Most people hear the word coach and instantly think sports coach. Some may think of a mentor they had when they first started their careers. But what is coaching all about?

Coaching: A Definition

Its important to understand how workers are using coaching to improve performance. According to the International Coach Federation, Professional coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses, or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.

Coaching is about producing different and better results. That makes it universally applicable for individuals and entire organizations across all market sectors. Coaching can be used to resolve tensions between staff members who might not see issues the same way or have a history of conflict. In this situation, a coach can bring aspects of mediation to the relationship so co-workers can progress toward an amicable solution.

More often, coaching relationships are generated purely by a desire for better performance results. You or your organization might be feeling stuckaware that you can or must perform differently, but unclear as to how or what that might look like. Much like the coaches who train world-class athletes, executive and organizational coaches challenge and support higher levels of performance.

From senior executives to up-and-comers, people hire coaches to learn how to set better goals for themselves, increase self-awareness, improve performance, and develop strategies that improve their overall quality of life. Expect a coach to ask provocative questions, take issue with existing assumptions and biases, and work with others to set goals and hold you accountable for outcomes.

Coaching vs. Consulting vs. Therapy

The coaching philosophy is based on the premise that nothing is broken or needs to be fixed. You set the agendathe issue or topic on which you want coaching. It is also the coaching philosophy that you have the answers within yourself. The coachs responsibility is to ask powerful questions, help you observe your own behavior, offer various perspectives and options, and help you clarify your desired outcome.

Unlike consulting, which typically will provide you with a set of solutions, coaches may not have had experience in your business at all. However, many coaches have developed a niche in the marketplace for their practice. They focus on a specific set of issues and establish a set of core competencies on which to help their clients. Among the many areas of specialization for coaches are executive coaching, career coaching, corporate coaching, sales coaching, and retirement coaching.

Coaches facilitate a deeper understanding of yourself or specific issues. They help you develop an action plan and aid you in moving forward with that plan. A coach rarely should (and is actually trained not to) spend a lot of time analyzing past behaviors or diagnosing a mental health problem. Coaching is generally more resultsoriented.

Do You Need a Coach?

Is coaching right for you? It really depends. If you answer yes to any of these questions, then coaching is right way to go.

  • Am I looking to deepen my personal self-awareness?
  • Am I looking to discover whats really important to me?
  • Am I looking to improve my management and leadership talents?

A study designed by the Executive Coaching Project and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services determined several benefits of coaching.

Leaders who participated in coaching experienced

  • increased confidence in exercising leadership
  • improved ability to connect with the organizations vision
  • increased confidence in leading the organization toward fulfilling the vision.

Managers and supervisors who participated in coaching experienced

  • increased task completion and productivity
  • improved personnel management skills
  • better relationships with staff and board of directors.

Bottom Line

Its pretty easy to want to produce better results. Its far more difficult to translate those thoughts into sustainable action and behaviors that truly produce better results. The good news is that coaching can help you move from rhetoric to reality.

In your coaching relationship, you not only work through a goal-setting process, but you also build a map of actions and behaviors that support and enable those goals to happen. And youll have an added set of eyes looking over your shoulder to see that you do what you said you would.