This is a simple question that I often get asked by my potential clients. There is not a simple answer to it, but a couple of short definitions might be:
‘Coaching is about setting goals and working on strategies to help you get there.’
‘Coaching is about asking the right questions.’
‘Coaching is a partnership between coach and coachee, to create a space to overcome challenges.’
These answers are all correct, however, if you look at them separately, they seem to focus on only one element of coaching but don’t necessarily paint the whole picture. In my latest blog, I wanted to describe in more detail what you could expect from your coaching experience; plus understand the difference between coaching, mentoring, training and therapy.
Let’s start at the beginning. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), a leading organisation in this field, defines coaching as :
‘Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.’
While Association for Coaching presents coaching as:
“A collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee.’’
As a coach who also works with clients in the workplace, this is still relevant but the discussions are focused on work challenges. I would like to describe a recent client experience, to help bring this to life a little more and showcase how coaching may work.
Imagine . . . .
We are meeting at a crossroads to start our coaching journey together, side by side. You have brought a topic with you that you would like to work on and have a desire to change, although you may not know how. You may not have a clear vision yet. You might be overwhelmed by the choice of different paths that you could take, feeling stuck, you are unsure how to move forward.
We explore the path we are on together. We may sit down; we may stop and just be. I ask you questions, prompting you to define your destination for today and our longer journey. We walk along the path you choose. I might stop you and encourage you to look back and reflect, pointing out other routes you might take or things to consider. You may decide to explore some of these alternative routes or not.
I’m curious and observant, holding the space without judgment, offering observation (without attachment), and supporting or challenging your thoughts (depending on what you need). I have a bag with different tools or equipment we may need during our journey. I can offer them to you, and you can decide whether to use them or not.
At the end of our walk, you have reached your goal for today. You have some actions to take away or reflections to consider until we meet again next time.
We meet a few times for our walk, and at the end of our journey, you have reached your destination. It is likely that the journey we have taken together has transformed you, and you are now equipped to walk your own path without me, or we may meet at a later date to explore a different challenge.
For me, the beauty of coaching is actually in the partnership that is created between coach and coachee, which is always confidential and built on trust. A coach does not have to have experience within your industry, sector or organisation, as they are an expert at asking the right questions, being present and sharing resources. As the coachee, you are the expert of yourself. This partnership can allow you to find the best path for you, the best solutions and make decisions with clarity and confidence.
Within the workplace, however, there are often different kinds of support available which is different to coaching. There can often be confusion on the difference between coaching, training, mentoring and therapy. Below I share a brief summary of each to illustrate the differences:
Training – can expand your knowledge or skills on a particular topic. The topic is often pre-defined and in the workplace often occurs in a group setting.
Mentoring – allows you to develop your skills, knowledge and build a relationship with your mentor, who most likely has a similar background to you and can offer you advice and insights, based on their experience.
Therapy – focuses on the past and how that influences your behaviour in the present. Therapists can also support you in diagnosing and managing a mental illness. (In coaching, we can touch on your past, but our focus will be more future-oriented.)
If you have a challenge you wish to overcome and are unsure if coaching is the right way forward for you, please book a no-obligation discovery call with me.