Coach, Consultant or Mentor?

In some circles, there is a debate raging: just how directive should a coach be?

The classic school of thought on coaching is that it should be completely non-directive and ‘clean’. The coach should always use the exact words and phrases that the client uses and not offer suggestions at any time.

Then there is the school of thought that because life coaching and business coaching both have their roots in sports, we should look to the sports coaching model where the coach is able to see what the coachee can’t see and give tips about their technique. The coach offers advice based on their experience of either being in that situation themselves or successfully coaching other people through similar situations (unless of course they are coaching the ‘inner game’).

You might ask why this debate brought up here.

Well, because whichever school of thought you subscribe to, it’s important that your clients and your prospective clients understand what they are going to get when they work with you.

A client seeking a coach who will spend time with them exploring their personal values and understanding themselves will probably prefer working with a non-directive coach as they will have plenty of time for reflection and heightened self-awareness.

A client seeking a coach to improve their sales technique may, unless they already have the necessary knowledge and skills, prefer to work with a coach who has a sales background or has successfully coached other people on their sales technique. Essentially, they may want to work with someone who can give them tips and the benefit of their experience.

In other words, coaching may sometimes be blended with elements of consultancy and/or mentoring.

This might be the approach you use, it might not.

The classical school of thought on coaching assumes that the coachee, at some level, already has the answer or the resources to find it. If they are in a situation that they have NEVER experienced before or they are missing facts, figures, information or techniques, then pure coaching may not be the right approach for them. They may need a mentor or consultant to help them. That person might be you, or you might refer them to someone else.

However you decide to present yourself – coach, coach/mentor, coach/consultant, coach/trainer, etc – it’s important that your clients understand what they are going to get for their money. It’s also a way of differentiating yourself from other coaches working in similar fields.

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