What is a “Coach”, and, Do I Need One?

The concept of using a coach has, over the 20 years I’ve been doing it, gotten a lot more clearly defined and accepted. In the past having “a coach” often meant your career was on hold until you fixed some kind of derailing behavior. The term “coaching” was often associated with problem behavior, and corrective action. But all that has evolved into something a lot more powerful and positive.

I first attended the Coach Training Institute back in 1997, having completed my Masters in Family Therapy. I knew the power of change that could be accomplished through therapy, I also knew if often carried a stigma with it. I was beginning to hear more and more about coaching being used in business and from the definitions I heard, it sounded suspiciously like therapy. That caused alarm bells to go off for me – how was it I had to attend 3 rigorous years of study, internship, client hours, etc. but anyone could be a coach? Seemed dangerous.

Let me pause and say it can, indeed be dangerous! If you are going to use a coach, please make sure they are experienced and are credible. Coaches may tell you one of the differences between them and a therapist is that a therapist looks at the past and a coach looks at the future. Nonsense. I don’t know any coach who doesn’t want to know something about why you have sought them out (e.g. the past). I don’t know any therapist who isn’t interested in your improvement (the future). So… let’s agree that line is a non-starter.

Like a coach, a therapist wants to know about your strengths, your dreams, your ideal state or goal, and what resources you have to help you move from where you are, to where you want to be. In short, I’d say most therapists could be fine coaches. On the other hand, most coaches have no training in use of things like psychometric evaluations (e.g. can’t administer a Myers-Briggs or EQ-I assessment), don’t know when to spot real trouble (e.g. abuse, addiction, serious depression, etc.), and don’t have on-going regular check-ins with more seasoned coaches (in therapy we call that “supervision” even though the individual isn’t technically a supervisor). But please don’t get the idea that I’m putting down coaching – far from it. I’m just saying, know who you’re working with and be comfortable with that.

That’s kind of a winding path to get to the actual point I wanted to make in this blog, which is a modern picture of coaching. Coaching is a relationship with someone who will help you be the best you can be. They will help you set goals that are meaningful to you, help you honestly examine what’s getting in your way, strategize about a path forward, and celebrate successes with you. Unlike others in your life, the relationship with a coach is entirely about you, not the coach. Thus, you can count on a coach to be very honest with you, to hold up a mirror when needed, and to unreservedly cheer you on to the completion of your goals.

If that sounds like something that would be useful for you, get in touch. I’m excited for your future!

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