(Published in the Star on 3 Oct 2012)

In this lesson, we want to put coaching in the right perspective so that you can clearly see its difference when compared to others. It is not a “duplicate” of other “helping” professions like consulting, training, mentoring and therapy. In doing this, we analyse various aspects of these professions so that it becomes clear that not only does coaching stands out differently from them, but it is also different in the work it does.

What Makes Coaching Stand Out From The Rest?

Unlike many other professionals, who are product or subject matter experts, the coach is a process expert. This means that they do not operate from the outlook of an expert who is “superior” to the other person. Even if they have the answers, they do not readily hand them down because they believe that everybody’s situations or circumstances are different. To them, no one size fits all.

Another reason is that they believe that each time they hand out ready solutions, they are actually disempowering the person instead of empowering them! Instead, they use a powerful process to empower them to make their own self-discovery.

So while others address the “head” aspect of the person where logics and intellect reside and where telling, advising and prescribing are the common methods, the coach deploys powerful deep listening and powerful questioning methods to discern the underlying issues and roadblocks that lie deep at the “heart level” of the person.

Doing this not only helps in getting to the bottom of their issues but also helps them to find answers that can solve their own issues or reach their goals.

What Makes Coaching a Special Relationship?

A coach works hard to win the trust and intimacy of the person. Truly, this is the cornerstone of coaching because without it, the truth is never told. When this is missing, it is almost impossible to coach effectively; like a “dog barking at a cat up the wrong tree”! Truly, successful coaching hugely depends on the ability of the coach to win the heart of the coachee.

When this exists, people are comfortable and open up readily because there is a safe environment where respect and sincerity prevail. This leads them to express freely without the fear of criticism, ridicule, judgment, or the possibility of facing a back lash, etc.

Indeed, a coach works hard to win their hearts, for he knows that unless the truth is out, coaching is meaningless and a sheer waste of time!

Is It True that Counselling also Deploys Listening and Questioning?

Yes, listening and questioning are used in counselling too. However, in both counseling and coaching, these two methods are used differently in perhaps two areas. Firstly, in counseling, questioning and listening are predominantly confine to help the person being counselled gain higher self-awareness more than getting them to work out his game plan of specific action taking.

Secondly, the counsellor is usually the expert, which means a fair amount of advice is given to the client.

On the other hand, coaching strives to proceed on an equal partnership where the coach believes that the coachee has the answers and it is their work to help them find them out, not only what is affecting them, but also specific ways of overcoming them.

Thirdly, a coach not only tracks and monitors the coachee’s performance over a period of time, but also instill ownership and hold them accountable to their goal.

Does It Mean That Training And Mentoring Are Out Of Date?

No! Both are relevant and useful depending on when they are used. Primarily, when a person lacks technical knowledge or is in an early stage of mental and intellectual development, training and mentoring are in fact more important than coaching!

However, when the person has acquired a certain level of competency, a trainer and mentor must know that their telling and advising must either end or tone down for some measures of coaching to be built into their development plan.

In other words, they need to know that the time of “giving the fish” must be replaced with “teaching them how to fish”. This is necessary as at the end of the day, it is about building independence and self-sustainability in the person so that he can live his life.

Can Coaching Be Used For All Situations?

Coaching serves best when the person is of a stable mind and emotional state. In extreme circumstances, where medical attention is necessary, for instance in cases involving drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, acute depression and other forms of mental dysfunctions, Coaching is of little help when compared with therapy and other forms of professional medical intervention where knowledge of medicine and mental disorder management is paramount. In such cases, an expert is needed as the patient is in no position to think and behave rationally.

How Much Did You Learn From Here?

1) “A coach is a process expert and not a product expert”. What does this mean?
2) What are deep listening and powerful questioning used for?
3) Explain this statement “If counselling also uses listening and questioning, how then is Coaching different”?
4) Which types of cases are not suitable for coaching?
5) What other insights do you gain from this lesson?