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Business coaching: What is it and what does it look like

With coaching being a non-regulated industry, there are likely many answers to the question, “What does a coach actually do?” as each coach has their own unique style, approach and philosophy.

One coach can lean more toward consulting: a professional who provides expert advice in a particular area while another coach’s style could best be described as therapy: treatment intended to relieve or heal. One coach might take more of a counseling approach: assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social or psychological problems and difficulties while another takes more of a mentoring approach: a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

Because the title “coach” has been used to describe all of the above and more, it can be difficult to understand what coaching really is and how it can benefit you and your business. Is it a combination of consulting, therapy, counseling and mentoring? Or is it something completely different?

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “a partnering of a coach with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. A professional coaching relationship exists when coaching includes a business agreement or contract that defines the responsibilities of each party.” An ICF Professional Coach also agrees to practice the ICF Professional Core Competencies.

Okay, what does that mean? I’m still not clear on what exactly coaching is or what it does for me.

Well, there really is no way to describe exactly what coaches do because coaching is unregulated which has caused the term “coaching” to become less effective. But, what I can do is describe what I do as a coach.

As a coach, I’m someone who is extremely curious about you. I want to get to know you from the inside out, the outside in and top to bottom. I do this by asking questions and following my intuitive curiosity.

Then I listen. I mean really listen—to what you’re saying, what you’re not saying and what you’re trying to say. I listen to the influx of your voice, watch your mannerisms and reflect back as true and honest of a picture of what I’m observing as possible. While this certainly allows me to get to know you, it also allows you to increase your self awareness and understand yourself at a new level.

When was the last time someone was so interested in you that they didn’t interrupt you when you spoke? How many of your friends or family take the time to focus 100% on you? Who in your life listens intently to your words, observes your body language and is trained to call your attention to where you may be experiencing fear, guilt or fraud syndrome?

This is what separates a coach from your friends, family, colleagues and accountability buddies.

So then what? What happens after a coach gets to know you and you get to know yourself better? Well, this is when the magic starts to happen. We’re now engaged in an intentional conversation focused solely on you. We’re working in partnership to identify your challenges and blocks. We’re digging down and sorting through ideas, thoughts and emotions to discover where communications may have gotten crossed or valuable information may be missing. This allows us to co-create sustainable solutions and develop a plan of action to move you forward.

Because you’re watching how I listen to you, you’ll begin to develop your skills in listening to your own self. You’ll build your own insights and discover what type of questions to ask yourself to get unstuck. You’ll begin to trust in yourself more.

Because I’ve been straightforward and direct with you about bringing your fears to your attention, you’ll know what fear looks like and feels like for you. This allows you to identify much sooner where fear is holding you back—slowing the negative effects of fear.

Because I’ve asked you questions that have you looking at options, choices and solutions from all angles, your goals will become 100% yours. Not the goals you “think” you’re supposed to reach, goals someone else in your industry is striving for or goals you’ve unconsciously let someone else set for you.

Because I challenge your thinking, you’ll learn to challenge your own thoughts. You’ll also build confidence in your decision-making skills. Knowing you’ve looked at things from all angles limits fear from making you question your every decision. You’ll also feel more empowered in your decision making.

You’ll no longer hear a guru say “this or that” and immediately follow like a sheep. Nope, you’ll listen to what they say and spend time researching to make sure you understood the information correctly and you’ll stop and take the time to contemplate if this information is valid and valuable for what you want to achieve. No more lost sheep following the guru—you’ll be confidently empowered.

There is something truly magical that happens when we’re given uninterrupted space to talk through situations, think through possible options and come to new realizations. Add to that the power of a question that really forces you to stop, think and contemplate and you have the perfect environment for igniting forward momentum.

Hiring a coach keeps you accountable. Accountable to taking the time to stop and think about what you ultimately want to create, achieve or experience. We don’t just keep going doing the things we think we ought to, the things others are telling us to do or the things we see others doing. We avoid going and going without stopping to think, “Why am I doing this?” and “What will this bring me?” and “Is that what I want?”

A coach can also keep you accountable to taking action. So often we have lots of ideas but not many of them get tested and implemented. We write out action plans that quickly become pieces of paper on our desk or in a file somewhere.

Unlike consulting, therapy or mentoring where you pay a professional for their ideas, solutions, wisdom and analysis, you pay a professional coach to empower, support and guide you toward your own ideas, solutions and inner wisdom. In coaching, you’re the only one doing an analysis. Coaches are not there to judge you or determine your best path for you. Rather your best path is co-created with you being the decision maker.

Before you hire a coach, think about what you want and need to get out of the relationship. Then make sure the coach you work with helps guide you to that end.

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