What Is A Coach and Why Should I work With One?

What Is A Coach and Why Should I work With One?
We’ve all heard of coaching, and may even know someone who’s working with a coach. But what exactly is coaching anyways?  If you’ve ever been curious about what a coach does, or if coaching could be for you, you’re in the right place!

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as:

“partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

So, coaching is an equal partnership focused on helping you to define and reach your goals.  A coach will guide you through an inquiry process in order to co-create a solution for your situation. This can involve developing an action plan, defining a strategy, or establishing new habits or behaviour changes.  

To better understand what coaching is, it’s helpful to look at some of the things that coaching is NOT.

A coach is not a consultant: Consultants are usually experts in a particular field and are hired to diagnose a particular problem and give advice on how to solve it. In some cases, the consultant carries out the solution themselves.

In coaching, however, YOU are the expert.  Your coach will rarely give you specific advise or tell you how they would solve a particular problem.  YOU are the expert in your own life. Your coach will guide you through a process to find your solution that fits your situation, but your coach will not solve your problem instead of you.

A coach is not a therapist: Working with a therapist involves looking at your past and understanding how it impacts your actions and emotions in the present.  A therapist helps you to overcome painful or traumatic events in your past and learn to deal with them in emotionally healthy ways.

Coaching, on the other hand, looks toward the future. A coach can help you assess where you are now and where you would like to be. Coaching is focused on setting goals generating strategies to achieve them.

A coach is not a mentor: While there is some overlap with coaching and mentorship, the big difference is the dispensing of advice.  A mentor is an expert who gives advice based on their experience. While a coach is often experienced in the area they are coaching you in, they are focused on helping you find your solution rather than giving advice based on how they solved a similar problem.

So to sum it all up, a coach helps you understand where you are now, where you would like to be, and how you can get there.

There are many different types of coaches: life coaches, business coaches, nutrition coaches, etc. Within these groups, you can get even more specific: a life coach for women in transition, a business coach for entrepreneurs, a nutrition coach for pregnant women. You get the idea.

Most professional coaches will have the same basic training, but there are many schools of thought on coaching techniques. The process that one coach guides you through can vary greatly compared with another. Also, most coaches will have a specialization in a certain topic or situation where they are most able to help their coachees. You’ll want to find a coach who’s specialization is in line with your goals.

For example, as an executive leadership coach, I work within companies to grow leaders into their own leadership style and help teams work together more effectively. I can support teams and leaders in any type of company, but where I can really serve is within remote tech teams due to my background. My process is almost the same whether I’m working with C-level executives or junior managers, local or remote teams, individuals or companies. However, my experience leading global remote teams in the tech industry gives me inside knowledge of their situation. It allows me ask the right questions  and help them find their solution.


Is Coaching right for you?


A coach can give you tools to guide your thinking or support you through a change, but a coach cannot do the work for you. If you know what you want but can’t see the path to get you there, a coach can help you clarify the way forward. A coach provides a sounding board to help you clarify your goals, a strategizing partner to create solutions, and an accountability system to help you follow through.

So, if you have very clear goals and are confident that you can carry out your action plan to get you there, you probably don’t need coaching now.

If you are looking for an expert in a certain area, and want advice on how to handle a certain situation, coaching is not for you. Try a consultant instead.

If you are experiencing psychological trauma, severe anxiety or depression, or pain from events that happened in the past, coaching is not for you.  Try psychological counselling instead.

But, if you have personal or professional goals that you know you want to achieve, and are struggling to get there, a coach can help you organize your thoughts, prioritize your goals and create an action plan to achieve them.

Still unsure if coaching is right for you? Try this quiz to find out!


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