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What is Coaching?

Skills every coach should have.

Jeremiah Rogers
Jeremiah Rogers
3 min read
What is Coaching?


Are you navigating a transition or a significant challenge? A coach or "thinking partner" might be exactly what you need.

I've noticed that although many people know that coaching can be helpful, most first time clients have no idea of what coaching is.

A big part of this is that coaching is defined differently everywhere...

  1. The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential."
  2. Google search defines coaching as "train or instruct" or to "give (someone) extra or private teaching" or to "teach (a subject or sport) as a coach."
  3. Wikipedia defines coaching as "a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance."

All of these definitions are correct – there is no clear standard!

From the definitions above we can tell that a coach might:

  1. Provoke thoughts and creative energy.
  2. Only ask questions OR train in a specific skill.
  3. Support a specific goal OR support no clear goal at all.
  4. Help someone maximize their potential OR help someone stop trying to maximize everything.

To fit all of these options the clearest definition of coaching to me is "one person helping another person change."

"One person helping another person change" allows for all kinds of specialist coaches for specialist tasks, as well as coaches who only ask questions and coaches who often act as therapists. It allows for weight loss coaches, money coaches, life coaches, and business coaches to all thrive.

How Do Coaches Help People Change?

How do coaches help people change? In practice, every great coach I know has a huge collection of coaching strategies they apply at different times to produce results withs.

Below are the most powerful strategies I practice with clients and that in my experience other great coaches tend to cultivate.

Provoke Thinking. Great coaches don't just listen and mirror – they provoke thinking. This can come in many forms: challenges, suggestions, or aggressive questions. Clients often seek this out because they are tired of being coddled by therapists or “mirrored” by coaches who are trained to only ask questions.

Expose Limiting Beliefs. Everyone has statements within them that begin with words like “I am”, “I can’t” and “I always” and end with a self-imposed limiting belief that prevents them from living a more joyous and creative life. As a coach I help my clients find these limiting beliefs and replace them with ones that serve the client.

Serve Don't Please. In polite society we are terrified to offend each other. A great coach must be willing to be uncomfortable and to make the client uncomfortable. High level clients often appreciate this the most – when everyone around you lies to keep you happy, your coach tells you the honest truth

Ask Powerful Questions. Many people just ask questions because they want to know the answer, or even worse – because they want to look smart! Great coaches ask questions to expand your thinking. One of my favorites is “What outcome would make this a conversation memorable for the rest of your life?”

Hasten Self Discovery. The answers are within you, not within me. My job and our time together is to draw them out. When you tell me you just want happiness, I ask you what happiness means to you. When you tell me you will “go think about it” my job is to have you to think about it right here, right now.

Future Oriented. Great coaches acknowledge your past, but unlike therapists this is not where they tend to play. The past is a memory, the present is real, and future is a blank canvas. Great coaches focus on what you can build going forward.

Reminding The Client of How Powerful They Are. Incredible people often forget just how incredible they are. When you are low energy, dissatisfied or frustrated with yourself I jump in to remind you of the power you have to create your life. I learn the lyrics to your song and sing it back to you when you forget the words.

Want to Learn Coaching for Yourself?

If you want to learn more about coaching here are some great books to get you started:

  1. The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. (4.6/5 stars on Amazon)
  2. Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock. (4.7/5 stars on Amazon)
  3. Co-Active Coaching: The proven framework for transformative conversations at work and in life. (4.7/5 stars on Amazon)

Curious About Working Together?

To really understand this process there is of course no substitute to firsthand experience.

When you are ready, learn more about working together.

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