How does coaching compare to other disciplines and what is it?
Today my new business coach & mentor described a continuum to me, asking me which styles on this continuum I most wanted the basis of our working relationship to be. At one end he described it would be teaching all the way to the other end of the continuum where he chose to put spiritual direction. I thought this continuum was such a helpful tool to explain where coaching fits and how it is different.
Teaching – Consulting – Mentoring – Coaching – Spiritual Direction
So many people ask, ‘what exactly is coaching?’ Let’s take a look at it in comparison to other disciplines.
At one end of the scale you have teaching, which is as we all know transferring knowledge or skills to someone about something that the teacher knows well and could be considered an expert in. The next stage would be that of consulting. This is where you ‘consult’, typically with organizational leaders, define what their problems are and then offer suggestions and solutions to solve their problem based on expertise and knowledge that you have. They may or may not know what their problems are or where they desire help. A consultant will pick up on obvious issues and may highlight areas that are unseen, offering solutions and strategies to fix problems and improve efficiency. Consultants will sometimes work with the organisation to deliver these solutions or sometimes will leave them to implement the solutions themselves, perhaps checking back in the future to evaluate progress.
Next along the scale is mentoring, which is focused on developing the person being mentored. The ‘mentee’ often chooses what they are being mentored about, the ‘topic’. The mentor generally will guide the mentee in a topic where the mentor is knowledgeable or has experience. The mentor may ask questions about particular areas the person needs help with, where they may have gaps in their knowledge or skills and will offer up their own experience and strategies to help the mentee. The mentor may come with a pre-created agenda and structure to lead the mentee through their learning. The mentee gets the benefit of the mentor’s experience and personally tried solutions that have worked for the mentor. The mentee can ‘borrow’ these solutions and try them on for size, often helping the mentee to cut corners and move forward faster by gaining the benefit of someone else’s experience.
Then you have coaching. Coaching works on the agenda or topics provided by the coachee. Whatever topic the coachee provides is coached. The coach facilitates a conversation which helps create deeper awareness of the topic and anything else outside that topic that may show up will be explored. . The coach is facilitating a deep process of discovery and change where answers, revelation and new strategies to move forwards come from the coachee not the coach. Unlike teaching, consulting or mentoring, a coach does not need to be an expert in whatever topic the coachee presents. The coach is an expert in facilitation.
A coaching relationship serves to build self-awareness and facilitate positive change for the coachee holistically for their whole life and work, including their values, desires, purpose, identity, goals and much more. As well as building more awareness a coach will move a coachee forward past obstacles helping them to meet their goals. A skilled coach will also, challenge and move a coachee forwards into living out a life that’s congruent with their values, desires and greatest potential.
It’s a different type of relationship where both parties have power; the coachee gets to choose which outcomes, solutions, and actions are taken. Coach may suggest things occasionally, but will do so only in a way that gives full permission for the coachee to accept or reject this idea, making their own decision. A skilled coach will draw out new strategies, ideas, vision, revelation and insight from a coachee that the coachee never knew they had in them.
As an expert facilitator, a skilled coach will create an environment, without actually saying the words, which grants full permission to the coachee to explore areas of their life, work, relationships and their spiritual journey that may never have been explored. The coach will deepen learning; create stronger understanding, purpose and passion. A skilled coach will send a coachee away with insights about themselves and their vision that deeply resonate with their heart, but that they may have never been able to express before. The coachee will be highly motivated to complete actions as they have complete ownership over the actions because the coachee themselves thought up the actions. Coach offers accountability, as well as challenging coachee to go further, championing them to step into more of the potential that is uncovered in coaching sessions.
It is unusual for people to experience this type of relationship elsewhere, so often they ask coaches for their opinion and want the coach to tell them the answer. A good coach, will offer just enough of themselves and their opinion that will build trust, connection and understanding in the relationship, without it turning into a mentoring relationship.
There are dozens of coaching skills used to facilitate this type of conversation. To name but a few: active listening, asking open questions, reflecting and articulating back to the coachee, using intuition to uncover deeper issues to explore, ‘dancing in the moment’, values identification, calling forth, identifying and reversing limiting beliefs, visualization, metaphor, envisioning, life purpose statements, holding focus, smart goal setting…and the list goes on.
The other discipline listed was spiritual direction, which is solely focused on helping someone to develop, deepen and forward their personal relationship with God. The style used here is very much facilitative like coaching, but the focus is purely on the spiritual.
(As defined by the Unique Destiny Coaching 5-phased Model)
Kingdom Coaching, adds a spiritual dimension into the coaching process. It brings the Holy Spirit more into the conversation and exploratory process. For example, when exploring a particular goal, issue, desire, value, or life experience, a kingdom coach may sense something via the spirit and will explore that too as part of the conversation. They may also take the coachee into a mini encounter directly linking them to God in the moment, (if the coachee is game). They may ask them to hear from God, ask questions from Him, and listen to Holy Spirit’s input or questions. This adds a dynamic spirit led twist to the coaching and often brings powerful supernatural breakthrough where an ordinary coaching process may not have reached. Kingdom coaching also uses, coaching tools which may have a Biblical basis, and will assume a set of Christian values, which suits Christians and can easily be adapted for use with people who may not be committed Christians.