What is coaching?

Coaching is a partnership between coach and client. Coaches help clients to define and achieve their goals and objectives. The ultimate aim of coaching is to help people develop and improve performance. It is helpful to define what coaching is by describing what it's not. There are a number of different learning and therapeutic approaches that people oftentimes confuse with coaching.

Coaching is not Mentoring
Mentoring usually means that a senior colleague who has knowledge and experience in a particular industry or role and provides advice - and even acts as a role model for the mentee. While there are many instances in which mentoring is a powerful learning initiative, it differs from coaching in that coaches are professionals specialized in helping people define and achieve their potential across many disciplines. One of the main differentiators is the professional nature of the relationship. Many organizations run both mentoring and coaching programs, each design to address different learning outcomes and experiences. 

Coaching is not Counseling
According to the American Counseling Association, counseling is defined as, "a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals". While there are some similarities to coaching, counseling tends to focus on promoting behavior change to improve mental health. 

Coaching is not Therapy
Therapy is working with the client who seeks to address from psychological or physical symptoms. Similarly to counseling, therapy deals with the client’s mental health. Coaching deals with the client’s mental growth. Both therapy and counseling are more likely to involve understanding and working with past experience than coaching, and coaches need to be very attentive to the boundaries between coaching and therapy and refer clients to see a therapist if needed. 

Coaching is not Training
Training is the process of getting knowledge skills or abilities by study, experience or teaching. The trainer by definition is the expert, and the training course is likely to be targeted on specific skills.

Coaching is not Consulting
A consultant provides expertise and solves business problems, or develops a business as a whole. A consultant deals with the overall organization or specific parts of it and not individuals within it.

Effective coaches are really good at asking questions. Great coaches make it almost an art form. It doesn't mean that coaches can't provide advice or guidance - of course there are instances in which this is appropriate and even effective. But the general approach to coaching is one of listening, asking questions, tracking with the client, and enabling people to come up with their own perspective by digging deeper and questioning assumptions. The coaching process is meant to be dynamic and empower clients to be more effective and enhance their performance.