What is coaching?

One of the questions I often receive when I indicate to someone I am certified in Life Coaching is “What Is Coaching”?   My definition of coaching includes the following:

“Professional coaching is an ongoing partnership that helps a client to produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional life.  In each coaching session, the client chooses the focus of the conversation.  Coaching accelerates the client’s progress toward their goals by providing greater focus and awareness of choice.  Coaching focuses on where a client is today, where they want to be tomorrow and helps the client realize what they are willing to do to get there.”

In my definition please notice the emphasis on the coaching relationship being a partnership.  Coaching works best when the client identifies with the coach as a non-judging partner, who will listen intently to what they are saying, without passing judgment.  Additionally, the client also sees the coach as a partner to whom they are accountable to making commitments to taking significant life changing actions and coming to agreement on how they will go about taking those actions.

Notice the emphasis also on a coaching relationship being driven from the client’s agenda.  They choose what to speak on in each session.  Additionally, they determine priorities on what to focus on currently in their life.  It is entirely possible that a client from one session to the next may change their thoughts on what they need to address in their present so as to best reach their future goals.  The coach will look to meet the client at where they are at, and help guide them to where they want to be.

Finally, notice the emphasis on focus and choice.  Coaching provides an opportunity to put all other parts of their life out of their mind and in that time period focus on what is most important to their development.  Additionally, all choices the client chooses to explore in a session are completely discussed.  The coach will ask open ended clarifying questions to the client, and may also ask them if there are other possibilities they have considered.  However, it is ultimately up to the client to make the choices best suited for them in moving forward toward their goals.

The other question a coach often receives is how is coaching like therapy?  A quick summary answer to this question is that the therapist usually helps the client figure out “why” they feel the way they do, while the coach focuses on the “how” they will go forward in achieving their goals.  Therapy addresses the client to fix problems and overcome past issues.  Coaches focus on solutions.  When a client agrees to a coaching relationship they’re basically determined to not worry about fixing what has happened in the past, but committing to living their life a new way and through new approaches.  The client becomes more disciplined to take advantage of the opportunities their life holds for them, instead of rectifying past issues.

The client also learns in a solid coaching relationship, that the coach is not like a consultant, a mentor or even their best friend.  While all three of these relationships have value, the consultant, mentor or friend all are focused on their agenda of what is best for the client.  The coach knows only the client knows what is best for themselves.  All answers to how to proceed must come from the client.  This way the client’s agenda is truly being served.

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