Sara adds: What I am reading from both of you is a combination of “what is a coach” and “what does a coach do?”
Let me begin with “what is a coach?” A little background – coaching is a relatively new industry (15 to 20 years old) and is still defining itself. That’s one reason I believe that there are so many opinions. I would reiterate the definition of coaching. Its from the International Coach Federation, the premier (and largest) organization of coaches. “The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.” That’s not what you may read in dictionaries because dictionaries are historically behind common usage of evolving terminology. And the ICF definition NOT what coaching has meant in the past – or how it is sometimes still used.
Let me offer some distinctions: There are teachers, coaches and mentors. There are commonalities among those professions but basic differences, as well. As helping professions evolve, coaching has become more clearly defined, differentiated and valuable.
Randy, with that distinction in mind, let me address one other thought I read in your examples and perhaps shift your perspective. You talked about discovering “weakness or deficiencies” as a way for improvements. The shift I suggest is to let go of judgement. “Weakness and deficiencies” are negatively charged words and frankly, are in the eye of the beholder. Have you heard about Jim Furyk’s golf swing? It is unconventional and some golf pro’s might describe it as a weakness – certainly a deficiency. But it’s effective and he is a constant performer on the PGA tour. My point is – what might be a “weakness or deficiency” in a golf coach’s eye is a highly effective swing. It works for Furyk, So it’s not a weakness. That’s the shift. In coaching it is about observing what is without judgement. A person wants to move forward in their life. A coach observes where they are, what they want and the impact they are having. From there, they work on creating change – not based on some idealized view of how change MUST be (based on a model) rather on the client’s wants and the path they create with the help of the coach. Notice the shift from “doing it right” to doing what is right to achieve a result.
Sports have been using the term “coach” longer than people in my line of work and many sports coaches often engage in determining what is wrong. But not all. One of the most successful tennis coaches in history is Tim Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis (and Skiing and Golf and Work) He states, “the opponent within one’s own head is more formidable than the one the other side off the net.” His revolutionary approach to coaching got the attention of the likes of BIlly Jean King and football coach, Pete Carroll. Sir John Whitmore, author of Coaching for Performance stated, “…Gallwey had put his finger on the essence of coaching. Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their performance.” (The emphasis is mine)
That puts us in a very different place with coaching…it is not about finding fault. It is about uncovering and encouraging potential. And frankly, that’s why it’s gotten to be such a popular and often misused term. People may not know what it is, but they certainly want some of it!!
Here are three things I would have you know about coaching – it is a learned profession with defined competencies and levels of proficiency. That means I challenge anyone who says they are a coach to pass a test. If you have to demonstrate competencies to be a CPA or a teacher I believe you must be willing to do no less to call yourself a coach. By the way, people who hire coaches should demand nothing less. Second, professional coaching has a clear code of ethics that address responsibility, accountability and confidentiality. Finally, coaching has an international, professional organization that provides self governance, accreditation for schools that train coaches and credentialing for coaches .
Come to think about it, the Dallas Cowboys organization might want to talk to me about what REAL coaching really is and the potential it offers. I wrote about a year ago (I was fairly “put out” at the time) about Jerry Jones and his Cowboys. Jerry said they didn’t need leaders…they just need execution….getting a bunch of large men to do things right. And how’s that working for them?
I have a dozen coaching clients I would hold up in comparison to Jones and company in terms of reaching their goals of success. There is coaching and there is coaching and the ultimate measure is success.