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Coaching and Some of its “Relatives”

What Coaching is Not

  • Coaching is not training. Coaches don’t be give instructions to the client.
  • Coaching is not consulting. Coaches don’t give expert advice to a client.
  • Coaching is not therapy. Coaches don’t prescribe remedy for trauma.
  • Coaching is not mentoring. Coaches are not superior to the client.

Not many people know the differences between coaching and similar learning and communication processes such as teaching, training, mentoring, consulting, counselling, therapy, etc. This lack of knowledge partly accounts for the relatively low level of understanding of the practical application of coaching in business and organisational development activities.

For avoidance of doubt, coaching differs from the processes of teaching and training in that it does not teach the client or “coachee” any special skills or give instructions. In fact, a good and experienced coach is careful not to give instructions to the client as is done when teaching or training someone.

This is because the coach understands that his or her role is to facilitate an awareness of what the client already knows (or needs to know). The coach then guides and supports the client to take responsibility to access that knowledge.

Coaching also differs from consulting and counselling because it does not place the coach in the position of an expert that gives superior advice to a client. Rather, it treats the client with utmost respect, realising that the client is the one with all of the answers inside of him or her. The role of the coach in this regard is one of positioning as a trusted partner to challenge and inspire the client to perform better.

It must be emphasised here that coaching is also not a therapy for ‘non performers’. This is because the process of coaching is based on the knowledge that nothing in the person is broken, so nothing needs fixing. Coaching is thus not a quick fix for a person in desperate need, neither is it judgmental in any way.

The closest process to coaching in concept is mentoring, because, just like the process of mentoring, coaching involves a mutual collaboration between two parties. However, it still differs from mentoring in its operation.

The difference is that in mentoring, the mentor is regarded as the superior partner who is giving of his wisdom and experience to develop the protégé to desired levels. That is not the same with coaching.

In coaching, there is no superior partner. The coach and the client are viewed in the coaching process as equal partners. Ideally, the coach would even tend to respect the client’s knowledge more because the client is the true possessor of his or her own solutions. Every successful coaching process is therefore client-driven.