There are frequently a lot of questions about coaching. This term can cover life, executive, career, and a number of other coaching specialties. I prefer the term personal coaching because it is really the most accurate and it can cover all the various niches. I also prefer personal coaching because in some circles the term life coaching is perceived as being too new age and can put people off.
Personal coaching is a process that helps people identify, set and achieve goals. There are similarities and differences to sports coaches and personal trainers. The main similarity is that in each of these types of coaching the coachee does the homework, runs the plays, lifts the reps, and the coach listens for or watches for any areas that are problematic and could be improved. The coach will challenge improper form or self-limiting beliefs and will encourage the coachee to perform at their optimal levels.
The main difference between these other types of coaching and personal coaching is that in sports coaching and personal training there is more of a teaching and training element than there is in personal coaching. This difference is most evident in skills coaching, where the coach is an authority in a particular skill and works with the coachee to improve that skill, a speaking coach would be a good example of a skills coach.
A personal coach is going to let you drive. With personal coaching, you will determine what your goals will be and how you will know when you’ve reached them. The coach will ask questions of you and they will listen very closely to what you’re saying; so closely that they will very often hear things you didn’t know you said. The coach will challenge you on what you’re saying and on what you’re not saying but what is in the pauses. I like to think of the coach as the person who is reading the road signs and deciphering the map while you drive.
Generally speaking, when the personal coach is the person asking questions and reading road signs, they do not need to have the answers that you seek. The basic premise of coaching is that the coachee has the answers and is the authority, and the coach helps them unlock the solutions and bridge the gaps between where they are now and where they want to be. While this premise holds true in all forms of personal coaching, executive coaching is often handled a little bit differently.
When it comes to executive coaching, most people do find it helpful if the coach has enough background to at least understand the terminology and challenges that come up. Very often, executive coaches will have a business background and will blend general coaching with some degree of mentoring and skills coaching.