What is coaching? It probably would be easier to tame a bunch of wild horses than answer that question. With the horses thing, there’s some chance of success.
Coaching is way too diverse to fit into a neat definition. At least, not one of any substance.
I could tell you that a coach is someone who helps you with your life in some way by having conversations with you in which she provides services of some sort. You don’t know anything about coaching after reading that definition, but it’s accurate.
If I get more specific than that, I’d be describing only what some coaches do.
Even though we won’t get easy answers to the “What is coaching?” question, we can hack away at it from different angles, so you can get a sense of the depth and breadth of this wildly diverse field. We’ll start with the most productive approach– looking at the wide range of things that coaches do.
Services coaches provide
I see the field of coaching as a giant and ever-expanding menu of services. Each coach offers her own subset of those services, delivered in her own style. The combination of services one coach offers can be so different from what another offers that you wouldn’t think they’re in the same field.
To help you get an understanding of the giant menu of services, I’ve grouped them into six categories.
The coach helps you understand yourself — what you want, your values, what works well for you — and your situation.
Coaches help you make strategic plans to achieve your goals and design your life.
The coach is a support for your heart and spirit. She’s a shoulder to cry on. A person who celebrates your triumphs with you. A buddy to be with you on your journey. She’s someone who believes in you, understands you, and is on your side.
Your coach shares valuable information and guidance with you — deep knowledge of a subject, original thinking, insights, high-level judgment, and expert advice. She trains you in life skills. She can also do things like helping you prepare for potentially challenging situations like job interviews by role playing them with you.
Most of the challenges we face in life are inside us — our emotions and beliefs keep us from going for what we want. Some coaches help their clients deal with challenging thoughts and emotions so the clients can move forward.
The coach gets down into the nitty gritty details of what you’re working on, gives you assignments each session and holds you accountable for doing them the next.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Another way to grab hold of the slippery “What is life coaching?” question is to look at the many benefits you potentially can get from working with a life coach. To get the full picture, though, you’d also want to look at the potential problems with working with a coach.
Coaches technically aren’t mentors, drill sergeants, friends, cheerleaders, therapists, business partners, teachers, or a number of other things. But coaches can get close to playing those roles. And different coaches tend to favor different roles. Looking at the many roles coaches almost play can help you understand what coaches do.
Another way to get a handle on the “What is life coaching?” question is to look at the situations that coaches help their clients navigate and what coaches help their clients do.
For example, coaches help their clients:
- learn and master skills
- triumph over tough times and stay grounded during transitions
- manage their projects
- ask deep, life-changing questions
- design their lives
We’ll look at what coaches actually do, with a master list of the services coaches provide.
Or, if you’re satisfied with this overview of what coaching is, perhaps you’d like to think about the most important person here — you, the coachee.