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What does a coach do and what is coaching

Why is it important to know what coaching is and what a coach does?

Coaching or calling yourself a coach has become very popular today. There is no shortage of people who call themselves everything from life coach, sales coach, leadership coach to motivational coach or mental coach. Here I will address what a coach is and is not, what they do and do not do, and the difference between different coaches. My hope is that this can help you make a good choice when finding the right coach for you. But first, I want to clarify the term "coach".

Coach is a title that is outwardly both worn and fuzzy at the same time. On Google and social media, there are coaches in abundance with coach titles as I mentioned earlier. There are also others such as stress coach, adhd coach, speech coach and others. This means that coaching itself is an extremely diverse profession where the methods used can differ greatly. 

'The word coach is borrowed from the English language and means trainers. This means that a person who is engaged in coaching, in other words dealing with any form of training.”

But is it that simple, that a coach is really a trainer?

Both yes and no, but mostly no. I want to give you clarity on the type of coach you were probably referring to when you googled and found this one article!

As the word coach can also refer to different types of coaches (or coach) in sports, business, etc., it is a title that becomes Almost almost impossible to regulate and certify. It is therefore difficult to maintain any kind of quality level (there are, however, organizations that strive to create a quality assurance. In Sweden you can't wake up one day and call yourself a psychologist or a doctor, you have to be licensed to practice these professions. But you can wake up tomorrow and call yourself a coach.

There are of course many people who have an amazing talent for meeting and supporting people, but the importance of the right training combined with experience makes a big difference. Let's just take a brief example. If you are about to undergo an operation, you want to make sure that the surgeon has the necessary training. and also have experience in surgery. You also do not use a painter to do the job you need an electrician for! Similarly, knowing what theoretical knowledge and training your potential coach has can help you make an informed decision. I will come back later in the article about different trainings and what can be good to keep in mind if you are looking for a coach or thinking about becoming a coach yourself..

So what is coaching?

You know when your boss, or your buddy who is a boss, told you how great the latest coaching leadership training was? How pleased they were when in the last conversation with one of their employees they used some open-ended questions and thought they were a great coach. What they did matters less, but here's where we start approach us the meaning of what I think we usually mean when we talk about coaching in general. So from now on when you read this, it means that when I write about coaching, the word takes on a deeper meaning that is more than the direct translation of the word to 'training'. The word coaching also becomes a kind of metaphor which is about support people in any kind of change, growth or transformation.

"Coaching is about having powerful conversation. It should happen something, otherwise it's just a nice conversation.

Which of course is not to minimize, but as I always tell my clients.... You should not pay someone to have nice conversations, you can use your friends to do that.. In my own work as a coach, I use two basic approaches to create powerful conversations; Call for action and deepening learning. You as a client need both. On your journey, you should both move around forwardbut at the same time you need grow as a person along the way. One cannot exist without the other if we want to have powerful conversations. Just as actions lose their meaning if you do not grow along the way, or if you learn a lot of new things but do not act on your lessons. The coach's task is largely to keep the client in a state where they have the opportunity to grow, gain clarity, insights, increased awareness and find more of what is needed to get to the goal.

Coaching is both a method and a relationship, one do and a product. Similarly, you are both in a making and a being, thus your actions and who you are in the meantime. A coach can use many different tools such as listening, questions, metaphors, visibility, etc.. But if there is one thing I have learned during my time as a coach, it is that it is not the tools that make the coach. A champion coach can achieve major changes and insights through curiosity and skill in using only a few of the available tools. It is precisely this that gives you as a client that WOW feeling, as coaching is not just an intellectual process where problems are solved. It becomes so much more than that, an experience that captures both heart and brain.

The image above describes some of the main differences between counseling, coaching and therapy.

What is the difference between different types of coaches?

By now, you've probably heard about many different types of coaches. Everything from life coaches to success coaches who may work more with individuals. Executive coaches, sales coaches, and business coaches in companies and sports coaches or mental coaches in sport. There are of course many more variations. But what is the difference? 
As I mentioned before, it depends on what kind of coach we are talking about. Some coaches take on the role of an expert or advisor., which then means that the coach becomes more like and title than they use the method coaching. Other coaches who use the coaching method and do not take an advisory role at all as an expert on what the client should do.. The first one thus relies on its competence within the subject to support you, where the focus is on the subject/problem itself and how to solve it. This type of coach would probably not work with things that fall outside their field. The second type of coach works completely differently, where the focus is on you and your plant. You come with a topic/problem and the coach works on your own expertise and experience and to create an environment where you can be your best self. From that place, you are more likely to grow as a person but also to move forward.. These coaches can work in many different areas because they are not at all dependent on their own expertise in the subject. This is even an advantage in many cases, as it prevents the coach from being tempted to interject tips and advice from their own experience that could risk hindering the client's development.

How do I find the right coach for me?

There are a few things you should consider when looking for a coach and the first (and one of the most important) things are personal chemistry. I can't say it enough, but personal chemistry is very important. The coach's must feel right for you. How else can you be safe and have confidence in your relationship? I have a coach myself and have tried several different ones over the years. For me, there has only been one that I have really clicked with so far. Keep in mind that the "best", most experienced coach on paper doesn't necessarily have to be the right the coach for you.

The other thing you should think about (and really take seriously) is coach training. Here I would say that you need do your preparatory work! Find out what training the coach has, look at the website for that training, look at reviews of the training, how it compares to others. 
Why should you do it? As I mentioned earlier, anyone can call themselves a coach, this also means that anyone can create a course in three weekends and then say that everyone who did it is a "certified super life coach". I would be wary of these coaches because it's not just about the damage that a person with no skills risks exposing you to, but also if responsibility, confidentiality and they ethical guidelines that a coach should follow. You as a client are completely unprotected and your coach has no one to answer to if they act in an unethical or unprofessional way.

"You would be surprised if you knew how few people ask me about my education, how it is in relation to other coach educations or who take the time to read more about the educations that are available.

By doing your research, you see both if the education is solid and established, while doing yourself a favor by being more aware of your role and what you are getting into. So always ask more about the trainings, especially if the coach does not refer to it on their website in any way.

The third thing that can also be important is the coach's experience and level of certification. Some courses have only one certification that the coach receives when they have completed the entire program, while others have several levels. There is also a difference between certification through education and certification through an association. There are a few different associations working to standardize coaching in the world. The biggest ones today are International Coach Federation (ICF). Through them, a company can be approved to conduct training in coaching (this is the most common training for coaches in Sweden). These are thus coaching companies that have educations, and after a person has undergone their education and fulfilled the requirements, they become a certified coach according to ICF. But what is also important to remember here is that two trainers approved by the ICF can have very different approaches and contents in their training courses..

Next, ICF has three levels of certification, with each level requiring significantly more experience (coached hours) and also a greater process of evaluated interviews and tests. Thus, there can be quite a difference between coaches at different certification levels. You can read more about this here.

Then there are the independent courses with their own certifications. Some of these have been approved by the ICF as well, which means that they have shown that the coaching taught is according to the ICF's principles for coaching. There can be quite a bit of variation, with some courses being entirely online or entirely in physical form, how long they are, what they cost, where they are offered, and how extensive the certification process is. The difference between taking a smaller course and becoming certified in Sweden or taking one of the larger courses abroad can therefore vary greatly in the amount of time and money invested by the coach. Everything from SEK 20,000 to SEK 150,000 and upwards, and a few weekends up to several years.

Here are two of the best courses in the world:

iPec (Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching)

They have been in business for 15+ years and have training in the US, Canada and Europe. Solid training for coaches that also focuses on the business part for those who work as coaches. The coaching style they teach is called Energy leadership and is about how you shift your energy to reach your potential in life. More about iPec here.

CTI (Coaches Training Institute)

CTI is one of the longest running programs of all. They have had a role in the founding of ICF, they have also been an important part of coaching becoming so big in the world. In addition, they wrote the book Co-Active Coaching which is the most widely read book on coaching. The coaching style they teach is of course called Co-Active Coaching and is about how you in a specific way create the relationship between coach and client, to be able to bring out the best in each other to achieve everything you want. This is one of the coaches that there are most of in the world and they have training in all continents. You can see more about the Co-Active model at this video. You can also read more about CTI and Co-Active. here.

I hope this has provided clarity.

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About the author

Picture of Tommy Davidovic
Tommy Davidovic

Cert. Coach (CPCC, PCC, CTPC) & Mental Trainer. I help performers in sport, career and life to maximize their success and feel good in the process.

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