what is coaching?

The elephant in the room

Before we can fully appreciate the why I think we must address the elephant in the room.  That is that there is still a miss-placed stigma around coaching.  Despite the fact that countless high profile and successful people such as Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela have spoken out about how coaching has contributed to their success, to name but a few.

In this modern day we have coaches for our fitness, advisors for our nutrition and wellness, mentors at work, style consultants, branding specialists – the list of professional support that we access is extensive. Yet in some circles, the idea of getting support in your goal development and thinking is still taboo.

That’s a real shame and for me highlights two things:

  • People think coaching is about fixing a broken mind
  • People think needing to fix a broken mind is something to be ashamed of

I am not going to go in to the latter - that's for a bigger discussion and my blog.

What I do want to tackle is what coaching is if it is not 'fixing broken minds'….and as part of that I am also going to tackle what it is not.

what coaching is and isn't

In its simplest form, the coaching process involves a series of, usually 121, interactions between coach and client where the client sets an agenda and talks it through while the coach listens actively and asks insightful questions grounded in curiosity for the client rather than their own agenda in pursuit of the client’s goals.  Engagement lengths vary but as a guide you would meet a coach every 4-6 weeks over perhaps a 6-month period on a personal level, 18 – 24 months on average on a team basis.

In between sessions is where the real work happens though.  There may be formal homework taken away (as set by yourself) or you may just be working with the insights you have gleaned in the session to make changes in your life to create the shift you are looking for.

What coaching isn't

Focussed on your past and all the hurt you have experienced

A diagnosis of a mental health issue

A therapy session with a mental health expert leading you down a specific path

Just for those who ‘can’t cope’ or who are ‘weak’…not that that is a problem either but don’t get me started

Advice giving or consultation, giving solutions to problems identified by someone else

A place for sympathy and collusion or a chat with a friend or colleague

A passive process that is ‘done to you’

what coaching is

Focussed on your future and what you want from your life

An assisted exploration of how you feel about something

A process whereby you set the agenda, define the content and lead the way

For those who either want more or something specific from their life

An assumption that you are the expert on your own life and have the best solutions

An environment where you are given unconditional positive regard and a confidential, safe place to process

A process where the ‘work’ is done by the client and mostly in-between sessions

who can benefit from coaching?

Now it’s important to stress that everyone can benefit from coaching – I truly believe this and indeed have witnessed it first-hand both as a coach, a coachee and an observer.  However not everyone is ready for coaching so as well as chemistry and fit, this is one of the things to be established in an initial meeting with a prospective coach and why I offer the first 30 minutes free to my personal clients.

As my approach is all centred around understanding your own place in the systems you exist with in, understanding yourself and what you want and working with you to develop the progression you want to see, it is transferable to a broad range of topics and areas:

  • Career, business and outplacement coaching
  • Return to work coaching
  • Retirement coaching
  • Mid-life coaching
  • Mapping out new ventures
  • Understanding and gaining personal satisfaction back with relationships including spouses, family and socially
  • Issue led coaching

If you don't see what you want to work on here, do still get in touch as I may still be able to help, or be able to refer you to a colleague who specialises in these matters such as Cancer,  terminal illness or end of life.

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what can you expect from coaching?

The aim of coaching is sustained change in yourself to enable achievement of your goals.  We will work together to identify what those goals are or indeed expand and clarify existing goals that you already have.  However, it's important to note that you are the driver and the sessions are for you to use as you wish, so it's quite common to deviate and explore other areas throughout the process organically and as you require.

Once we have identified meaningful and tangible goals we will explore what the goals mean to you, what might be holding you back, what you need to achieve them etc. with the ultimate goal of creating viable action plans and support constructs to achieving them.  This process is often not linear and more of an explorative process lead by you.

IS coaching THERAPY?

Although there are a lot of similarities and consistent techniques used in therapy within coaching, its fundamental difference is in the assumption that you are well and capable of creating the change you want to see in your life, yourself.  A therapist works 'on' you and indeed teaches, whereas a coach recognises that you are the expert on yourself and your experience and works 'with' you to construct meaningful choices and actions and thus rather helps you to learn.

Therapy is traditionally referred to as spending more time 'looking in the rear view mirror', where as coaching will 'glance in the rear view mirror' for context and reference but generally keep the focus forward through 'the windscreen' and to the future.

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If you feel you are ready for coaching and would like to explore further, I would love to hear from you.  Don’t forget an initial chat with me will cost nothing and there is so much to gain.
— Tracy James