The term COACHING is thrown around a lot these days with a wide variety of meanings. Just like the sun burns off the fog, let’s try to shed some light to clear away the fog around coaching.
To look at coaching simply, let me suggest that there are three primary types of coaches: the skills coach, the mentor coach, and the professional coach. All three types of coaches are valid and helpful within the bounds of what they’re designed to do.
The Skills Coach
Sports coaches, personal trainers, voice coaches, real estate coaches, etc. fall into this category. These coaches are generally trained in a specific skill that an individual wishes to improve. The skills coach may or may not have any training in professional coaching skills. Their singular expertise qualifies them as a coach. We can improve in any sport, or other highly skilled activity by engaging a skills coach.
Characteristics of skills coaching include:
- Heavy instruction
- Highly directive, coach-led
- Narrow focus on a skill
- The individual submits to the direction of their skills coach
- Usually a formal arrangement
The skills coach says, “Do it like this…”
The Mentor Coach
Mentor coaches generally have built up years of experience and expertise in some field of work that qualifies them to coach. We find mentor coaches frequently in business in many different professions and disciplines. Mentor coaching is typically not a profession, but more of a service. Usually, a mentor coach is a veteran training a junior person in the intricacies of their profession. A mentor coach may or may not have any training in coaching skills and requires no certification.
Characteristics of mentor coaching include:
- Moderate instruction
- Moderate to less directive, both coach- and individual-led
- Usually a targeted focus
- The individual defers to the direction of their mentor coach
- Can be either formal or informal arrangement
The mentor coach says, “Do what I have done…”
The Professional Coach
Professional coaches often refer to themselves as life coaches, executive coaches, leadership coaches and the like. These are professionals trained in the competencies of coaching and become certified when they demonstrate mastery of those competencies. Professional coaches are unique among coaches in that their skills enable them to coach others proficiently in a wide variety of life and work issues.
Characteristics of professional coaching include:
- Open-ended questioning
- Non-directive, client-led
- Focuses on the client’s agenda
- The coach empowers the client to self-direct
- Formal arrangement
The professional coach asks, “What would you like to achieve?”
The key difference between professional coaches and skills and mentor coaches, is that the professional coach prompts and empowers the individual to direct their coaching experience. This creates an entirely different experience for the individual.
With skills and mentor coaches, the individual is dependent on them for direction and instruction. With a professional coach, the individual is challenged to delve into untapped personal resources.
Also, skills and mentor coaches are usually interested only in what goes on in the individual’s life as it pertains to the skill or proficiency at hand. The professional coach is trained to uncover hidden obstacles to success in all areas of the client’s life.
For instance, a client may want to set and be held accountable for a lofty business goal. In the coaching process, the coach helps the client discover through questioning that there’s a rift in the client’s relationship with their spouse. Through coaching, the client realizes that this rift will undoubtedly impede progress toward their goal. So, the coach assists the client in determining how to repair that relationship and meet their goal.
In this way, professional coaching is a holistic approach for empowering an individual to grow and develop in any area the individual desires.
So, I recognize the validity of all three types of coaches: the skills coach, the mentor coach, and the professional coach. Should you decide to work with a coach, consider which kind of coach best suits your needs.