What is coaching exactly?
First – let’s talk about what coaching is not.
It is not mentoring.
Mentors are people who are where you want to be and can show you the path to get there.
The problem with mentoring is that everything is changing so rapidly, most places we want to “get to” don’t exist yet. Think about it – most jobs around now, didn’t exist 20 years ago, because it was pre-internet, pre-social media. So, if you go to someone who is where you want to be in 20 years’ time, they can’t exactly lead you through the same path they went through.
You don’t need someone to show you the path when you are forging a new future in an unknown world. You need someone to help you be the “best you” that you can be.
A coach is not a guide. They are not a font of all knowledge about your career or home life.
It is not counselling.
Counsellors are there to guide as you work through emotional trauma, or behavioral challenges. They are often a listening ear for you to talk through and process things that happened in the past. While in coaching you will touch on the past, the focus is very much on the present and the future.
You are your coach’s partner in the process. Not their patient.
What is coaching then?
Think about a sports coach – they bring out the best in players, and in teams.
They do this by observing, reflecting back to the team, providing discipline, setting expectations, facilitating good habit formation, and brainstorming options for improvements where needed.
For want of a better way of describing it; they “coach” the players and team to keep improving.
But they don’t have to have been where their players are. They aren’t mentors.
What is professional performance coaching?
Instead of improving your winning average, or scoring record, a professional performance coach is supporting you to be a top-performing professional. And a top-performing partner and parent at home. And a top-performing friend. Because we know that performance in a career won’t be fulfilling if it costs you success in all the other parts of your life.
In sport it is clear who wins and loses – the score is an intrinsic part of the whole process. But in life it is not so clear-cut what high performing means. So one of the most important things a coach does with you is to help you figure out what success and performance means for you in your context.
Coaches then use different tools to work with you to find what is stopping you from reaching that success and strategies for overcoming those roadblocks. They will keep you accountable and encourage you to remember why you are invested in doing the work.
But most importantly, a coach isn’t a counsellor, a friend, or a mentor – they aren’t going to tell you what success is or what strategies you should adopt. You will figure it out yourself as they walk you – it is always your definition of success and your plan for getting there.
So, think of your coach not as a cheerleader, but instead as a questioner, an encourager, an accountability partner, a mirror and sounding board for your ideas – all combined into one person.
They can coach you to heights the world has never seen before. You need a coach, not a mentor.
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