When I am asked what I do, I answer differently depending on my mood, my energy in the moment. I might say that I help people get out of their own way, or to create a life/business/career by design as opposed to by default. I sometimes say that I support people in achieving more external achievement (Success) AND more internal fulfillment. And sometime I just say I’m a personal and professional coach. And usually people go either” OK, got it” without really getting it or “what kind of coaching?”. The truth is coaching is used for so many different things that it is confusing for a lot of people. I therefore wanted to talk a little bit about what is and is not and will do in different posts.
So, let’s start today with the basics:
What Coaching is Not:
It’s often clearer to explain what something is by defining what it is not. So here are 2 services with which coaching is often mistaken:
- Consulting: a consultant is someone who comes with a certain expertise, with solutions to propose, who might even do the work for you and deliver the end result. A consultant might come with a strategy to grow your business, some recommendations to improve your relationships or your management. They will usually come with answers, tips, advice and tell you what to do. A lot of coaches are also blending coaching with consulting which is totally fine but which explains why it might be confusing to some people.
- Psychotherapy: Coaching might involve some deep personal introspection which we are not used to and which may make it a little scary to some but it is not a therapy. A simplified but rather clear way to separate therapy from coaching is the following:
- Therapy is focused on the past and painful issues, aiming at coming to term with these.
- Coaching is focused on the present and the future, the past might come into play but it is a fact, not a problem.
People can work with both a coach and a psychotherapist at the same time. I found that one the reason that hold people back from even just trying to work with a coach is the belief that if you see a coach, it means something is wrong with you and you have to fix it. People are then worried about what other might think about them. If you or some people you know are in that case, I am inviting you to shift the perspective to something that is inspiring and moving you toward the life you REALLY want to create.
What is Coaching?
The International Coach Federation defines it as follows:
“Coaching is a partnership with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
There are different coaching models, different coaching styles and there is no ONE way to go with a coaching session (I’ll talk about this more in another post). But there are some mains common skills and core competencies that are taught in proper coaching trainings, like coaching presence (being really present and connected with the person), powerful questioning (asking questions that will move the person forward and stay stuck or help shift their perspective), active deep listening (what is said, how it is said, what is not said), direct communication (to create shifts, to challenge, to support), creating awareness (helping to see in our blind spots), designing actions (how to put into practice the insights to move forward). These skills and competencies might seem obvious and easy but believe me, mastering them is not.
In a world where we are used to give advice, look for the right way to do things, it can feel weird the first time you are being coached. But it also feels great. Because you feel heard (and sometimes that’s all you need), not judged (who can you talk to without fear of being judged or concerned by what the person is going to think), unconditionally supported. And it is powerful because it is about finding what YOU need, what is YOUR perspective and YOUR best way to move on (sometimes you don’t even need a solution, the problem might just disappear) and YOUR greatness and genius is trusted and enhanced in the process.
Sometimes, shifts happen during a session, with a big haha moment, when the light goes off suddenly, like the fish which now sees the water he is in and couldn’t see before since he had been completely immersed in it since he was born. Sometime, there is just a “hum” which indicates that something is happening. Sometime, a seed is planted that will grow later and have ripple effects. An insight might come in between sessions. Or at the end of the session, it might feel like chaos, which is great and just means the work is being done. Often, people will even change or create new results without realizing it until someone points it out to them. And all this add up, week after week, month after month, to create a new reality and a new experience of life.
To conclude, I like to say that coaching is:
- Some skills and competencies to learn and nurture
- An art, developed by each coach in a different and personal way
- A science (science of the mind, neurosciences, behavioral sciences, etc.)
In the end, it’s not magical but it sometimes looks like magic. I know it as a coach and as a client (I have my own coach).