Whether you are a potential coach or a potential client, it is good to have a clear definition of coaching. To come up with a good definition of coaching, it helps to know what coaching isn’t.
What Coaching Isn’t
Coaching isn’t consulting. Consultants often have experience in one specific area and are hired to solve a problem in that certain area. Consulting is specific while coaching can be both general and specific. Consulting is narrow; coaching is broad. Consulting is restricted; coaching is unconfined.
Coaching is sometimes similar to mentoring, but not quite. Being a mentor is more like being a teacher; a mentor-student relationship is very similar to a teacher-student relationship, which is not the same as a coach-client relationship. A coach-client relationship is more balanced and coequal than that of a teacher and student.
Coaching is definitely not therapy. Though it may seem like it with certain needy clients, a definition of coaching does not include being a therapist. The use of psychology in your practice is not uncommon, but therapy is not what you do as a coach! If your clients want therapy, tell them to look elsewhere!
What Coaching Is
There are many possible definitions of coaching, and it may mean different things to different people. However, to better understand the definition of coaching, it is good to see what the two primary governing coaching bodies have to say about defining their profession.
To paraphrase the ICF (International Coaching Federation) definition, coaching is partnering with your clients to inspire and motivate them to maximize their professional and personal potential.
To paraphrase the ICA (International Coach Academy), the definition of coaching is a collaboration between the coach and the client to help clarify their values and achieve their goals. The ultimate goal is to help the client achieve a fulfilling life.
From these definitions, we can conclude that coaching can be defined as:
- a collaboration between client and coach to create roadmaps and strategies for success in a client’s professional and personal life.
- a method of motivating and inspiring clients to identify, clarify, and achieve their goals.
- a tool to help clients create a life or career plan that promotes success, health, and happiness.
One Powerful Definition of Coaching
Therapy and counseling often look to the past to find issues and problems. Once the problems are identified, therapists and counselors attempt to understand and heal these issues. However, coaching looks to the future to make someone’s life better and more fulfilling. Coaching begins with a client’s desire for personal and professional improvement and success. Coaching is not about why clients got to where they are; it is about how to get them from their current place to the place they desire to be in the future. Unlike consulting and therapy, which often looks backward and is reactive, coaching is forward thinking and proactive.
One More Definition of Coaching
Coaching is belief, tools, and leadership. Coaching starts with belief; belief that people can solve their own issues and ameliorate their life if given the right guidance and tools. Once these tools are presented, the coach uses leadership skills to help the client correctly use and apply them. Belief, tools, and leadership – that’s coaching!
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