Coaching is not Another Word for Managing

What comes to mind when you hear the word “coach”? Do you think of the guy at the sideline, pacing, watching and calling plays? Is this just the word your company uses for managers? Does it mean anything at all?

Leaders who coach, and those who coach for a living, have a different idea about coaching, coaches and clients/coachees. A clear definition of coaching, as opposed to managing, mentoring, training or counseling, is a good place to start. There are plenty of definitions, but this one will work:

Coaching is a process through which a coach inspires a client to achieve performance excellence by encouraging critical thinking about options, commitment to action, and by creating an environment of accountability and recognition.

One of the most important and difficult lessons for a coach in a business environment (as opposed to an athletic coach) to learn is this: The coach does not give advice or tell the client what to do. Instead, the coach does a few things well and consistently.

First, the coach asks open-ended questions to get the client to consider alternative courses of action. An effective coach will get the client to think and consider options that she may have not already considered. The coach draws ideas out of the client, allowing the client to decide her next steps for herself. Here is an example: What other options have you considered to deal with this issue?

Second, the coach encourages action and helps the client clarify his goals. Specific, time-bound goals are the meat and potatoes of the coaching relationship. Great ideas must convert to action and accomplishments.

Third, the coach provides recognition for goals achieved and accountability for less-than-full effort. Challenging questions addressing failures to act are part of the conversation.

In the end, the client will rise to better performance by making and following through on commitments to action. The coach will stand aside and watch, letting the client succeed and realize the rewards of her effort. There is plenty of satisfaction in coaching, but the coach telling the client what to do to be successful is not part of the deal. Instead, the coach helps the client become a more successful person with the skills to continue learning, growing and excelling.


Learning Dynamics can help your organization thrive by incorporating coaching practices that create a culture of accountability and success. Contact us to find out how Coaching for Results can help your company win.

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