And how does coaching actually work?
I am often asked these two questions, because unfortunately the term “coaching” is now being used in such an inflationary way that one gets the impression that there are only coaches left in the world, and for pretty much every topic.
First of all, the word coach literally means “trainer”. Also an English term that can mean many things from “educator” to “tamer”. In sports this is more obvious. Someone with certain abilities and motivation, which is promising for a certain sport, is accompanied step by step by coaches, i.e. trainers, through well-dosed exercises that build on one another, until the highest possible potential is reached. It’s about discovering, awakening, motivating, often driving. In sports training, it can happen that specific, physical exercises are necessary to make skills possible that were previously undiscovered or immature. Training plans are developed together to “train” someone towards a goal, i.e. to train them, or it can sometimes mean switching to another sport because the better skills have been worked out for it. But what about coaching outside of sports topics?
Coaching is not training
A coaching process extends over a few weeks and months. A professional support over years and decades would be better described as “mentoring”. In the coaching process, so-called “interventions” come into play in the coaching sessions. These are tools, exercises, suggestions, proposals of which well-trained coaches have mastered and offer a large repertoire. From these, they carefully select, in agreement with the coachees, which ones are suitable, appropriate and pleasant. This requires feel for the intensity, speed and direction from which coachees can and want to approach a topic step by step. That depends on the individual temperament, character, current state of mind, individual experience, phase of life, existing energy level and much more, which serious coaches keep in mind and discuss openly with the coachees. Ideally, the interventions have resulted in new insights, a previously unused ability, and a new motivation. These now open up possibilities for alternative courses of action, which now want to be tried out and practiced independently, without the coach. Therefore, it is agreed together what will be tried out and practiced by the coachees themselves in everyday life, in encounters with others, in the time until the next coaching session. The experiences from this are processed at the beginning of the next coaching session and form the basis for the next step in the process.
Coachees “train” themselves in their everyday lives, in their environment, which new ways of acting and thinking bring them closer to the desired goal and which do not. Coaches are not there in everyday life and when trying out and practicing. This is precisely why the careful development of alternative courses of action and the joint, responsible planning of the coaching process steps are required.
Coaching is not advice
Reputable coaches very carefully differentiate between consulting and coaching and keep a keen eye on the separation of the two fields of activity.
The subject matter expert for the specific topic is the person to be coached. Coachees, i.e. the person to be coached, bring most of the knowledge about the specific situation with them. In the professional environment, for example, that would be the manager. Without their expertise, this person would probably not be in this position in the first place. It doesn’t do any harm if, for example, executive coaches also have management experience themselves or maybe even worked in the same industry or in the same specialist area. But the task of coaching is not to pass on specialist knowledge. Otherwise they could only ever coach people who are doing or experiencing exactly the same thing.
The real technical expertise of well-trained coaches is to awaken the potential in the coachees, i.e. the clients, and to accompany them at a suitable pace, with targeted so-called interventions, step by step from a specific situation to the desired goals, regardless of which one expertise or internal knowledge about this situation, they go into coaching.
Should it happen that something is not available in the specialist knowledge, reputable coaches will always first discuss with the coachee whether briefly leaving the coach role and advice on this specific point is now desired. This is extremely important in order to maintain an equal footing and under no circumstances to create an “apprenticeship relationship” that would impair the coaching process
Coaching is not therapy
Serious coaches are very well trained to recognize in the preliminary talk whether a topic or a desired goal is suitable for coaching, or whether it is a situation or a goal for which psychotherapy would be a more suitable, sometimes even necessary, means. Because pure coaches are not psychotherapists, are neither trained nor legally authorized to do so, they also bear the responsibility for making a very clear distinction here and not exceeding their competencies.
In the coaching process, it can happen that deep-seated topics that need to be treated psychotherapeutically arise on the edge of the area to be coached, and here responsible coaches will always raise their hands and point out that this cannot and must not be part of the coaching process. Certified coaches are therefore, like psychotherapists, under supervision and regularly discuss their cases and procedures with experienced supervisors in order to avoid that topics to be treated psychotherapeutically slip accidentally into the sphere of action of the coaching.
Coaching is very pragmatic and related to the present, which is why it works so quickly and without digging deep into deep-seated or long-ago issues. Coaching focuses on the “here and now”. That is why many coachees find it so pleasant and they perceive it as very helpful to be able to act directly and without having to work through issues from the past, to be able to act with their own existing resources and to free themselves from a situation or to achieve a goal.
Different types of coaching
Coaching can take many forms. Executive coaching, for example, helps people who lead other people in a professional context to recognize themselves as working in the system and to discover how the system around them affects them. Through insights and conclusions, you can develop into the leader you want to be.
Coaching in personality development helps to overcome hurdles, to break down ingrained behavior and reaction patterns in order to develop alternatives. In this way, people can develop according to their phase of life, their roles and their goals in such a way that satisfaction, inner balance, motivation and a beneficial way of dealing with themselves and with the outside world, perhaps after events or changes in life, become possible again.
Business coaching can improve the cooperation of organizations that are supposed to pursue corporate goals together, produce more productivity, motivation and efficiency, because subliminal assumptions, attitudes, conflicts and blockages can be uncovered, recognized and broken down in a targeted manner. In this way, a completely different climate can be created in the organization and each individual can contribute their valuable resources optimally and for the benefit of the common goals.
In team coaching, for example, it can be about accompanying people in newly acquired team roles so that they can use their abilities well together and optimally and can more easily shed behavior patterns that are no longer helpful from old roles.
Topics and areas of coaching are very different and coaches, on the other hand, look for the appropriate environment and specialist area based on their special skills and inclinations. Not every coach can coach everything equally well, which is why it is so important to take a look at your own personality in serious training.
Different types of coaches
Careful training, certification or regular supervision and further training are not included everywhere that says „Coach“. Not everyone who passes on specialist knowledge, who advises or trains people in a particular field, is also a certified coach. Short-term crash courses in coaching can convey the basics, but they cannot examine the personalities of the coaches themselves in such a way that their own, unprocessed topics or wrong motivations can under no circumstances harm a serious coaching process and the coachees. When selecting applicants, certified training institutions pay attention to personal suitability, useful previous experience and a CV. Umbrella organizations, such as the German Federal Business Coaching Association DBVC, attach great importance to the fact that the training of coaches meets the highest quality standards and the latest scientific findings and pay attention to regular supervision and further training of certified coaches.