I started getting interested in coaching back in 2008. I was reading an HR online mag and an article reported that, out of all leadership and talent development tools, coaching was the most effective in terms of return on investment, client satisfaction, performance improvement and sustainability.
Wow, that did sound great! Ok then, but what is coaching? Good question after the newly realized acknowledgment…
It took me several weeks to really understand what it was all about. At the very beginning every single source I found was referring either to sport or to mentoring or to consulting. After a while I got in contact with an organization and one of their coaches, Guido Faraggiana (thanks Guido!) patiently explained to my lazy grey cells what the real coaching is.
My first reaction was a mixture of surprise, curiosity and skepticism. Surprised, because I had never heard of such a thing. Curious, because I was missing how coaching in that way would have been successful and useful for coachees. Skeptic, because this is the way I am when I meet something new and different.
Let’s then go straight to the point and make crystal clear what coaching is, and why it will always be worth repeating what it is.
We can use the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition, just to make sure not to be misunderstood in any case. Word for word: “ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve; encourage client self-discovery; elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; hold the client responsible and accountable.”
Really in a nutshell: 95% of a coach job is to ask powerful, thoughts-provoking questions to help the coachee (or client, or coaching partner or whatever you want to call it) achieve her/his goals by leveraging on inner strengths, capabilities and skills. The foundation of coaching is that everyone has a potential to achieve even beyond her/his own expectations.
Believe me: this approach is definitely the best way to help people reach their desired results while holding them accountable. What a big difference it makes if I sort my challenges out with just my personal means, abilities, competences, know-how and will!
Now we know what coaching is, and be sure, this is dogma (yes, the word ‘dogma’ is often associated to something negative but in this case it makes real sense and it must sound completely positive at your ears). It is dogma because there is only one real Coaching, whether you agree or not with this statement.
And as for every dogma, there are heretics. People who call themselves coaches but with a completely different idea of what coaching is, pretty often with no idea at all, with no methodology, no training. If it comes to explain what, usually these people talk about what we “dogmatic” coaches would call “Mentoring”, or “Consulting”, or “giving some tips and then please pay the bill, Jack!”
Let’s be straightforward: this is scam. A good, effective, successful, easygoing scam. Like if I opened a haircut shop and called it Wells Fargo. People start bringing money and I pay them off by cutting their hair. Which is good, but it is not exactly like being a banker.
Ok but why should I be called coach and someone else shouldn’t? Well, there are several reasons why.
First – I have been trained
The dogma requires to be trained by an official coaching school for a minimum amount of hours. This ensures a common methodology, tools, a common mindset and, of course, discipline and attitude. Everything that may protect the client by any form of “unfairness” and “heresy”.
Second – I follow a serious international organization called ICF
ICF is serious. It is a place where you can find a structured method, a straightforward approach to coaching, common definitions, resources to share, tool, people you are alike and to network with, and most of all a lot of good sense. There are also other very serious organizations similar to ICF (which is by the way the biggest Coaching institution on earth) which have a similar approach and level of professionalism. Congrats. I chose ICF but many others are fine as well.
Third – I have a code of ethics to abide with
This is at the third step of the podium but could really be at top. It is so fundamental that best for you would be to go there and check it yourself: http://coachfederation.org/ethics/
Fourth – I belong to a network of professional coaches
We may be right, we may be wrong, but all the coaches belonging to ICF (and to other coaching recognized organizations) are somehow connected to each other. This is definitely another proof of credibility and reliability, indeed.
Fifth – after a pre-defined path, I got certified
After being trained, after having practiced coaching for a proper time, your proficiency is tested and certified by an official body. Is there anything better to confirm that you are a real coach?
Sixth – because words count
You can use the words “Coaching” and “Coach” the way you want, but when it comes to being professional, please stick to these old words of wisdom: words do count!
Is it enough for you to distinguish between the real coaching (the dogma) and the fake one (the scam)? If not, sorry for that, do not take it personally! If yes, welcome on board! In both cases, your comments are mostly appreciated and feel free to have your say here.
Your friendly coach,
PS the author did not mean in any way to mix up religion with profession. Better still, the author’s ideas on religion are pretty much confused then please do not take him seriously.