What in the World is Life Coaching?

In my speaking engagements I have often compared coaching today to psychotherapy in the 1920s. The level of public understanding of coaching, outside of people in a certain socio-demographic category, is still in its infancy. We are all so saturated with the language of psychoanalysis - it's difficult to read a book or watch a movie that isn't premised on this shared language - that we probably don't consider there was once a time when practitioners were asked:

"Now, you do what, exactly?"

"And I would tell you my dream because it would reveal what?"

"So there's this free association thing, which apparently still costs something, and I give you the first thing that comes to mind because there are these subconscious drives I have?"

To the not-yet-initiated, coaching can sound like this. What is it and why would I want to do it?

Coaching, whether for career or business, existential questions or relationships, begins with alignment. Coaches get you, your actions and thoughts, and your very lifestyle aligned with who you say you are, or want to be.

That is, we will get the way you live, think, act, and work integrated with the core values and goals you say you have. If you don't know what your ultimate values and goals are, then that's coachable too.

It's not by magic that coaches help clients achieve their goals. From the practical and action-oriented to the great questions, coaches draw from the best of management consulting, best business practices, motivational and cognitive psychology, sports performance, ethics and spirituality, the Socratic dialogue and philosophy.

Most fundamentally, coaches help clients get out of their own way.

COACHING BRIEFLY DEFINED

Here is one definition of coaching, per the International Coach Federation:

"Professional Coaching is a professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that supports the achievement of extraordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team. Through the process of coaching, individuals focus on the skills and actions needed to successfully produce their personally relevant results."

"The individual or team chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach listens and contributes observations and questions as well as concepts and principles which can assist in generating possibilities and identifying actions. . . . Coaching accelerates the individual's or team's progress by providing greater focus and awareness of possibilities leading to more effective choices. . . . . [R]esults are a matter of the individual's or team's intentions, choices and actions, supported by the coach's efforts and application of coaching skills, approaches and methods."

If your definition of a coach is borrowed from high school or college athletics, where the athlete is beneath the coach and can even be dismissed by him, then the term "coaching" may be a bit misleading to you. A personal or executive coach is more like the coach of a pro track star or tennis player: in these professional relationships, the coach and the client are two co-equals and partners, and it's actually the client who decides how long the coach stays on the team.

THE PROCESS

A coach begins, from a place of generosity of will and spirit, by getting to know you as a person and formally identifying your goals and values, using a variety of in-house or standardized assessments. Then the coach looks at the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

A coach will then work with you to close that gap by eradicating your self-limiting thinking, reducing your stress and enhancing your efficiency, and getting you to stretch and try new things and ways of being. A coach will help you implement strategies to reach your goals, tactical steps to carry out your strategy, and day to day accountability to keep you focused on the tactics, the strategy, the goal -- all while explicitly remaining true to your values.

Coaching is at its root about expanding your awareness and making you accountable to yourself. Coaches expand clients' awareness about themselves and then help them to be accountable to what they have learned. It can be a sophisticated form of teaching, mentoring, and partnering in an enterprise with a single focus: your personal, professional, and even spiritual development. Coaches show you ways to find clarity, guide you to awareness of your true situations (including how you get in your own way), and show you how to take action based on what you know.

To be coached, then, is to get experienced, committed, and insightful help in (1) finding clarity about subjects big and small, (2) deepening your understanding about what holds you back, and, crucially, (3) being guided toward acting on your knowledge to make desired and lasting change in your life.

WHO GETS COACHED?

Coaching clients are clear that they want something -- virtually anything -- sooner and with more certainty of getting it than they could manage alone. It could be learning, career advancement, satisfaction, higher performance, better relationships, or quality of life. Clients are not attempting, through coaching, to address emotional pain or psychological disorders. This is one of the key differences between coaching and counseling. See more at http://www.ferocecoaching.com/coaching-and-counseling.html.

Coachable clients are functioning well and able to take action in the direction of their goals. Coaches look to the present and the future; they discuss the past primarily in order to clarify where the client is today. Critically, coaching need not resolve issues of the past in order to move forward.

THE RELATIONSHIP, IN A NUTSHELL

The coaching relationship is the key to its success. Coach and client are partners. Mutual appreciation and respect are not just a by-product of the time they spend together but the engine of coaching's success. A rarity in relationships, coach and client are collaborators in a joint enterprise: the client. At my coaching firm, our philosophy is that clients already have many of the answers within them, and to the extent that's the case, it's the coach's job to draw them out.

Coaches don't often hold themselves out as expert or authority on subject matter so much as on process. The client and her coach jointly choose the topics of their work together, the format, and the outcomes the client desires. Coaches are for the emotionally mature. Those who imagine that a coach can turn their lives around are not yet coachable under most coaches' ethics. A coach is someone you retain only when you are ready. To take with you that next, elusive step.

FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS, NOT SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE

There is rarely such a thing as a "type" or "field" of coaching, wherein life coaches could be considered somehow different from relationship coaches.

The reason there is usually no difference between, say, life or personal coaching on the one hand and executive

coaching on the other, is that these titles describe only the client, not the coaching itself. That is, the words describe the buyer of the services and perhaps even how that client perceives himself.

But the techniques and methods of coaching are very similar, because all coaching comes down to the process of guiding human beings through the discovery of their full humanity, their insight, and greater accountability to themselves. Even if you are an executive who wants "executive" coaching, you know there is no such thing as skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are used in, and useful in, only the boardroom or office. You are on a mission to enhance your effective personhood, not your, shall we say, executiveness.

What is the consequence of coaching being the same no matter who the client is? Well, it means that subject matter expertise is often irrelevant. To be a career coach, it may help to have some knowledge of career resources, of course. The same is true for specialty aspects of business coaching, entrepreneurship coaching, or leadership coaching. But in general, you should opt for a coach with superb coaching skills and chemistry over a coach with subject matter expertise.

Cameron Powell, a writer and coach, is also a professional ally and strategic partner who, as a life coach, when his clients most need it, will kick their butts into action now and then. To learn more about how he gets people unstuck and moving forward in their lives and careers as a Life Coach, visit his site.

More Resources

Unable to open RSS Feed $XMLfilename with error HTTP ERROR: 404, exiting

More Coaching Information:

Related Articles

Why a Coach is NOT a Consultant
Often while talking to people about my coaching practice I get asked what the difference is between a coach and a consultant. Many people believe they are either the same thing or very similar.
Coaching vs. Directing - How Does Improv Theater Suggest You Should Lead Your Team
An age old battle in improv that I believe resonates well with challenges we experience in the business world is the question of whether a team should have a coach or a director (in which case it should be called an ensemble). In addition there's the third option of the self coached team, which I will call committee from here on forward.
Where to Begin?
January is the king of months for those looking to make new beginnings. After the reflections and indulgences of December, the excitement of a new year unfolding brings contemplation of better days ahead.
How Could Choosing to Not Do It All Enhance Your Impact?
How often have you heard yourself say, "I've got so many balls in the air I don't know how I can possibly keep track of them all".We may be managing to keep the balls in motion, but how good is our juggling performance really? Are our movements controlled and rhythmic? Or are we merely gritting our teeth and hoping to catch the next ball before it falls on the ground?Recently I was speaking with a colleague (we'll call him Craig) who is a high achievement-oriented and well-regarded senior manager.
Business Career, Executive Coaching Article - Leadership: Understanding the Human Condition
"Nothing is more practical than for people to deepen themselves. The more you understand the human condition the more effective you are as a businessperson.
Cause and Effect! Choose a Path
Three steps to your Personal Transformation:Awareness and PerceptionLaw of Cause and EffectLaw of AccumulationThese categories are what you need to understand in order to be in total control of your being!Most go through life never reaching their potential because they never take control of all their faculties or abilities.This information is designed to help you gain complete control of your life!So lets get into it1) Awareness and perception.
How to Coach Yourself!
Some people are not in a position to work with a coach right now. Some are stretched financially, while some are still using the "lone ranger" method.
How To Improve Your Selling Skills -- With Coaching Skills
But people love being coached. It's respectful and considerate of their needs.
Coaching Prime Time
An awful lot of fantastic coaching has been coming out of Hollywood lately, have you noticed? Whether it's Morgan Spurlock's feature film debut "Supersize Me"..
Bringing Forgiveness Down To Earth
What does it mean to forgive?One of the first things we typically think when we hear the word "forgive" is that it is a spiritual concept that is mostly out of reach for us mortal human beings. The bible talks about it, pastors implore us to forgive, we might believe that it is something that we "should" do but for the most part, most of us find it very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish.
Corporate Coaching and Employees: One Step Ahead
"Don't shoot..
An Easy Way to End The Year
As a healthy business owner or independent professional, how do you end your year? Well, I tell my clients to stop working. That's right, stop working.
Getting Unstuck: Moving Forward To Success
Ever find yourself stuck in that awful loop of inactivity? You circle around and around between wanting to move forward and then apathy? Covering the same ground and never moving forward? It could be that you are stuck in the web of your own comfort zone. It's a place we hang out at that's routine, predicable and safe.
Secrets of Creating Interpersonal Power
If you work with people, as a company owner, manager and team leader or on the customer interface, your impact on others is your most important asset! Someone creating 'Interpersonal Power', as I see it, has the ability to inspire, motivate and facilitate outstanding action in another.In 1996 I won the Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA, in Whitewater Slalom.
Our Perception Determines Our Experience
Not long ago, I traveled back east to Ohio and Chicago. While I was there, I was amazed that the friends I made along my journey seemed to have completely different observations of the state in which they lived.
Belief Management - The Missing Ingredient?
"Joan, I'm working so hard and I'm not getting anything done!" I have heard some version of this cry of frustration by many an entrepreneur. It's a common complaint voiced by those of use who sought the freedom to have complete authority over our schedules, only to find ourselves unwittingly shackled by old ways of operating.
Free Advice From Albert Einstein
What If You Could Ask Anyone For Help?Have you ever noticed how sometimes you are at your most creative when you are interacting with another person? You and your friend or acquaintance feed off of each other's ideas and help each other clarify things. Well what about those times when you are alone, or you have no one you wish to share your ideas with? What can you do then to stimulate creative thought and to find elegant solutions to your problems? You could try talking to Albert Einstein.
Business Coaching Legacy: Reflections on What You Want to Leave Behind?
Updating my will has been on my mind for quite some time now. Life circumstances change, kids grow-up, financial situations changes.
Attitude
What makes attitude so important? Why not just learn some "seductiontechniques" to get the girl? The answer is simple: learning techniques (orhaving expensive clothing and cars) without improving your attitude is likewrapping a cheap gift in expensive wrapping paper. It still looks expensiveon the outside, but when the girl "unwraps" you, she'll find out that youwere faking it all along.
Truth About Life Coaching School Accreditation
With life coaching becoming "the" career choice in this millennium, many of you are seeking the right choice for training and certification. Hopefully this article will answer some of your questions.