Life coaching, executive coaching, leadership development coaching. There’s so many terms these days and it’s hard to know exactly what type of coaching is right for you. In this guide, we explore exactly what coaching is and what the different styles of coaching are. We also explore how to tell if you want to work with a coach versus a therapist, mentor or consultant.
What is coaching?
First things first, what is coaching? According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), coaching is defined as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Sounds pretty great, right? But, what does that actually mean for those of us unfamiliar with the coaching world?
At Created with Confidence, we define coaching as an iterative process. We think it should be defined by both the coach and coachee in order to serve the coachee’s goals. In other words, the coachee (you!) are empowered to decide exactly where you want to go. It’s the coaches job to help you design a path to get there.
What coaching isn’t
Sometimes it’s easier to define what something is by defining what it is not. Coaching is not therapy, advice giving, mentorship or counseling. While a coach can sometimes offer to share their personal experience, if it’s applicable to the situation, a coach should always ask for your permission before doing this.
Additionally, if a coach is specifically experienced in an area that you’re interested in – e.g. working in technology, and you’d like them to mentor you in that specific area, just ask. Most coaches are open to offering mentorship where appropriate. However, it’s important to set up clear expectations and goals around the mentorship. This way, both you and your coach know what to expect from the conversation.
Coaching vs. therapy
If you’ve never seen a therapist and you’re wondering whether coaching or therapy are the right next step, read on. According to Psychology Today, “psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or usually just ‘therapy,’ is a form of treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems.” Therapy is done by a licensed practitioner who is trained to diagnose emotional problems. They also help clients to heal and explore the underlying causes of these issues.
Coaches are not trained to diagnose or heal. It is also not their focus to look at emotional issues or the reason why these issues may be occurring. While emotion is often present in coaching sessions, a coach is meant to help you acknowledge and move past your emotions. In so doing, they can help you make more informed choices and take your desired action.
Coaching vs. mentoring
As mentioned briefly above, coaching is not mentoring though sometimes a coach can play both roles. While a mentor is someone with a lot of experience in a certain area, coaches do not need to be specialized in order to be effective. Since the goal of coaching is for you to look inside of yourself for answers, a coach uses their coaching skills to ask questions. They also help guide the conversation rather than giving you answers or advice based on their lived experience. In fact, a coach with lots of experience in a particular area may be more difficult to work with. This is because the coach could have the tendency to get drawn into the details of the content rather than remaining objective for you to form your own conclusions.
That said, many coaches with specialties can be helpful when you’re looking for information quickly. For example, if you’re wanting to move into a different field, you may look to hire a coach with expertise in that industry. Just make sure to set up these expectations with your coach from the start. What percentage of the time do you want them to play mentor vs. coach? Would you like them to ask you each time they switch into a mentor role and share their personal experience? You may also want to have a conversation with your coach about how attached they are to the advice they give you. Good coaches are willing to offer their suggestions without needing to be “right” or pressure you into taking their advice.
Another key difference between coaching and mentoring is the power dynamics of the relationship. Because the mentor is more experienced, they play a teaching role and therefore have a “higher” rank than the mentee. In coaching, both the coach and coachee are peers working together for the benefit of the coachee. The coachee doesn’t need to grant power to the coach as they do with a mentor. Instead, the coach and coachee both grant power to the coaching relationship. This is what allows both parties to stay on an equal level.
Coaching vs. consulting
Similar to mentoring, in a consulting relationship, the power rests with the consultant. A consultant is often an experienced and skilled authority in a particular area. Additionally, the client hires the consultant to achieve a specific outcome. An example is when a company hires a consultant to set up a certain software or system for their business. Most consulting agreements are contracted for a set period of time and will discontinue once the outcome is achieved.
The different styles of coaching
Now that it’s clear what coaching is and is not, what about all of the different types of coaching that exist? Below, we’ll explore the top 5 most popular forms of coaching. We’ll also look at what to expect from working with each type of coach.
- Executive coach
When many people hear “executive coach,” they think this person only works with members of the c-suite. While this can sometimes be true, many executive coaches work with leaders of all types from business owners to directors or VPs. This style of coaching is typically focused on issues within the workplace and how to improve team synergy, performance and organizational change.
- Life coach
Life coaching is a broad term for someone who works with clients to help achieve fulfillment in their lives. Most coaches (regardless of what they call themselves) are going to ensure that fulfillment is top of mind.
- Career coach
A career coach is someone who is focused on helping you to grow and succeed in your career. This could look like helping you to navigate your current organization in order to get a promotion. Additionally, it could look like helping you to start your own business or figure out a next step when you feel stuck in your career.
- Personal development coach
This style of coaching is holistic (similar to life coaching), in that it looks at all aspects of your life. The goal is to help you to create a fulfilling and happy life. There is a specific emphasis on giving you the tools you need in order to feel more confident, resilient and break free from old patterns that may be standing in your way.
- Wellness coach
Wellness coaching focuses on all aspects of your mind, body and spirit in order to live an integrated, aligned life. This style improves overall wellbeing and helps you to create a more balanced life.
How do I know which style is right for me?
Specialized coaching is great if you’re looking for something specific. It is also a good choice if you don’t have any interest in exploring other topics right now. For example, you may be looking to switch careers and want to work with someone who specializes in helping people with this transition.
If you’re curious about several aspects of your life; however, we recommend working with a holistic coach. This person can work with you on many different topics as you grow and develop. In our experience, many people start with one area of their life and quickly realize they see that same behavior showing up in other areas. Working with one coach can help you to save time and energy as the relationship develops. A holistic coach will be able to spot patterns in multiple areas of your life and help you to achieve your goals faster as a result.
Additionally, working with a holistic coach means that you can form a longer-term relationship with a coach. Instead of needing to find multiple people to work with you throughout your journey, a holistic coach can be your partner through many transitions.
At Created with Confidence, we believe in a holistic approach that adapts based on the client’s needs and where they’re at in their life. A client that we may start working with on their career could transition into more of a wellness focus as time goes on and their priorities shift.
Regardless of the coach you choose, coaching is a transformative and powerful experience for anyone curious about where their lives can take them.
Summer is a coach, writer, speaker and the founder of Created with Confidence. When she’s not working with clients or spending time outdoors, her favorite thing is helping ambitious humans succeed in following their dreams.
+ Leave a comment