SME versus PE for a Wellness Coach

By Cathy Liska

SME is Subject Matter Expertise.  The pros of a wellness coach having SME include their awareness of possible implications of different strategies or action steps, the ability to add multiple ideas in a shared brainstorm, and informed observation or feedback.  The cons include the natural inclination to slide into their role as consultant or advisor, knowing the answer instead of supporting the client discovering their own answer, and the possible use of assumptions instead of inquiry.

PE is process expertise.  The pros of process expertise include the ability to move the client forward, a high level of empowering the client, and curious inquiry.  Process expertise often goes hand-in-hand with Subject Matter Expertise.  The cons of only having process is the coach may be unaware of their or the client’s knowledge gaps, and the coach is less informed for helping to identify underlying factors and considerations.

In all types of coaching, first and foremost it is important to have a trained coach, so verify certification and credentialing.  The decision of whether to seek subject matter expertise is typically the next consideration and at the same time research shows that the rapport between the coach and client is the greatest predictor of success. That means decide if and what subject matter expertise is important as a third priority.

A coach who is trained and that connects with the client will provide value with or without subject matter expertise.  Knowledge that impacts client success is available through other professionals or with research.  A coach that empowers the client to explore options, influencing factors, and possible strategies will move them forward.

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