appear to have slowed right down; the coach has to accept and move on
- the coach may need to use a variety of approaches to help the client in different ways for each of their goals.
(Learning just one approach is OK most of the time but, in the ACCPH opinion, the best coaches choose a course that contains several approaches).
- coaching should enable the coachee to develop many new life enhancing skills over the course of the sessions
- this ability to be in control is phenomenally empowering, especially when someone has been disempowered by limiting beliefs for a significant period of their life.
- the coach and coachee need to develop a close relationship based on mutual respect, trust and understanding
- this must focus on positive change for the coachee
- the coach must have a completely unshakable belief in their coachee’s ability to succeed even when everyone else thinks the client is mad, bad, or plainly sad.
This list is not exhaustive; in fact it may be regarded by many as quite short.
There are many other principles, especially when you take into account the principles specific to the individual approaches.
This is a wonderfully free-form method of moving people forwards. Mentoring and consulting require detailed or specific knowledge and the giving of information and advice. If you like to give advice do not become a coach. Keep your ideas to yourself. Coaching is free of these specific knowledge restrictions, especially the onerous burden of advice.
If a coach starts giving advice they are not a good coach!
As written earlier; with advice comes responsibility, so if it goes wrong the giver is responsible for that failure. Coaches do not give advice they facilitate the conditions for the coachee to arrive at their own personalised and unique advice, which far more often than not, is the right advice for them. For some people the new possibilities arrive quite quickly but there are others that need a little longer to devise a Plan B.
Can life coaching help me?
It can help people with many different problems. Please follow this link to the Common Problems page to see the main problems our therapists and coaches aid clients with.
Please be aware that not everything on that list may be worked on by coaches and that not all possible issues are listed.
Life Coach Training
The term ‘life coach’ is currently unregulated meaning that essentially anybody can call themselves a life coach if they want. All life coach schools should work to a high standard of training. More and more, clients are tending to favour coaches who have qualifications and membership of a professional organisation. All professional bodies set their own levels of competency. ACCPH sets them quite high.
Try to find a course that is the equivalent of a Level 3 or 4. There are higher levels in business and executive coaching.