As of this writing, coaching remains widely misunderstood. Some think of sports coaching where the coach is telling the athletes what to do and driving them forward. Additionally, the terms mentor and consultant are often mistakenly used interchangeably with the term coach. In the workplace, Human Resource and training professionals are often seen as coaches – sometimes they are also trained as coaches and sometimes they themselves misunderstand the differences.
Coaching is completely different than the other professional roles. A professional coach has completed coaching certification approved by the International Coach Federation to develop specific competencies and adheres to the ICF Code of Ethics.
What is the difference between other professional roles and coaching?
- Other professionals do the talking and a coach listens.
- Other professionals give advice and a coach asks questions.
- Other professionals focus the conversation based on their own expertise and a coach focuses the conversation based on the choice of the client.
- Other professionals serve to share expertise and are essentially teachers while coaches serve to develop and elicit the expertise of the client.
- Other professional roles are the expert with the answers and a coach is the expert at eliciting the answers from the person doing the work.
Each of the approaches provides value. Other professionals add value by sharing experiences, expertise, and advice. Coaching adds value by engaging people to explore their options, expand their thinking, develop their action plans, and follow through.
For example, responses to this statement will vary: “A co-worker lied to my boss about what happened and made me look like an idiot!”
- Friend: “Wow, you must be so mad at them!”
- Consultant: “Let me analyze what is happening and give you a plan.”
- Mentor: “You should confront the co-worker and explain it to your boss.”
- Coach: “What outcome do you want to work towards now?”
The value of the friend is having someone understand and support. The value of the consultant is their experience and expertise. The value of the mentor is their wisdom. The value of the coach is they empower you to think it through and make intentional choices about your actions.