What Is A Coach?

I have to confess to hating the word ‘coach’. It’s a shame really as I’m incredibly proud of what I do and the outcomes that my clients have achieved. I never describe myself as a coach either. The reason for this is that everyone knows exactly what a coach is and here’s the rub; they’re almost always wrong! What is a coach then?

Why Everyone Knows What A Coach Is

The problem with having the job title coach is that a) it means different things to different people and b) it is horribly overused c) it’s also used incorrectly.

“Netball?” asked one interested party when I said I was a coach. (Ironic really as the last time I owned a pair of trainers was 1981!) The title ‘coach’ can be used to describe someone who trains, supports and encourages a sports team. It’s not the sort of coaching I do.

Some multi-level marketing organisations (think Tupperware-style businesses) call their distributors ‘business coaches’. At every networking event I’ve been to there is someone who announces that they are a business coach, and I subsequently discover that what they actually do is sell a third-party products.

Mentor or Coach?

I had a conversation with a highly successful individual recently who told me that she was ‘damned if she’d be coached by anyone’ who hadn’t had more success than her in her professional field. This is a fundamental mistake that people make about coaches. Coaches are not mentors. Mentors offer advice based upon their own experience within a particular field. A business advisor is a mentor; someone who arrives equipped with spreadsheets about cashflow and profitability. A coach doesn’t use spreadsheets with their clients. Confusingly, some mentors call themselves coaches, but actually, they are not coaching at all.

So What Is A Coach?

  • A coach asks questions, they don’t answer them.
  • They use their skills to ask you the questions necessary to allow you to look at your own situation and to think in new and different ways.
  • A coach ‘holds a mirror’ up to you to allow you to see yourself from the outside.
  • They provide a safe space in which you can explore thoughts and feelings that arise as a result of thinking about answers to questions.
  • A coach holds you accountable for what you said you’d do. (Not what you were told to to, but what you said you’d do.)