Welcome back to my blog series on coaching. So far, I’ve described what coaching is and what the work of coaching entails and what actually happens during an engagement. In this article, I’ll dive into some of the distinctions about coaching that make it such a unique method for development.

As a way of kicking off this topic, I want to share this quote from Douglas Riddle at the Center for Creative Leadership.

This snippet is a wonderful description of the fullest potential of what coaching aspires to do and how it does so by fundamentally returning to the idea of the “radical competence of each person.” Underneath this headline are more nuanced distinctions as well. Let’s explore a few…

Coaching is Client-led

In coaching, clients are the experts on their own work, lives, and relationships. So we keep the client in front and driving the direction of the conversation and the coaching. Every coaching conversation should be of highest and best use to the client. This creates shared responsibility between coach and client for making the engagement successful, and it also means that clients can expect a highly personalized, highly impactful experience.

Coaches Have Unconditional Positive Regard for Clients

I always tell the client that we are on their side, cheering them on. This doesn’t mean we don’t invite self-reflection, ownership of opportunities, and occasionally challenge their thinking or behavior around a topic; it’s just that everything comes from a place of believing clients are fundamentally good people, worthy of our respect. This creates a safe place for clients to be vulnerable.

Clients are Whole, Resourceful, and Perfectly Situated to Lead Their Own Development

Closely related to the above two points and the idea of “radical competence,” coaches hold the belief that clients have everything they need already – there’s nothing missing. Coaches act as a thought and accountability partner, but clients are doing the work and are eminently qualified to do so. This creates conditions for clients to own their journey, lean into their growing edges, and leave their comfort zones for new territory.

Coaching is Holistic

All coaching has a starting place which varies (work, life, health, relationships, etc.) but we believe the domains of life are inherently interconnected and to focus on one to the exclusion of the others is short-sighted. We are as attentive to the interior life of the client – emotional, spiritual, somatic – as we are to the concrete results they achieve.  We care about clients as a person, not just as a worker or a leader. This means that clients can expect to go broad and deep in working on their challenges, considering many angles and reflecting on their own current and desired experience of life.

Context Matters

Because coaching is client-led and so highly customized, we are keenly interested in context as well. This includes organizational, cultural, and other systemic context. Nobody is leading and living in a vacuum, and the circumstances and dynamics a client faces are highly relevant to the choices they make for how to think and what to do. Coaching helps clients stand back and gain some objectivity around their context which makes the work more effective.

As you can see, coaching is based on important philosophical principles that help make coaching a wonderful and powerful support. I hope the distinctions that I have outlined above give you a better understanding of what to expect if you engage in coaching. Reach out to me to schedule a call to learn more about what coaching can do for you.