Many personal development and self-help techniques can be traced back to a few individuals who took an idea and packaged it to make it accessible to all.
Coaching is the result of a gentle evolution which owes much to these other techniques and, like all the best ideas, has grown in response to a need.
Until economical transport was readily available and long before modern communications were developed, there was probably no need for a coach. In those days of large families who usually lived all their lives in the same neighbourhood, there were plenty of relatives and older siblings to call on for help and advice.
The first popular self-help books were published in the 1930s. The post-war years saw a boom not only in these but also in the growth of various forms of analysis and therapies. Some of these worked well but were usually limited to addressing a single medical or mental condition. A few were less effective because they created a dependence on the analyst.
That was more or less the situation until the 1980s when therapists realised there were many life situations that embraced more than one issue and needed a wider view. The smaller and fragmented family, the rise in divorce rates and an awareness of the importance of a holistic approach to matters that were often presented as 'stress-related symptoms' led some of these therapists to review their way of working.
The therapists became coaches, their patients became clients and the coaching profession was born. Its growth has come almost totally from 'word of mouth' recommendation. In other words, the results have created the phenomenal world-wide demand that now exists.
"Coaching may not be magic but the results are certainly magical"
What is Life Coaching?
Coaching is a conversation between two people, the coach and the client. Simplistically, the role of the coach is to support the client in achieving their goals.
Whilst there are many equally important skills and attributes required of an effective, successful coach, you may have realised that the most significant attribute of an ideal client is their recognition that there is something in their lives they are unhappy with and they are ready to seek help to facilitate a change for the better!
So, coaching is essentially an interactive process where the coach guides and facilitates the client's progress towards defined goals.
Hidden within the parameters of wanting to change are a wealth of situations which may have triggered your desire to work in partnership with a coach to bring about the desired changes. What are they?
Coaching sessions will raise your awareness of the underlying thoughts and feelings that you have which have led you to seek the support of a coach. This would be a typical testimonial from a client:
"Coaching helps me to define where I want to go and gets me there faster and more easily than if I worked on my own."
How does coaching differ from mentoring or consultancy?
Coaching in a business environment differs from mentoring or consultancy with which it is sometimes confused.
A mentor will generally guide and teach someone in a specific task or job. The mentor will draw significantly on their own experience, will pass on short cuts and tricks of the trade and will teach the acolyte (the follower) how to gain a specified result. The mentor will be expected to know the answers to a task-related situation.
Like a sports or physical fitness coach, the mentor has often 'been there and done that'. Effective coaching does not require that the coach have the personal hands-on experience of the client's job, profession or occupation. Some would even claim that it is the very absence of this experience that adds to the effectiveness of the coach who, by standing apart, can still see the wood from the trees.
A mentor knows the answers. Your coach works with you so that you discover the questions and the answers for yourself, not just for a particular task but also for all your life situations. Consultants,on the other hand, are invited to investigate a particular work-related situation. They gather facts to support their qualified and quantified proposals. Then they may be involved in the implementation of their proposals.
As with the mentor, their focus is on resolving one particular issue. The coach.however, will adopt a people and personality behavioural approach where the task or job is a by-product of the process. With their breadth and depth of understanding about attitude and results, your coach will often achieve benefits that are realised faster and will last longer than those resulting from a mentoring or consultancy approach.
This is a typical response from a satisfied coaching client:
"I was worried that I didn't know the answers. My coach showed me that I did know them all along; it was just that I hadn't seen the problem from every point of view."
How does coaching differ from therapy or counseling?
In many situations, a therapist or counselor will look to the immediate or distant past to prescribe an appropriate solution to a patient's problem. Although your coach will have a good understanding of how your past has created your present, the focus of every coaching session will be on where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Your coach has no prescriptions because every situation, every session and every client is unique.
The next major difference is that therapy or counseling may address a single and specific physical or mental condition. Your coach is interested in you as a whole being from an awareness of the interactions between all areas of your life. Instead of delving into causes, your coach will focus in a holistic manner on your mind, body and spirit to help you achieve your objectives.
The remaining difference is that your coach has time to work with you. During your session, your coach will be totally committed to you and your needs. You work together but it is you who defines what you want from life and how you will get it. Your coach is a 'catalyst' who will do whatever it takes to help you.
The main purpose of coaching is to empower you to take control of every aspect of your life along with acceptance of your personal responsibility that is an integral part of such control. Your coach can show you how to do this and will guide you every step of the way.
Finally - "My coach said that he would be like a control tower talking me down to a safe landing. He did this but, unexpectedly, he showed me how to take off in exciting new directions too."