I am often asked, “What is coaching?”
One clean definition of coaching is, “The art of enabling others to improve their development, learning and performance”.
Another definition is, “Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change”.
That understood, the next question is, “How is coaching different to a number of other practices?”, so here are my answers especially for you…
How is it different to Training?
Training is principally directive – the trainer instructs the trainee what to do and the effectiveness of the training depends on the competence of the trainer and the understanding of the trainee.
On the other hand, Coaching uses powerful questioning to enable the coachees to explore what they already know and to seek ways to develop and improve their understanding.
How is it different to Consulting?
Consultants focus on the business processes, teams and other aspects of the business. They are usually brought in to focus on specific functions or to provide expertise not generally available in the organisation. Coaches focus more on the business individuals and enable them to adopt new processes and practices. Both offer fresh perspectives and both are paid fees, although Coaches tend to have a less tangible effect on the short term bottom line but have a more lasting effect on the individuals they work with.
How is it different to Mentoring?
Mentoring is about showing somebody the ropes. They need to have relevant experience and they have to have a defined end-goal. Mentoring is relationship based and they are often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities. It revolves around developing the mentees professional skills.
Coaching is usually a shorter term engagement and generally does not require the coach to have direct experience of their client’s occupational skills, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused.
How is it different to Counselling
Counselling seeks to address and resolve people’s unresolved issues that are reducing their ability to function satisfactorily. Whilst both coaches and counsellors work in a similar field, and the fact that counsellors are trained in coaching techniques, they actually deal with their clients in a different way – Dr Patrick Williams, a chartered member of the International Coaching Federation and founding member of the Harvard University Institute of Coaching said, “Therapy is about uncovering and recovering, while coaching is about discovering.” Traditional therapy will not become extinct but will increasingly help those who need clinical intervention.
Whilst we are on this subject, you should know that any accredited coach is bound by the governing body’s ethical standards and they all recommend client referral for medical review should a significant psychological problem be uncovered.
Business Coaching and Life Coaching
The next question I am asked is, “What is the difference between Business Coaching, Executive Coaching and Life Coaching?”
Personally, I see Business and Executive Coaching as being part of the same coaching practice, Exec Coaching sitting under the wider Business Coaching concept. Business coaching is one where the Business has an intrinsic stake in the coaching relationship and in any outcomes. The fact an executive is responsible to several stakeholders such as shareholders, employees and the other businesses involved, means there is accountability and this means that any coaching should be focused on quantifiable outcomes.
Life coaching focusses more on the well-being of the individual and is less likely to have to demonstrate a return on the investment. When work does come up, it is usually in a work life integration challenge and organisational objectives are not usually key or significant.
My own personal experience is that expectations are different as well. Business Coaching is usually framed with clear direction and the tacit expectations of a measurable return to the business. This is much more so than in the case of Life Coaching, where the client is responsible for the direction of their coaching and their emotional happiness is only something that they can measure.
Business and Executive coaching is tougher because you may have to deal with some very strong personalities or with confidence issues and many executives are not used to having questions asked about their decisions or about being asked to reflect on issues that can make them feel uncomfortable.
Business Coaches understand the commercial environment and can deal with strong personalities or with ingrained fears. Good Coaches are adept at creating challenging questions that encourage the business leaders to deeply reflect and seek better ways that will improve the business going forwards.
You must leave your comfort zone
Realistically, significant change will not happen if you don’t step out of your comfort zones, and you will remain in the same or a similar place. Sometimes it is about championing, working around issues, building a rapport and trust – working within the parameters that the client needs at that time – it’s not always going to be ‘pushing’.
How can I utilise coaching in the workplace?
Recently I completed an assignment where I was asked to address the known challenge of transferring skills and enthusiasm from the training course back into the workplace. My recommendation was to use Coaching as a way of encouraging people to apply their learning from the training course and to incorporate it into their daily work. It’s referred to as embedded learning. So when all their Project Managers come back with their shiny new PMP qualifications, they employ a coach to work in the project management office. They help the newly qualified PM’s deliver their new found training to the benefit of the organisation and ensure a better return on the training costs investment and get the projects delivered!
When you have to make a big decision, you seek as much reference as possible so you make an educated decision. Organisations and Individuals are not good at seeing their own blind spots. Calling in an experienced coach is a simple investment that can yield significant and unexpected dividends that in practice, pays for itself many times over.
Who exactly employs a coach – Winners do!!