What Exactly Do You Think “Coaching” Is?

Coaching is a buzz-word that is used broadly by many practitioners in the Early Intervention space. It is considered to be “best practice in working with families but I’m not so sure that we are all on the same page as to what exactly we mean (or do) when we say that we are “coaching”.

I have been training Early Childhood Practitioners in how to apply coaching to their work over the past 4 years and the first thing I ask participants to do, is share their own experiences of coaching and how this has informed what they think coaching is.

Participants describe many different types of coaching experiences, including sports, music, gym, life coaching, and being coached by supervisors or managers as part of their working roles. All of these different applications seem to confuse people about the definition of coaching.

In attempting to bring shared meaning to this topic, I have found it extremely useful to firstly consider what coaching is not before going on to explore what it is. These descriptions are stereotypical and are simply designed to help your understanding in a broader sense.

What Coaching Isn’t…

  1. Direct Teaching/Training

A trainer is usually an expert who has significant experience and knowledge, and who is acts as a guide or helper in the process of learning. Specific learning objectives are set by the trainer and the learning of the content is achieved by downloading information in a linear fashion from trainer to student.

  1. Mentoring and Supervision

This is where someone guides from one’s own experience in a specific area of industry or career development. It is a developmental relationship between a more experienced mentor and a less experienced mentee. Formal mentoring is an assigned relationship designed to promote development of competence and/or skill, whilst informal mentoring tends to be more organic in nature.

  1. Consultation

Consultants are called in to provide advice in a particular area of expertise. They diagnose problems and come up with a range of recommendations and/or solutions to the problems. Sometimes they are involved in the implementation of the recommendations.

  1. Counselling

Counselling is the one role that is most difficult to discern from coaching and the reason for this is that many counsellors use a coach approach in their intervention. For the sake of the exercise, however, I have listed the following as aspects that are more typical of a counselling experience. Counselling commonly deals with healing pain, dysfunction and/or conflict within an individual or a relationship between two or more individuals. The focus is often to resolve difficulties that have arisen from the past and are now impacting the individuals emotional functioning in the present. Counselling is aimed at improving psychological functioning and dealing with present life and work challenges in more emotionally healthy ways.

Now that you have some thoughts on what coaching isn’t, here is the current thinking about what coaching is (at last!)

 Definition of Coaching

Coaching is defined as partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.  (Official definition from the International Coaching Federation).

More specifically…..

  1. It holds the space for clients to reflect on issues they often never have time for.
  2. The coach’s job is not to tell the client what to do, but rather partner with them in a journey of discovery. A coach uses finely tuned listening and skilful questioning to encourage the client to be curious about how they are perceiving their situation, their need and what they believe to be the solutions to their problems.
  3. Coaching is all about the client agenda, not yours.
  4. Capacity and confidence building – coaching builds knowledge and skills aiming for the individual to function without assistance
  5. Goal oriented – achievement of goals is the purpose of coaching.
  6. Solution and performance focused – coaching does not focus much on the past, clients are facilitated to determine the present (A), get clear on where they want to be (B) and then work together to create a plan about how they will get from A to B.
  7. As hands on as it needs to be – coaching varies according to need, initially being more hands on until the coachee’s level of competence and confidence improves.
  8. Consistent with principles of how adults learn. (This has been a key anchor for me in building my coaching skill.)

I am extremely passionate about coaching and facilitating others in learning to coach. I say this because for me, coaching is so much more than just a methodology. It has the potential to radically shift the way that you show up in the world.

You can’t help growing personally when you learn to coach others.

I am guessing now that you may be feeling a little confused about how one is supposed to stay true to the coach approach when your job is all about telling parents what they need to know to support their child. Stay tuned for my next blog, which will shed some light on this vexing question!

Hi there! I’m Jacqui Snider and I’m here to help you and your business grow and flourish.

As an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and Trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals and organisations develop better home and workplace practices that everyone enjoys being part of. With more than 35 years of coaching experience, I have personally coached and trained in excess of 350 leaders, bringing about transformational change in both individuals and teams.

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