What is coaching? How do you know if you need a coach? What’s the difference between a coach and a counselor or mentor? What should I expect from a coach? How does the process work? These are all legitimate questions about an area that covers everything from supervisor feedback to help with your golf game to finding your life purpose. Whatever the nature of the coaching conversation, it should always include three distinct components: an agenda, exploration, and defining actions.
It’s up to the person who wants to improve to define the agenda. Whether it’s your career, your performance, your leadership impact or your life, there must be an objective. Generally, there is an overall objective that leads you to seek help but there also has to be an objective for the conversation. Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this discussion? What would make this a good use of my time? If you engage a coach to help improve your overall performance, you might have a conversation to understand the common themes in your feedback or to develop a plan for addressing specific feedback. If you engage a coach to help with planning for life after retirement, you might use a session to clarify your goals. The coach will help with your little agenda while keeping in mind the bigger agenda that you want to achieve.
When I’m mentoring, I draw from my experience in an effort to teach someone how to do something I know. Likewise, counseling or consulting draws on the past and a specific area of expertise. Coaching, on the other hand, pushes the client to draw from his or her own knowledge and experience. It focuses on exploration and thoughtful consideration of what might be done differently to get better results. A coach will ask thought-provoking questions or simply listen while you consider what the problems might be. Typical probing questions include:
- If you could achieve your goal in six months, what would it look like?
- What else could you do?
- What else occurs to you?
- What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
- Who else is affected in this situation?
The coach walks alongside you on the journey to improve. They might share observations or provide tools to facilitate the discovery process, but a coach believes in the wisdom of the client to move from where they are to where they want to be.
All coaching conversations should lead to developing an action plan. It doesn’t have to be formal, but you should walk away with something to do that will move you closer to your goals. The work of coaching involves aligning the client’s passions, skills, and values with their daily actions. The coach should leave their clients with more confidence, direction, and a greater sense of fulfillment than he or she otherwise would have. This requires putting in the work between sessions to act on the learning and increased self-awareness.
A coaching conversation can be informal or you can pay for professional coaching services. The advantages of coaching will be directly proportional to the effort and commitment that you make. I strongly recommend professional coaching for anyone who wants to fulfill God’s vision for their lives and who understands the benefit of having someone walk alongside as you learn to live accordingly.