Let's start with what coaching is not. It is not consulting. Nor is it mentoring or leadership feedback. And it certainly isn't therapy or counseling. So what is coaching?
Coaching isn't therapy or counseling.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential." Let's break that down.
Unlike the "boss as coach" or the "wise mentor, " a coach is not on a pedestal, not "smarter" than their client or "all knowing." The coach and client stand on equal ground, as peers and collaborators.
A coach is a catalyst who uses a thoughtful process of provocative and insightful questions to enable the client to see their own roadblocks and to visualize opportunities. And, to provide support as the client identifies the path to reach that goal.
A good coach won't just ask questions (although those questions are the foundation of the entire process!). They'll employ assessments when they make sense, introduce concepts and metaphors, and identify "homework" assignments to get the client thinking about solutions, to enhance the creative flow of the client.
This is the real bottom line in coaching. A client seeks out a coach not because he or she doesn't have the answers, the potential, or a definitive goal, but because the coach empowers them to unlock that potential.
What is coaching useful for?
As I've learned from my mentor coaches, coaching is valuable for those who want to explore a personal, professional, or spiritual goal or change. For example, people often seek out personal coaching when they're struggling with work-life balance. Others might leverage professional coaching for a career change, to improve leadership effectiveness, or when starting or growing a business.
What are the benefits of coaching?
In a 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study, 99% of coaching clients reported that they were satisfied with the overall coaching experience, with 96% reporting that they would participate in coaching again. From an organizational perspective, 86% of companies responding agreed that they at least made their investment back. The bottom line: a good coach can provide the insight, structure and support to help you achieve more than you can alone.
How can I learn more?
For those interested in learning more, I offer a webinar series that focuses on delivering effective coaching. The two-session series covers the key components for Building a Coaching Program, followed by a session about Designing Effective Coaching Sessions. This program is ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about coaching, in particular those leaders and human resource professionals who are considering establishing a coaching program.
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My greatest joy is helping people make bold transitions in their professional and personal lives!