It’s amazing to me that even though coaching is the second-fastest growing profession in the world, rivaled only by information technology (as reported in a National Post article), many times when I tell people I’m a coach, they look at me with glazed over eyes Successand ask me what that means.  Professional coaches actually do try and find other titles other than “coach” in order to describe what they do.  So I thought I’d take a minute to explain what it is that I do as a coach, and what I don’t do.

Let me start off by describing the traits I personally feel are requirements in any coaching relationship.  First off, a coach is someone who provides a safe and honest environment for his/her clients.  Notice I did not say comfortable, and I did not say easy. Being honest is not always comfortable, and it is not always easy.  But it has to be safe.  A good coach is your teammate.  Your coach is there to support you in whatever way you need in order to achieve your goals.  Sometimes this requires helping you see and face some hard, cold truths.  Sometimes it requires kicking you out of your comfort zone.  But this is why your coach has to be someone that you feel completely safe with, and someone that you know is absolutely, positively, 100% focused on your success.  If you don’t feel this way about your coach, you won’t have the trust required to get through the process.  Coaching is a unique professional relationship.  While many professional relationships require trust, confidentiality, and professionalism, coaching also requires teamwork.  You’re a team in your journey.  A coach does not make your decisions for you, does not tell you what to do, and does not do it for you.  A coach is there to listen to you in a way that few people will (we call it Level 3 listening), to help you think things through, to help you figure out what the right path is for you, to help you figure out how you want to stay on that path, to hold you accountable to your decisions, and to support you as you work your way to your success.

So that is who a coach is to a client.  Many times people ask me what the difference is between a coach and a consultant, a therapist, a mentor, or a counselor.  So let’s look at some of these differences.  Sometimes a coach wears more than one of these hats, and in these cases, should keep these services separate, in my opinion.  But let’s take a look at consulting as an example.  A business coach would sit down with a client and discuss things such as relationship issues, fears, frustrations, managerial difficulties, motivational problems, etc.  The coach may meet with the clients’ teams and find out what is keeping them from maximum performance.  The coach may meet with individual team members to dig deeper into what can be done to influence the team members and increase productivity.  Or the coach may work directly with the client alone and work on issues like prioritizing, working through personal issues that are affecting the client’s work.  But the coach discusses these things with the client, and helps the client think things through on his/her own.  The coach does not direct the conversation or the outcome.  In other words, by asking questions, the coach helps the client find his or her own answers and to find clarity.  One of the main ways of doing this is to help the client identify his/her core values, what is really important, and then to help prioritize.  And as the coach and client work together, the coach gives the client steps to take and work to do to ultimately obtain the results that the client has chosen to work towards.

In contrast, a consultant will go in to a business, look at it, and tell the client what needs to be done, and most often do the work necessary.  For example, a business owner may bring in a marketing consultant.  The marketing consultant will take a look at the business, create a marketing plan, and usually have a big part in putting that marketing plan into action.  Or a financial consultant will come in and look at a business, create a plan, but will also be involved in putting that plan together.  A coach, however, will only help a client identify his or her desired results, create a plan, and then support the client in taking the necessary steps to put the plan together.

There ARE coaches, however, that offer other consulting services.  For example, I have a background in accounting and in marketing.  I have a lot of experience in both.  So if I find that a client really needs social media marketing in order to reach the desired goals, I may offer to provide those services, separately from the coaching contract.

Often I am asked what the difference between a therapist and a coach is, so let me hit on that question for a minute. When I was going through coaching training, they explained it in a way that made it really simple to understand, so I think I’ll just borrow their explanation.  The way they put it was, a therapist helps unhealthy people to get healthy.  A coach helps healthy people to excel and to be their best.  The reason this is important to understand, is that if you understand that a coach is not someone who “fixes” people or problems but that takes completely healthy, normal people and helps them reach their full potential, then you understand that everyone can potentially benefit from having a coach.  I personally have a coach of my own.  I’m blessed to have one of the best.  He isn’t cheap, but because he is a great coach, he is worth every cent I pay him, and in all honesty, he’s worth more.  He helps me make tough decisions.  He helps me figure out my long term goals.  And most importantly, he has helped me create a vision that has made my life exciting and fulfilling.  THAT is a coach, and I’m proud to be one.

I hope that answered some questions that a lot of you have had.  Feel free to comment to this post if you have any questions!

To your success,

Cynthia McIntosh
Highway 2 Success


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