What is professional coaching anyway?

Coaching, that is the question… What is professional coaching anyway? I am frequently asked the question. Given the plethora of individuals who describe themselves as coach and the negative press associated with some aspects of the coaching profession, I can understand why.

To put this into the business context, I would argue that professional coaching is unlike other approaches to professional development such as training or mentoring.  The International Coach Federation defines professional coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.

Continuing on the same theme, training and mentoring are different to professional coaching. According to the Oxford Dictionary training is ‘the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behavior’.  On the other hand, Management Mentors defines mentoring as a ‘professional relationship in which an experienced person assists another in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth’.

If you were to compare the definition of professional coaching with that of training and mentoring, you would note two key differences:

First, the professional coaching relationship is based on partnership.  This helps to discourage or prevent the coach from imposing their will on the client and vice versa.  However, in the training and mentoring relationship there is an expert and a novice.  This has the tendency to create an imbalance of power in favour of the expert.

Second, the coach seeks to pull out or release the client’s capability.  This approach increases independence, confidence and affirms the client’s ability to make informed decisions.  On the other hand, the trainer or mentor puts in or pours in information. This increases the possibility of dependence on the expert, thereby restricting the client’s confidence to act decisively.

It might be worth pointing out that professional coaching is not the solution for all professional development needs; this is due to the fact that it is developmental, not a remedial exercise.  In fact, training and mentoring are likely to form a key source for acquiring generic or technical knowledge as you progress through your career.  However, in the business context, professional coaching is likely to be more appropriate for senior professionals who want to want to focus on enhancing specific areas of their professional development matrix, such as business critical competencies.

So if you are seriously considering professional coaching, which type is right for you?  Your decision should be influenced by what you would like to achieve as a result of the coaching interaction.  The following are some of the most popular professional coaching interventions in the business environment.

Executive Coaching is an executive specific coaching interaction used to facilitate thought, challenge and actions required to support the busy executive to deliver time sensitive results.  It provides a confidential, challenging and independent forum in which to develop, shape, and reshape strategies before putting them into effect. In this way, you increase your chances of achieving the success you anticipate.

Business Coaching is a client-centered process used to facilitate creative outcomes in respect of matters associated with strategic leadership and management of a company or organization. It provides a non-judgmental and constructively challenging environment in which to explore the endless possibilities before you make your decisions.

Leadership Coaching is designed to meet the ongoing professional development needs of the leader. Given the extent of technical knowledge and experience, each leader’s professional development need is unique when compared with that of others. It offers a custom made solution for your specific need; it provides an environment in which you can give attention to those areas of development that have the potential to undermine your influence.

Career Coaching is a supportive yet constructively challenging interaction with you and your coach.  Its primary purpose is to provide you with the insight and confidence needed to make decisions regarding your present or future career options.

To conclude, coaching is unlike training or mentoring.  It is a client-focussed, thought-provoking, confidential and non-judgemental approach to professional development.

What stood out in this blog for you and why?  Let us know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *