Coach vs. coach


Recently I saw an article written by another Career Coach (like me) that was posted on LinkedIn. I was amazed at the differences in approach between his definition of the coach role and mine.  In fact, his focus on careers was almost 180 degrees different than mine.

His lead paragraph was “A coach provides the strategy, tactics and best practices to quickly and successfully achieve the desired results in a rapidly changing and competitive environment.”

This got me thinking about how different that is from the style of coaching that I employ.

The word “coach” can mean a different thing in different circumstances.  A world class athletes employ a coach who knows specific details of the sport.  The coach is expected to fine tune the athlete’s technique or build a workout program that fits the athlete’s needs.  While they may also deal with the mental aspects of the sport, often that is secondary or focused more on trying to prepare the athlete for specific situations. In fact, many athletes use a different coach for the mental aspects of their sport.  But a coach for the local pee wee baseball is simply trying to teach the fundamentals of sports to the children.  Same job title, different role.

Let me give you a different kind of example.  A “manager” at a McDonald’s or Taco Bell or a call center has to provide a certain set of management.  They will need to focus on the most basic of skills – scheduling shifts, getting workers to work on time, basic customer service, micro managing the day-to-day operations.  Contrast that with a “manager” who is managing a group of engineers or financial analysts or salespeople.  This role requires a totally different set of skills.  Here the manager is guiding the department towards a goal.  Most of the work needs to be left up to the creativity and knowledge of the people working for the manager.  Imagine if those managers micro managed or scheduled people’s hours.  Having been in a position where that happened, I know it is not fun and rarely leads to optimal results.

So, we can have different roles for the same position depending on the needs of the “client”.

Later on in the article I noted above, the author writes, “the Coach – someone who knows “the ropes” and is qualified to help guide and train you.”  This person is very focused as a Career Coach on assisting the individual in getting interviews for the right job.  They want to help the person write the optimal resume, learn how to brand themselves on Linked In and position themselves for the right network.  All very worthy goals.   It fits for a select type of client.  The framework of the relationship is that the coach is the expert on the process and techniques.  The client is there to be guided by the coach for a specific outcome – the best job.

The coaching I learned and I practice revolves around the client.  The coach and the client are co-equals in the relationship.  The fundamental principle is that the client is the expert – about themselves.  The emphasis of the coach is in helping the client build awareness around their current circumstance.  It is helping the client reach some awareness (maybe an “ah, ha” moment) about themselves.  Once that awareness happens, then the change required to explore careers can happen.  The client takes action (including initiating changes) based on their new knowledge, not because the coach has a proven system they impose.  Change cannot occur until the individual fully understands their present situation. The coach is not “providing strategy and tactics”.

Both models work.  Both can be accurately described as “career coaches” (just like we have a lot of different “managers” that are appropriate to the individual circumstances).  But the techniques are very different.

My point is that any of the coaching models is viable for a person, depending on their circumstances.  But is is my belief that change can only come from you.  The coach can only help you become aware of you.



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