Just Ignore the Coaching Hype

What have you got to lose? You're curious. A friend has been raving about how coaching has transformed the way she works/eats/exercises/sleep/breathes. A physician on Facebook posted about how he's leaving clinical work to practice as a leadership coach full-time. What's all the hype about? Any mention of coaching triggers visions of Tony Robbins onstage pumping up an audience of 10,000 hoping to grasp the life they have only dreamed of. Are you wondering if this is all legit? If you've never explored the world of coaching, then you might be missing the opportunity to push your edge and exceed your own expectations. What is a coach? Coaches are a type of professional "helper" along with therapists, mentors, and advisors. They help you gain understanding and work towards achieving a goal in a specific area of your life.

According to the International Coaching Federation, the largest professional coaches association, a coach: “Discovers, clarifies, and aligns with what the client wants to achieve; encouraging client self-discovery; eliciting client-generated solutions and strategies; and holding the client responsible and accountable.”

A coaching approach sees the person being coached as resourceful and creative. As the person being coached, you’re the expert in your life and your coach partners with you to help you increase self-awareness, move past barriers, and develop action plans to achieve whatever goal or vision you set for yourself.

As a helping professional, a therapist, advisor, or mentor enters the relationship as the expert holding knowledge and a set of skills. In therapy, the focus is on navigating through problems or psychological issues. A mentor, consultant, or advisor uses their knowledge of a specific area of expertise to advise you on how to move forward that area.

All approaches can be useful depending on your goals and the issues that you’re seeking support in. How do you become a coach? Standardization in coach training and practices has been gaining momentum. That being said, anyone can design a shiny website, start accepting clients and call themselves a coach. There aren’t current industry regulations limiting who can practice coaching. However, good coach training programs are widely available.

Coach certification means that someone has completed a coach training program. Ideally, these programs teach coaching theory and offer opportunities to practice coaching skills. Coach training programs can provide general coach training or focus on a specific area such as leadership, health and wellness, or financial coaching. While not required, some coaches pursue formal credentials.

As the field of coaching has grown, so has ICF’s work in defining training and practice standards. The establishment of ethical, evidence-based practices continues to expand.

Does coaching really work?

The million-dollar question is, “Can coaching really help someone transform?”

The quick answer is yes, with a couple of caveats. First, the evidence. A growing body of research supports the impact of physician coaching. A recent, multi-site, randomized clinical trial showed decreased reports of emotional exhaustion and burnout among internists, family practitioners, and pediatricians who had received 6 sessions of coaching.

Coaching Works! Whether you’re interested in partnering with a coach or becoming a coach yourself, you must believe in the value that the coaching offers. A trained coach practicing with integrity can help someone expand their thinking and work towards their personal vision.

Caveat #1

Coaching helps when you work with a coach who knows how to coach.

Coaching is a broad field and, at least for now, just about anyone can call themselves a coach. The problem is that some people who sell themselves as coaches haven’t undergone sufficient or any training to understand how to coach effectively. Training, in both the fundamentals and application of standardized coaching practices, is the key here. If you’re looking for a coach, then look for one who’s been certified through a reputable coach training program. If you’re interested in pursuing coach training, look for training programs that are credentialed through a professional credentialing body such as the ICF. This assures that your training will align with the most current coaching practices and standards.

Caveat #2

A client must be motivated to be coached.

Coaching isn’t a passive process. While having a skilled coach is important, the process works when the client is fully engaged. Your coach is going to ask you to dig into your thinking, looking for barriers or blind spots. She’ll push you to develop strategies to overcome obstacles. He’ll challenge you to put your discoveries to work as you design action plans to help you move towards your vision. Coaching is an active process that continues outside of your sessions. If a client isn’t engaged in the work, the coaching can stall.

Caveat #3

A client and coach should be clear on the kind of help that will best support the client.

For example, if someone wants a roadmap of how to get from point A to Z, then coaching might not be the right approach. An advisor might be just the right fit. A coach isn’t there to instruct you on how to do your life. A coach helps a client discover their best strategies for achieving their personal vision.

Now as with most things in life, they are grey areas. At times, especially at a client’s invitation, a coach might offer advice or suggestions. Sometimes, urgent issues might need to be addressed first. If a client is struggling with impairing depression or anxiety, a coach might explore other options for support with the client. When coaching stretches into a different helper role, it’s always in service of meeting the client’s needs. This might even mean a coach recommending a different form of help altogether. Either as a coach or a client, maybe it’s worth giving coaching a closer look. What have you got to lose? You’ll never know until you give yourself the chance to explore coaching and discover, “What’s possible?”

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