Do You Need a Coach? Read More About Coaching Here
Who needs a coach? What does coaching look like? How does it work, or does it work at all? Founders, CEOs, and leaders, take note.
Who needs a coach? What does coaching look like? How does it work, or does it work at all? This article is for people who might want a coach, people who have coaches, and people just curious about the craft.
The coaching industry is booming. Depending on how you categorize the service of coaching, its total market size is anywhere from $2B to $15B. The International Coach Federation estimates that coaching in North America alone grew 35% from 2011 to 2015 (updated study numbers are coming out this year).
With all this activity, you’re very likely to encounter coaching at some point in your life — if you haven’t already. The rise of the knowledge worker is fueling demand for people just like you to be stronger leaders, work smarter together, and make better decisions. And coaching is here to help.
I’m especially talking to startup executives here. They’re one of my main client groups and most founders I’ve met have a lot of interest in the value of coaching without much access to it. But the message rings true for anyone.
A LITTLE ABOUT COACHING
“We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” — Galileo Galilei
When I set out to become an executive coach, I didn’t really understand what coaching was. I often describe it as trying to understand the water from the diving board. I knew abstractly what coaching was, and I knew the qualities of it that I loved. But I didn’t know what it was really like to be in the water.
Now that I’ve been doing this as a profession, I realize that there are still lots of definitions of what coaching is. Let’s begin with what it’s not.
WHAT COACHING ISN’T
Coaching is not consulting. Consulting is problem-oriented and works largely with organizations to drive toward a defined goal. Problems like “how do we think about entering the market in China” or “how can we reduce procurement spend next year.”
They can even be org problems, like “how do we restructure our teams to be more efficient.” Yes, often you’ll need to counsel clients along the way, but this is not coaching.
Coaching is not training. Often focused on groups, training is about transferring specific knowledge or skills to others. And again, it’s toward a defined organizational goal. There may be a bit of training in coaching, especially when it comes to coaching skills themselves, but it’s not the main focus.
Coaching is not managing. At least not necessarily. Confusingly, the best managers will also be great at coaching. It’s why sometimes we train (see above) clients on coaching tools. But in reality, this is just part of the broader job. Managing is about moving a team toward an objective and creating the structures and resources to get there.
Coaching is not mentorship. This is a tricky one. Although it’s also one-on-one, mentoring is not coaching. Mentors are often there because of some content knowledge or experience that puts them in a position to offer that to others who aren’t quite as far along the journey as they are.
This can sometimes look like a blend of coaching and training, with the mentor thoughtfully probing but also offering more concrete advice and support.
Coaching is not therapy. A decade ago, this was a bit more clear. Therapy was all about diagnosing conditions and helping patients become functioning members of society. And coaching was very results-oriented.
Today, however, a lot of therapists focus on positive psychology and help high-functioning individuals grow. And a lot of coaching can be process-focused, delving into feelings and personal life. Largely, though, therapy is past-looking and diagnostic, while coaching is forward-looking and based on achieving goals that the clients set for themselves.
There can be overlap in all the above, but coaching is its own special thing.
WHAT COACHING IS
So what is coaching? Simply put, coaching is a process of uncovering new meaning and deeper awareness, and then growing and making better choices with that new information.
Coaching helps people look at life from new perspectives. It’s about coming with questions, not with answers. Said differently, coaching isn’t about having your questions answered, it’s about having your answers questioned.
Coaching meets people where they are. A fundamental belief of good coaching is that people have everything they need inside of them already, they just need some help to ask the questions that surface those answers. Coaches don’t see their clients as broken or in need of being fixed.
Coaching is about accountability and action. The objective of coaching is to grow and change, but also to appreciate the journey. Coaching isn’t thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, it’s realizing that the grass is greener where we water it.
Coaching is about transformative growth at the peak of performance. Just like in athletics, coaching is at its highest potential not when taking people from bad to good, or even good to great. Breakthrough coaching is taking people from great to exceptional.
Coaching is about power questions that focus on the person, not the problem. Because it’s focused on questions and probing deeply, context doesn’t really matter. A coach doesn’t need to be an industry expert to serve a client in that industry. They don’t need to have been a CEO to coach CEOs.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM COACHING
Let me share my own experience. My coaches have never been in the military, never been a consultant, and never worked with startups. But they have done a lot of the hard, gritty, emotional work to build their own self-awareness. And this made them better at holding me in the work I wanted to do.
My coaches have also been amazing at helping me grow. They spent time helping me uncover my limiting beliefs and build awareness of what really matters. They challenged me at a fundamental and often uncomfortable level and called me on my BS.
They offered wildly different perspectives, but also held me in a non-judgmental place, supporting me wholeheartedly and celebrating my accomplishments. They have been equal parts challenger and champion, and always with my best interests at heart.
“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” — Denis Waitley
Good coaching is life-changing. It’s transformative, deep, and, for me, it has been worth every penny. How much money do you set aside for your own growth and development? What share of your income do you invest in yourself? What would be your return on that investment?
The goals and the dreams you have for yourself take work. It takes preparation, planning, and the right equipment to climb higher than you’ve climbed before.
Great coaching is built on partnerships. The coach is there to work with you and to help keep you accountable, to push you and encourage you.
Every coach is different, just like every client is different. If you might value coaching, find a coach that works for you. I hope that this article helps you better understand what coaching is and isn’t and that it gives you a little insight into what coaching can look like.
Adapted from “Do You Need an Executive Coach? Read This” originally published in The Startup