What is Coaching?

People ask me what is the difference between executive coaching, corporate coaching, organizational coaching, life coaching, and other types of coaching.  In the dozen-plus years since I’ve been a coach, my answer to this question has gotten simpler and simpler!

What is coaching, really?  It’s all about getting out of your own way.  I work with people who want to assess the impact of their behaviors, and examine if their behaviors are reaping the results they want.  Then they CHOOSE to continue to do the same things, or to behave differently.

Consider a really smart person who quickly ascends the corporate ladder and now is the boss of a bunch of people.  This leader, however, is miserable, as are the folks on her team.  Essentially, she LOVED always being “the smart one” and never learned how to share the role.  She now is squashing the “smarts” of the folks on her team by hoarding information, micromanaging, and getting the last word.  Her efforts make her team feel insignificant and demoralized, and they are becoming passive and compliant.  How smart is that?

My job as her coach is to ask her provocative questions to illuminate the juxtaposition between where she is, and where she really wants to be!  As Marshall Goldsmith stated right on the cover of his book: “What Got you Here Won’t Get You There.”  The only professional feedback she’d ever received was praise regarding her individual efforts to figure things out.  The concept that the entire team could shine brightly was unfathomable to her.

The good news for her, and for her team, was her declaration to me that the discomfort of the current situation needed to end.  Through coaching, she saw that her new leadership position required not just the cultivation of new behaviors–developing others–but an END to her old behaviors!  She was willing to STOP behaving as the sole contributor, and committed to START creating an environment to bring out the best in all of her team members.

How about you?  Are you still employing behaviors that once served you in the past but now need to end?  What do you need to do (or stop doing) to get out of your own way?

2 thoughts on “What is Coaching?

  1. MaryEllen, this is a great post. Coaches are often the catalyst to help clients first become aware of the need for change, and then to craft and execute the plan for change. Success doesn’t always breed success – sometimes it breeds complacency, or “I’ve always done it that way”

  2. I agree with Trish, this is an excellent post, Mary Ellen. You provide a clear description of what coaching is, how it works and the value it offers. Very helpful.

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