The International Coach Federation (ICF) has defined professional coaching as follows:
Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.”
The Client-Coach Partnership
As a coach, you “partner” with your client in the most literal sense of the word. Yes, you know more “stuff” about your area of expertise. That’s fine and the way it’s supposed to be. But you don’t know more “stuff” about your client than he or she does. And so coaching only works when both parties form a genuine partnership built on mutual sharing, collaboration and cooperation. This is of particular importance and sometimes difficult to do when you think you have the solutions and answers for your client.
So what do professional coaches do? They provide an ongoing partnership that helps their clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Ultimately, coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.
And how do they do it? Coaches listen and customize their approach to individual client needs. They believe that their job is to support their client to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that they already have; the true embodiment of “empowerment.”
In short, coaches:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve;
- Encourage client self-discovery;
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; and
- Hold the client responsible and accountable for actions and results.
Basic Coaching Skills
As a therapist, counselor, educator or consultant you might need to know a lot about a problem- what causes it, strategies for treating it, etc. As a coach, believe it or not, you don’t need to be an expert in the focus of the coaching, you just need to apply your coaching skills expertly. For example, you don’t need to know how to build a house to coach a building contractor who wants to build better houses. Your client will teach you everything you need to know about their problem and solution as you are coaching them.
Here are 12 basic coaching skills that you’ll use and re-use with your clients:
- Accountability; obtaining commitment to action items that your client chooses, and holding the client responsible for their results.
- Accentuating the positive; highlighting strengths, cheerleading accomplishments, and helping your client stay optimistic and focused on goals and solutions.
- Challenging; requesting that your client stretch beyond their self-imposed limits.
- Clarifying; questioning, reframing, articulating what’s going on.
- Designing the alliance; assisting your client to take responsibility by deciding the form of support most beneficial to them. In therapy, the therapist usually designs the alliance, in coaching the client does.
- Forwarding the action; using a variety of skills to move the client a step forward toward their goal.
- Holding the client’s agenda; probably the most important and distinctive coaching skill. As a coach, you become almost invisible and without judgment, opinion or answers, which allows your client to access their own answers.
- Holding the focus; assisting your client to keep on-track when distracted by feelings, circumstances, etc.
- Maintaining an Attitude of Inquiry; curious, supportive, positive, non-judgmental.
- Powerful questions; an open-ended question that evokes clarity, deepens learning, and propels action.
- Requesting; forwarding the action by making a request based upon your client’s agenda.
- Reflective listening; providing a mirror to help your client increase insight, understanding, and clarity.
Coaching is a positive, empowering and highly effective way to help others achieve their most important life, relationship, and business goals. Being a Professional Coach is the best and most fulfilling way to make a living you can imagine!
If you’re a therapist, clinician, or other helping professional attracted to coaching for expanding your practice by working with more functional, private pay clients, coaching might be a good fit for you as many of your colleagues have found.