Though coaching has been around since the 1940’s, it didn’t really take off until the 1980’s. Even with over four decades of popularity, many people are still confused as to who a coach is and what they do.
Coaching is a phenomenal way to solve your problems, develop action plans and get motivated to achieve your goals. Coaching gets to the root of an issue by using the knowledge of the best expert in the house: You! No one knows “you” and your personal situation better. No amount of sessions will ever allow a therapist, consultant or even a coach to completely know and understand you. Only you truly know your past experiences, idiosyncrasies, passions and weaknesses. Only you know what drives you to reach certain goals and to what lengths you are willing to go in order to accomplish them.
Much of the confusion lies in distinguishing a coach from a therapist and a consultant. Each of these professionals has a unique approach to helping clients improve their lives. So why should you consider hiring a coach?
An example can help illustrate the difference between these three professionals. Mindy Altermatt provides a fun example using the concept of learning to ride a bike. I alter her example to show how each professional would help a client with a common issue many individuals will face at some point in their lives:
Client A feels stuck. They are facing a big life transition that leaves them feeling fearful and uncertain of the future. They simply can’t make any progress forward.
A therapist will typically work with client that is suffering from a serious mental illness or traumatic event. Historically, therapists, counselors and psychologists have focused on exploring the client’s past and formally diagnosing mental and behavioral symptoms. They then seek to treat those symptoms through various learned techniques and principles.
The therapist would focus on why Client A is unable to move forward. They would likely want to explore what in the client’s past or childhood is causing them to feel stuck. They will want to dive into these past issues and solve the “stuck feeling” by answering the question of why the client was stuck in the first place.
A consultant will assess the client’s goals and provide steps for the client to complete based on the consultant’s expertise. This is an excellent model for many clients as many individuals are simply looking for someone to tell them what to do. However, consulting does not take into account the clients own ideas and beliefs. The client is left to follow a plan that they had little say in creating, in many cases leaving the client with little buy-in. These programs often start off strong, but the client sooner or later abandons the action plan because it doesn’t match up with their personal values, strengths and lifestyle.
Client A finds a consultant that specializes in dealing with the “stuck” feeling. They have discovered a way to solve this issue and have developed a set of techniques. The consultant is paid to provide the client with step by step instructions of how to become unstuck. They have solved the problem before and share with the client how to do it. They are focused on the problem.
Like a coach on a football or soccer field, coaches are there to motivate and push you to be the best you can possibly be. They will expect hard work from you and will require you to step outside of your comfort zone and they will never leave you hanging. They are there to help you to find your own answers and then hold you accountable until you cross over that finish line, of your own volition! How amazing, at the end of everything, to know that you really and truly accomplished a goal on your own. It was you! Yes, your coach was there to guide you and push you, but it was all you!
The coach has a completely different relationship with Client A. The coach will ask a lot of insightful questions and not do quite as much telling. They offer support while asking questions that force the client to identify their strengths. The Coach helps Client A discover what he already knows about the issue and eliminate any beliefs Client A holds that are keeping him from accomplishing his goals. The coach’s focus is the client!
We often know what we want out of life, but continually sabotage ourselves. Coaching forces you to be honest with yourself.
The coach’s job is to ask powerful and insightful questions designed to elicit an exploration of the client’s inner thought processes and ideas. Coaches understand that the person that will provide the best answer to solve a problem is the client. From there, a coach provides support and motivation, holds the client accountable, and keeps the client constantly moving forward.
Coaching may not be for everyone. It requires commitment and a willingness to act. Individuals willing to take that step and commit to a better future will see great progress working with a coach.
As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.”
Got any thoughts you would like to share? Add your comments below!
Until Next Time!