Coaching: Frequently Asked Questions
Life Coach, Executive Coach, Career Coach; What's the difference?
Coaching is a relatively new profession. As a way of ensuring rigour and professional standards, coaching has an international federation (International Coach Federation) that accredits training programs that meet its standards, as well as a rigorous coach certification process. Becoming certified as a coach with the ICF is voluntary. In order to maintain ICF coach certification, coaches must undergo strict evaluations of their coaching competencies, ensure ongoing professional conduct, and accumulate required continuing education credits. The profession is not regulated; the title is not protected, and anyone can call themself a coach. Therefore it is critical that when you hire a coach that you satisfy yourself of the coach's training and background, expertise and professionalism.
Some coaches are "niche" coaches (e.g. life coach, executive coach, change coach, leadership coach, relationship coach, business coach, corporate coach, career coach, parenting coach) in that they serve a particular client population. But coaching is coaching. All areas of our lives intersect and are interdependent. Attention and changes to one area will affect the others, including career, business, family, relationships, values and goals, finances, personal fulfilment or health. In fact, it's thinking we can treat these areas of our lives as separate and discreet, that often gets us into trouble or holds us back in the first place.
Isn't coaching just another form of therapy?
No. Coaching is distinct from therapy, mentoring, consulting, managing and training. As evidence of the power of the coaching approach, there are growing numbers of consultants and therapists who incorporate coaching skills into their practice. Coaching differs from therapy in that it concentrates on the present and future, does not focus on the past's impact on the present, and does not depend on resolution or healing of the past to move the client forward. The coach does not advise or direct the client as to what is best for them. Coaches and clients are partners; the coach is not an expert, authority or healer. The coaching relationship should not be one in which the client becomes dependent on the coach.
Coaching differs from consulting and mentoring in that that the coach is an expert on coaching but does not need to have specialized knowledge of the area or industry. In fact often it is that very objectivity that enables the coach to help you hold the "big picture", think outside the box and not stay mired in limiting beliefs and assumptions.
In coaching, the foundation is the coach-client relationship. Through this relationship the client gains a greater capacity to produce results and a greater confidence in their ability to do so. Unlike in consulting, the client does not leave coaching with the perception that they need to rely on a coach to produce similar results in the future. The difference between managing or training and coaching is that the coaching relationship is a designed alliance where the client is in full control of the agenda and there is no power differential between the client and coach (Adler School of Professional Coaching, 2003).
What if I have been advised or mandated by a third party to engage in coaching?
A portion of my practice consists of working with clients who have been advised or mandated to engage in coaching by their employer or professional regulating body. Broadly, this usually stems from the third party's concerns about your professional behaviours and/or interpersonal and communication skills in the workplace. Clients I work with in these situations are often recognized for excellence in some aspects of their work, but in need of development in others. The third party will often have identified in advance their general or specific areas of concern as well as the specific outcomes they are expecting you to achieve during your work in coaching.
My approach during our work together will be to both support and challenge you. The stance I invite you to take toward your engagement in coaching is to use it as an opportunity for your own learning and development. At the outset of our work, we will review the organization's learning expectations as well as your own development objectives. We will then collaboratively set your coaching development/learning objectives such that both parties' intentions are captured.
Clients who have been sent for coaching typically arrive feeling some degree of stress and feeling some combination of fear, sadness, anger, resentment, doubt, disbelief, shame, betrayal, discouragement and perhaps curiosity. The approach we will take is to reflect on the situation and deepen your self awareness and self understanding about your role and contributions to what gave rise to it and the presenting issue(s). As a result you will begin to identify attitudes and behaviours within yourself that you can begin to change and control. This will enable you to shift from seeing yourself as having failed or as a victim, and instead step back and more objectively examine your own habitual ways of conducting yourself and what you can learn and do differently to be more effective going forward.
Is there anyone who should not engage in coaching?
Essential to the coaching process are self-reflection and the capacity to deepen your self awareness. You should be emotionally and psychologically grounded enough to reflect, make plans and take action in order to benefit from coaching. If during the coaching process, it becomes evident that therapy is required, I will recommend this to you either before we continue or in conjunction with continued coaching. Coaching is very beneficial for clients completing therapy and needing support to identify goals and move forward.
How long does coaching usually last?
Coaching is a process, and I ask that clients make an initial nine session commitment in order to give time for them to make and experience changes and reap the benefits. Results can be expected in 3-6 months, depending on the issues being addressed. I will do my best to assist and support you to achieve your goals within that time frame. Depending on the issue(s) and changes you are wanting, if further sessions are needed, we can arrange that at the time. Your commitment is to be open to the process and to follow through on the between session homework.
You can expect to gain clarity on your priorities and begin taking initial action steps within the first few sessions. After the initial nine sessions, we will review your progress, results, and how helpful the coaching has been for you. If you have accomplished your goals, choose to take a break from coaching or for any other reason wish to stop coaching at any time, that is absolutely fine and I will continue to support you in any way that I can.
If you want to continue after the first nine sessions, we will proceed on a session by session basis as suits what you are working on. After the initial block of 9 sessions, some clients pause to consolidate changes, and then return to coaching later to work on new goals or projects.
Can my employer hire you to coach me?
Yes. Employers, businesses or practice groups often hire a coach for leaders, associates, managers, employees, or professional partners. Goals include improved communication, teamwork and leadership skills, enhanced performance and productivity, and development of high potential leaders and executives. Employers also often offer coaching to employees to assist them in successfully transitioning out of the company/practice. Regardless of who pays the fee, all conversations between me and clients who work with me are completely confidential. A significant component of my practice entails corporate and executive coaching. The process and fee structure for corporate coaching differs from that for personal coaching. Please contact me for further information and to discuss your particular needs.