YESTERDAY’S article discussed how professional coaching could improve your personal and work lives. Part 2 attempts to clarify what coaching is not, because it is sometimes confused with other activities.

Coaching is not the same as counselling or mentoring, instructing, teaching, training or consulting.

Counselling

Therapy generally focuses on helping the client to feel better about himself and a particular situation he is in, so that he may function better within that context. It doesn’t necessarily focus on actively enhancing the client’s current situation through developing certain skills.

Coaching, on the other hand, can and will continue to push proactively into spaces and places where normal functioning can be enhanced, not just treated.

Mentoring

Mentoring is the sharing of greater experience with someone less experienced, creating a hierarchical relationship, where the mentor guides the mentee on “how things are done around this place” or “what the path to success is in this company”.

The mentor shares with his mentee the wisdom he has gained through many years of experience. Taking the younger person under his wing and other benevolent and guiding behaviour are a part of typical mentoring relationships.

The goals of mentoring may not be your goals; they may arise either from the mentor or indeed from your company or sponsoring organisation. You may be empowered through the power of your mentor, and you may grow through mentoring but in directions and along paths that are already well-trodden.

Mentoring and coaching diverge around goals, empowerment and resources. Coaching places emphasis on your resources and strives to develop these, whereas mentoring may supply many of these for you.

Of course, there are areas that overlap. As a coach, I also mentor. I share what has worked for me, my experiences in similar situations and act as mentor, too! So in a coaching relationship, there is an element of mentoring when it is appropriate.

Consulting

Consulting is another activity that differs widely from coaching. Consulting is usually about a process of analysis, definition of issues, development of solutions and making recommendations. Thus, consultants come, they find, they sort, they solve and they leave.

Coaches analyse, test and interpret results too, especially at the commencement of a coaching engagement. This is to help us plan our focus and determine needs as well as strengths that can be leveraged.

And we may suggest ideas for “solutions” but only if the person being coached has exhausted all his ideas and resources; or if he is looking for some other perspectives to consider expanding his thought-basket.

The role of the person being coached is to own his issues, develop his own solutions and build his own future with help from his coach.

A coach will help his ward to keep track of his needs, check his priorities against his values, goals and needs, and make progress with his plans.

A coach will not solve anything for his client as a consultant specialist might. But if he knows something that he can share with his client that may solve some part of his puzzle, he will do so — by brainstorming on resources, ideas and suggestions.

But he will do this only when he has established a strong relationship with the person over a number of sessions and when the time is appropriate to do so.

As you can see, coaching involves a unique process that focuses on developing the person, his own goals, resources and accomplishments and carries its own processes, assumptions and theories.

The key elements of coaching will vary depending on the coaching domain — whether it is personal, life, sports, business, leadership or executive coaching.

Here is a summary of the most common steps of coaching in non-sports situations, developed by the International Coaching Federation:

Setting the foundation: Meeting ethical guidelines and professional standards; Establishing the coaching agreement

Co-creating the relationship: Establishing trust and intimacy with the client; Coaching presence

Communicating effectively: Active listening; Powerful questioning; Direct communication

Facilitating learning and results: Creating awareness; Designing actions; Planning and goal setting; Managing progress and accountability

A growing number of organisations are adopting coaching as a learning tool that has special emphasis on individual growth and development. This allows specific groups to be targeted, such as leaders, certain levels of management, or occupational groups such as sales managers.