The question 'what is coaching?' will elicit many different responses depending on who you ask, and it is worth spending a bit of time understanding what coaching is if you are going to invest your time and money in engaging a coach. I am going to share my own personal perspective on coaching which is aligned to those recognised professional coaching organisations such as the International Coach Federation (ICF), Association For Coaches (AC) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).
Broadly speaking coaching is a process that allows an individual or group of people to reflect and gain awareness of who they are, what is important to them, their strengths, challenges, options open to them and what action to take in order to make the changes they want in their work or life.
Unlike training and instruction where the emphasis is on the trainer imparting their knowledge to you, coaching focuses on helping the coachee to take responsibility for identifying their own goals, assessing their own strengths and areas for development and identifying their own solutions for moving forwards. This is achieved by the coach providing a safe, creative and non-judgemental space, asking thought-provoking questions and listening to help the coachee explore, reflect and make decisions.
People engage in coaching for a variety of reasons. It can help you to make changes in your life, business or career, improve your performance, enhance your relationships with others or develop specific skills.
To further clarify exactly what is coaching, here are a couple of definitions from industry experts:
"Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them learn rather than teaching them" (Whitmore, J, 2004)
Coaching is 'a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be successful, a coach requires a knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of styles, skills, and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which coaching takes place'. (Parsloe, Eric 1999)
The ICF defines coaching as 'Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential' .
Training can be defined as "the process of learning the skills that you need for a particular job or activity"
Is coaching a type of training? Whilst coaching is a means of personal development just as training is, it is fundamentally different from training in that the answers come from the coachee rather than the coach.
There are also different approaches to coaching and this is where the definitions of coaching become blurred.
Non-directive coaching is coaching in the true sense of the word where the coach simply asks you questions to allow you to find your own solutions. A non-directive coach will certainly not offer you advice and rarely even give you suggestions, although through skillful questioning they will help you to see your situation from a different perspective, gain clarity, uncover options, challenge inconsistencies and hold you accountable to your actions.
The great benefit of non-directive coaching is that you, as the client take full ownership of your own solutions rather than ‘doing what you have been told to do.’ Through this approach you will feel a sense of empowerment to make changes in your life and your confidence bolstered.
Directive coaching on the other hand is where the coach offers you options, solutions, tools and techniques for moving forward. You may like to be offered solutions however the danger is that whilst that solution may have worked for the other person, it might not be right for you, and consequently you may not feel fully committed to the solution provided.
The terms coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeable and frequently get confused. A mentor is a person, often more experienced than the person they are helping (mentee), who can draw upon their experience to help the mentee to progress. For example someone in a new role at work may have a mentor who has done that job before or been in the organisation for a longer period of time. They can therefore show them the ropes, answer questions and support them if things get tough. But a mentor may also draw on a wide range of styles within a mentoring relationship. As well as at times providing advice and guidance them may employ a coaching style later on in the relationship, asking open-ended questions to help their mentee think things through for themselves, develop their confidence and make their own decisions.
In summary, coaching is about providing you with the opportunity to reflect, deepen your awareness and take meaningful action. For more information and to learn more take time to explore some of the other pages on this site.