Coaching isn’t Counseling…

As an organizational and executive coach over the past 10 years and, most recently, coaching pastors and coordinating the efforts of coaches of pastors with HGC, I am often asked: What distinguishes coaching from mentoring, consulting, counseling, therapy or even teaching?  To answer, I always start with “What is coaching?”  I’ve found that the International Coaching Federation gives the best definition: Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

This definition identifies 3 important distinctions for coaching:

  1. Agenda – In a coaching relationship the agenda for each session is set by the person being coached (PBC). The coach may have input about the agenda, but ultimately the PBC is in control of it.
  2. Co-creative – The coaching relationship is a true co-creative partnership that requires 100% participation of everything the coach and the PBC can bring to the relationship.
  3. Developmental – A coaching relationship is always targeted toward realizing the potential of the PBC. This relationship is not a short-term training experience of 1 or 2 sessions.   It requires a commitment of both parties to work to realize the potential of the person being coached over a period of months or even years.
  4. Wholeness – The relationship between the coach and the PBC is based upon the presumed natural creativity, resourcefulness, and wholeness of the PBC. Of course the PBC has problems and challenges that need to be addressed.  Coaching is a way of effectively empowering people to find their own answers, encouraging and supporting them on the path as they continue to make important choices.

Here’s my view on how these distinctions relate to the alternatives listed above:

  • Mentoring is usually done by someone in the same organization who is more senior and, by the very basis of the organizational relationship, has a stake in the agenda and outcomes of the sessions.
  • Consulting is done to achieve specific objectives defined by the hiring person and most often is neither co-creative nor developmental in nature.
  • Counseling and therapy are performed to address specific problems that presume that something is wrong that needs to be corrected with the client and a prescription is given to address it.
  • Teaching is communicating a specific principle in order to achieve a specific outcome. When used in coaching, the outcomes are determined by the co-creative partnering relationship to address a developmental opportunity in order to realize the PBC’s potential.

These alternatives for coaching all have their place in personal development. Each of them can be the right choice when they fit the right objectives for the relationship.

For you right now, are you looking for a mentor, counselor, consultant, teacher or a coach?

Dave_SizedPost contributed by Dave Vogelpohl, HGC Coaching Catalyst and Organizational leader.