COACHING is said to be the second fastest growing profession after information technology.

Coaching assists clients in understanding their behaviours, feelings and relationships. But how is it different from seeking therapy?

A person who requires therapy is usually unable to cope with the challenges they face and seek the help of a counsellor or therapist to illuminate the cause of their problem and aid them in their recovery.

The distinguishing factor of business or executive coaching from therapy is that it is a partnership between the company, the coach and the employee.

A coach becomes a trusted role model who helps individuals create visions, re-frame and challenge perspectives, examine current problems, generate new ideas and shape positive outcomes for themselves and the organisations they work in.

The role of the coach

When a company's business objectives, vision and mission are integrated with the employees' skills, the organisation and its employees both win.

This results in rising performance standards and accomplishments as individuals develop their leadership abilities and take on new initiatives. The individual experiences a sense of wholeness and balance as he meets his potential, which allows him to focus on his goals and lead a successful life.

While coaching is about partnership, a mentor provides guidance. His knowledge, experiences and key areas of expertise are benchmarks for a mentee's development and growth.

The coach as a mentor is a powerful combination that enhances the collaborative process of partnering so the mentor is seen as a "trusted friend" who is truly invested in the mentee's success. Examples of mentorship include that of Freddie Laker who mentored Richard Branson and Aristotle who mentored Alexander the Great.

Results of professional coaching can be measured when one assesses the increased productivity of an employee before and after coaching. The outcomes are evident in improved performance and decision-making skills.

The intangible and less easily measurable areas include improved relationships and building of networks with direct reports and management within the company.

As soft skills improve, less stress is felt and staff is less likely to burn out or feel unmotivated. With less employee turnover, a company is more likely to achieve its collective goals much faster.

Testimony of efficacy

The benefits received from coaching are many. These include increased monetary returns, improved job performance, higher productivity, better relationships with direct reports, bosses, peers and clients, and a marked increase in job satisfaction and organisational commitment, meaning that employees are less likely to quit.

Attaining fulfilment

In the words of Polish-born American academic and humorist Leo Rosten: "The purpose of life is to matter, to be productive, to make some difference that you have lived at all. Happiness in the ancient and noble version means self-fulfilment and is given to those who use to the fullest whatever talents God or luck or fate has bestowed upon them."

Essentially, coaching is about growing self-leadership qualities and developing the potential to be one's best. The practice of coaching continues to prove that focused attention produces desired results.