I am not aware of a universally-accepted definition of what coaching is, although it is something that most people will have encountered in some way. In general it is about being helped to improve your performance and reaching some desired goal. The obvious example is sports coaching; professional sportsmen and women all work with specialist coaches to improve their technique and performance. That is not my province!
Coaching also takes two other general forms:
- Coaching in business: Executive Coaching, and
- Personal (or life) Coaching
Executive Coaching is personal coaching in the workplace for senior managers and executives. By improving the performance of the most influential people in an organisation, results can be improved across a broad area. Examples of situations that might typically benefit are where a person is being considered for a more senior position and needs to gain more skills and experience, or a manager is struggling with a new role, or there are relationship issues, or where change is being introduced requiring new or enhanced skills. This kind of coaching can involve teaching and giving advice, and I would regard that as 'mentoring'.
Personal / Life Coaching is for anyone who seeks to improve specific aspects of their lives, or simply their quality of life in general. Relationships, personal fulfilment, health, fitness and financial freedom are all potential areas that can benefit from this type of activity. Usually this is done with individuals, but couples who want their relationship to be even more fulfilling or better in certain areas can benefit from joint coaching.
My main focus is personal / life coaching, and with my particular expertise in couple counselling I can naturally work with couples on improving their relationships.
I also do Executive Coaching, mostly focusing on improving skills and behaviours. My background in organisational change is valuable for helping in situations where significant change is being undertaken or planned.
Coaching doesn't just happen in formal 'coaching sessions'. In fact we all do it, e.g. over the coffee machine at work, or helping a friend, colleague or relative with some personal difficulty. So if we all do it what's special about someone who calls him or herself a coach? Well, in practice, although they can be very helpful, the informal chats aren't always objective. Our friends and colleagues are rarely independent and their own perspectives can get in the way. They also tend to offer advice, which isn't always helpful.
Good coaches will have spent years developing and refining skills in questioning that are able to encourage self-exploration. They will be objective, and have a wealth of experience, ideas and tools that can help you find solutions and / or clarity to the issues you have. They will be excellent active listeners, and for many people that is a something they rarely experience. They will also be good at putting you at your ease to talk about things that are important to you.
With the support of a good coach people can gain tremendous self-insights, make clearer judgements about situations, learn more from experiences, make better choices, take more effective decisions or actions, feel more motivated, better about themselves, and get more from life. Coaching is a very positive experience and can / should be great fun. Couples working together in a coaching environment can make their relationship really fizz!
Many things. These may be problem orientated, such as:
- having difficult interacting with a person or some people
- feeling overwhelmed and stressed
- not knowing where you are going with your career or in life
- inhibited in personal behaviour, or unhappy with personal traits
- feeling that a relationship is not what it could / should be.
Or they may be couched more positively, such as:
- wanting to understand goals and aims, and put together a plan to achieve them
- creating a better work / life balance and perhaps reduce stress
- becoming more fulfilled with life or with a relationship
- improving self-awareness
- improving self-discipline and motivation, e.g. with fitness / health / diet / controlling drinking or smoking
- improving ability to relate to others.
Of course there are many more reasons. In general coaching is appropriate in situations that benefit from a goal-based approach, where you want something that you currently do not have. Working with a coach is a great way of gaining clarity about what you want, helping define an achievable means of reaching it, and helping you deal with the obstacles that are certain to arise that may get in the way of reaching your goals.
That can be a grey area, and you will hear different views. My view is that counselling is more focused on helping resolve particular problems that you can identify, whereas coaching is more about achieving greater potential, reaching desirable outcomes, and getting more out of your relationship or life in general.
There's obviously a big overlap between the two, and my clients find it beneficial that I can work across the whole spectrum. There are also plenty of situations where coaching is not appropriate, for example:
- where there are mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks or OCD
- where there is abuse, either physical or sexual
- where someone has experienced a traumatic past, including physical / sexual / verbal / financial abuse
- if there are significant issues with alcohol, or other addictions
- if there is a dependency on drugs.
Because of my therapeutic training and experience I usually don't need to refer coaching clients to other professionals should such underlying issues arise that would benefit from a therapeutic approach. Some of these situations do however require specialist help from specially-trained professionals, and should I feel that is the case I would assist you in locating the most appropriate source.
Similarly, counselling clients can benefit from coaching ideas and approaches once their problems have started to be addressed. I will work flexibly with you, drawing on my experience and training in both fields as appropriate, using what is best for you at the time.