At a recent Central Florida chapter meeting of the International Coaches Federation, our table topic question was, “How do you clearly and succinctly describe what you do, so that others fully understand what coaching is?”
The coaches in the room were a diverse group of life or wellness coaches, executive and leadership coaches, business coaches, and career coaches and the responses to this question were similarly diverse, as each type of coach serves their clients in different ways. Here’s a summary of the responses to the question “What do coaches do?”
In general, coaches can help us:
• connect the dots
• be our authentic selves
• take us from good to great
• create a personal brand
• come to the right table
• discover what we really want in life
• find the answers from within ourselves
• get us from where we are, to where we want to be
• be more accountable to ourselves and others
• formulate goals aligned with values
• play nice in the sandbox
The second question we addressed was “What are the most significant barriers that we, as individual coaches, face in educating the general public about the profession of coaching?”
We agreed that the biggest barrier was a lack of education around what coaching really is. A number of coaches recalled clients who had confused psychotherapy or counseling with coaching. Some clients ask for a coach but they really want a consultant — someone to tell them what to do.
Also, in some corporate environments, coaching is perceived as punitive; the perception being that if you’re assigned a coach this is your last chance to clean up your act before they show you the door. However the reality is quite the opposite as the majority of companies utilize coaching to develop their high potential leaders to ready them for the next level of leadership, and to help supervisors and executives develop customized professional leadership plans and to help them achieve their developmental goals.
In my personal experience as an executive coach, I find my clients truly value the confidential space that the professional coach creates and honors. They also appreciate an objective sounding board and the empowering questions that lead them to greater insights into what they really want to achieve, and why. The goal is often to help the client achieve intrinsic motivation vs. external motivation, so that the energy for change or develop comes from the clients’ genuine desire for continuous improvement and well-being.
If you engage with a coach and they start telling you what you need to do, move on. That person is not a coach. The ICF definition coaching is: Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
Through extensive training, certified coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. Unlike most other forms of personal development, coaches seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client.
The underlying belief is that the client is whole, naturally creative and resourceful.