Since we embarked on starting Sounding Board, we’ve occasionally gotten this question as we’ve talked to people about what we’re trying to do. Given that we’re big believers in coaching and are building our entire business around delivering coaching to more people, we thought we should probably try and tackle this question early. 🙂
It’s a fair question – because a good coach can fulfill various roles. In certain situations they can be a facilitator, a teacher, a mentor, a counselor or a trusted advisor. On a tangible level, they can help you with a range of skills, from public speaking and communication to time management or confidence building. My own coach helped me see myself in a whole new light and worked with me on everything from my posture and executive presence, to providing frameworks that helped me better understand the personalities of my colleagues and managers. All of this greatly increased my effectiveness in my interactions with my colleagues, team and boss. She was always there to encourage me when I was unsure of myself, and challenge me when I hadn’t given something enough thought. But a key point is that she never TOLD me what to do – she just helped me uncover those “answers” through our conversation and questions.
I think a primary benefit of working with a coach is a level of awareness that most people don’t come into naturally. Both self-awareness and awareness of others. Through that awareness and understanding you find yourself operating from a very different place – often one that is more empowered and authentic.
But back to the original question. What is executive or leadership coaching? If I had to put it simply, I would say that coaching is a deeply personalized approach to learning and self-improvement, with a goal or action oriented focus on developing professional skills and habits. However, the learnings can often be applied to all aspects of your life. This graphic does a great job of showing how mentoring, consulting/training, therapy and coaching differ.
Generally coaching focuses on an action-oriented approach – it’s not about looking back – it’s about pushing forward. This is why coaches work really well in the workplace – they can support you to identify, clarify and achieve your goals. For more info on coaching, the International Coach Federation has a helpful FAQ. We also really like this quick primer on what a coach is and when to work with one.
What has your coach really helped you with? Or what would you love for a coach to support you with? Reply in the comments below!