Busting the Coaching Myths

Source/s: International Coach Federation www.coachfederation.org

In a popular reality TV talk show, the advice of a putative “life coach” was sought on certain issues affecting parties in dispute….In church, a spiritual leader was referred to by the congregation as “coach”….In the corporate, a subject matter expert (SME) was regarded as “coach” by his colleagues. Coaching, as a profession, is flourishing globally with the ubiquitous training companies offering courses on how to become a coach. But what does it really take to become a true-blue, honest-to-goodness “COACH”? What skills do coaches have to possess or what kind of training does a person have to undergo so he would be considered “worthy” of this appellation?

As coaching is the most used (and abused) intervention nowadays and the title, “coach” is used very loosely, it’s about time that these terms be given clear, accurate and scholarly definitions. Needless to say, coaching deserves a higher degree of respect as it is a very powerful instrument in effecting positive behavior in people. In order to do that, one must first be purged of a hodgepodge of misconceptions on what coaching (or who a coach) really IS and what it is NOT.

COACHING MYTH # 1: Coaching focuses on resolving difficulties or pains that occurred from the past that hinder an individual’s productivity at present.

FACT: Coaching is not PAST but FUTURE ORIENTED. As such, a coaching engagement typically deals with the coachee’s aspirations, plan of action, accountability and follow through. A coach DOES NOT dig into the past and attempt to delve into specific details that may be a distant or proximate cause of certain circumstances. He does not even allow himself to give his own conclusions on what may have triggered a certain chain of events. He recognizes the coachee’s past but does not dwell on it. Instead, the coach moves the coachee forward.
Coaching supports personal and professional growth based on self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. The primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific future goals in one’s work or personal life.

COACHING MYTH # 2: The coach is a subject matter expert and his expertise or experience is relied on in giving advice to the coachee.

FACT: Expertise or experience is not an essential or absolute condition in order that a person can become an effective coach. In fact, if expertise or experience is relied on, there might be a tendency for the coach to prescribe solutions based on his own knowledge or his own values system, which is a contradiction of the basic principle of coaching. Coaching emphasizes on the coachee’s personal values as a basis for making his own decisions. The beauty of coaching lies in the fact that it recognizes that individuals are inherently intelligent, creative and capable of generating their own ideas and solutions. It supports the generally-accepted fact that people are in charge of their own lives or decisions.
The role of a coach is to supply supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks that will help the individual define, set and reach his own objectives. As such, this intervention leads to greater accountability and buy-in.

COACHING MYTH # 3: Coaching is a process of determining the root cause of a problem.

FACT: Coaching is never a root cause process. When you ask “Why did this happen?”, you focus on the problem and this often leads to blame, excuses and justifications, putting a coachee in a defensive mode. Coaching is not an investigation of what happened in the past. It does not indulge in an unnecessary effort to deep-dive into what caused the problem; because even if the root cause is indeed identified, there is a possibility of limiting the coachee to only a single perspective for a certain situation. Coaching is about possibilities. The solution may not necessarily come from addressing a root cause that was identified. The solution may be about starting something new and different which has nothing to do with what caused the problem. When a coachee is not fixated on a root cause, he will begin to explore unchartered territories and come up with better, more creative solutions. And a solutions-focused conversation is oftentimes more energizing, empowering and engaging.

COACHING MYTH # 4: Coaching is best used for individuals who are poorly performing.

FACT: While coaching is an intervention that may be helpful when there are challenging situations that needed to be dealt with such as a gap in knowledge, skills or results or ambiguity in decisions to take or options to make, it should not be misconstrued as corrective or punitive in nature. Instead, it must be appreciated as a means to spark an initiative, open an individual to various possibilities and inspire him to unleash his innermost potential. Coaching primarily focuses on cases where something exciting or important is at stake, when teams desire to accelerate results, when successful behavior needs to be reinforced, core strengths to be identified and leveraged on. In fact, most companies use coaching to accelerate the development of their high potential talents.

COACHING MYTH # 5: Coaching, especially life coaching, is the same as counselling, therapy and other psychological interventions.

FACT: While coaching may be a good fit for psychologists, it is a different discipline requiring skill sets appropriate for a specific type of client population. Coaching is for people who are very functional, emotionally healthy clients but want to achieve their full potential. Clients who seek coaching are not those with a dysfunction or because they are in emotional pain. Hence, the focus is on the present and the future. Coaching clients are helped to determine aspirations, set future goals and are guided to create a path and a strategy for achieving them. “Therapy is about healing; it is about uncovering and recovering, while coaching is about discovering”, says Dr. Patrick Williams, a psychologist for over 30 years who added coaching into his array of services in 1990’s and is considered one of the pioneers of coaching. Counseling and therapy examine the past, often seek diagnosis, and look for solutions to emotional concerns. They focus on moving people from a state of dysfunction to one of being functional.
In understanding what coaching is and what it is not, how the process should be conducted and how to acquire the right competencies to become a “credentialed coach”, there is no better way than to achieve all of these through proper training, specifically an International Coach Federation (ICF)-approved program. ICF is the largest professional organization of coaches worldwide, with 20,000+ members and 15,000 credentialed coaches in more than 100 countries. For two decades now, the ICF has committed to a serious study and development of the coaching profession. To ensure quality training, the ICF accredits coach-training programs that meet its high standards. The ICF is a globally recognized industry leader that gives those who desire to pursue the coaching profession the credibility and competitive edge. With an ICF credential, coaches acquire not only the required knowledge and proficiency, but also a deep commitment to high professional standards and a strong code of ethics.