What is your definition of coaching?

What is your definition of coaching?

Why does it matter? Glad you asked .. 😘

Whatever your definition coaches have an important place in our world…but when it comes to defining the term (outside of sports coaching) it can ignite interesting emotions as coaches seek to defend their ‘definition’ and I know this first hand.

I have spoken with hundreds of coaches and their clients, with a view to understand the difference between good and great coaches .. where my definition of a great coach was a coach who achieved consistently high results for their clients, had a high percentage of repeat clients and a business with a strong and sustainable revenue stream.

The biggest shock for me during these discussion was the very large number of coaches that wanted to discuss and defend their definition of coaching, rather than talk about how they could improve client results, create greater leverage and build a better business.

A majority of these coaches held a very limiting definition of ‘coaching’ and were more likely to fall into the category of coaches that were low earners and struggling with their business.

As I delved into this further into this sub set of coaches, it became evident that a majority (yes, I did say majority) of them were life coaches, who had been trained via traditional training courses, especially courses accredited by the ICF.

Don’t get me wrong – learning how to coach via an ICF or similar course is great, just don’t let it limit the possibilities.

So let me put this in perspective – the ICF definition of coaching is simply their definition, it does not apply to the whole coaching industry and it should not limit how you create and deliver fabulous coaching services (which may include training, mentoring and more) to build your coaching business and to support your clients in getting great results.

I find by looking into the history of words it often helps us better understand the intended use of the word .. so here is a very brief snap shot of the history of ‘coaching’.

  • 1550’s – Historians believe the term coach was first used in a small town in Budapest (Kocs) where superior wagons, cars and carriages were designed to carry people between Vienna and Budapest. The German speaking Viennese called the horse drawn vehicle a Kotsche. Eventually the French began to use the vehicles and translated Kotsche to Coche. The Roman called in Coccho and then the English formed the word we have come to know today, CoachA superior vehicle to transport people in greater comfort between destination.
  • 1830’s – The slang reference to tutors who were preparing students for their exams became ‘coach’, because tutors quickly and comfortably carried students to their goal of passing their exams.
  • 1860’s – Coach started being used in an athletic sense. i.e. sports coaches. Coaching and training their students and teams to get better results – to win the game.
  • 1970’s – Sports coaches began to understand the need for athletes to work on their ‘mental’ game, as well as physical. This influence is credited to W.T. Gallway who is thought to be one of the first sports coaches to transition to interpersonal coaching. He published “The Inner Game of Tennis”. He then found himself lecturing more to business leaders in the US that to sports professionals and seeded a whole new form of coaching.
  • 1980’s – Thomas Leonard, an American financial planner, is generally acknowledged as the first person to develop coaching as a profession and to create the concept of life coaching as we know it today and …
  • 1995 – Thomas Leonard founded the International Coach Federation and defined coaching as  … partnering with a client in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximise their personal and professional potential”.
  • 1999 – The ICF begin to accredit coach training programs and coaches with strict accordance to their definition of coaching.
  • 2018 – ICF exceeds 25,000 credentialled coaches and 1,000 Master Certified Coaches.
  • 2021 – Did you know there are over 5 million coaches on linkedin and most of these are self-taught? All with their own definition of coaching.

So where is all this leading?

No matter which way you slice it, the history of the word ‘coach’ lends itself to ‘transporting a person from where they are now, to where they want to be, in greater comfort’ or as I have often seen it written “a professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations, helping them to bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be”.

I guess this is a long way of saying .. lets get on with the important work we are here to do and appreciate that we may all hold different definitions of coaching … and that’s OK .. but don’t let your definition of coaching stop you exploring new and better ways to serve your client or build your business.

😊 Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts?

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