What is the purpose of coaching?
It’s funny how things turn up in life, and quite quickly we take them for granted. New technologies, advanced ways of travel, new business practices. And often, after an initial bit of confusion, we act as if they were always there. Take marketing. Not around until the 60s, but now it’s an assumption that every business will do it. Coaching fits into this category. No one was talking about coaching 20 years ago, yet now there is an assumption that we all know the ins and outs of coaching. So, let’s take this blog as an opportunity to stand back and look at the purpose of coaching……
We can probably date the coaching approach of raising awareness through questioning back to Socrates and his debates. The first found use of the word coaching is in the early 19th century, when “coaches” figuratively carried students through their Oxford exams. The word coach was used with reference to the horse drawn coach that carried people on journeys.
The recent origins of coaching can be found in the self-help groups in California in the 60s. The early practitioners of coaching tended to come from that source. In the 70s writers such as Timothy Gallway (The inner game of tennis) formalised a process. He and others supported the development of the individual by having them listen to themselves.
Coaching: tribute to therapy and sports
Most coaches are at pains to point out that coaching is not the same as therapy. Therapy is often concerned with the past whereas coaching is concerned with the past and the future. Or so the explanation goes. But without therapy, coaching in its current form probably wouldn’t have developed. The idea of two people sitting in a room, with one talking and the other listening, clearly has its roots in therapy. It doesn’t mean coaches have to be therapists, though!
Also, coaches can be grateful for the contribution from sports. Sports coaches are more like teachers, trainers, or mentors, as they offer instruction, information, correction. But they do have some similarities to executive or life coaches. Both types of coach believe in the endless potential of the individual and provide opportunities for improvement.
Purpose of coaching
Now that we’ve outlined some of the back story of coaching, let’s look at what coaching is setting out to achieve. We could probably write a list of 50 different purposes, so let’s bring out the main ones:
- Make changes: without changing something, coaching isn’t effective. It can be a change of view, idea, or of action – all are equally valid.
- Seeing potential: coaching has a huge power to help people see hidden strengths and possibilities for themselves. These may not be evident to them without engaging in the coaching process.
- Taking control: coaching helps people to have more control in the direction that work, relationships and life can go.
- Creating space: the simple act of being listened to, not interrupted nor judged, is a rare thing. It is one that many coachees report as the most useful aspect of the coaching experience.
- Overcoming challenges: the standard reason that people come to coaching is to work on an obstacle, blockage, difficulty or struggle.
- Working on strengths: coaching isn’t just for problems and challenges, though! Many high performing and well-rounded individuals use coaching. They see it as a way of developing the good things in their lives and careers, even further.
All coaches have stories and case studies about how their coachees have grown, developed and changed during the coaching experience.
Coaching is not a “done to you” process, but a partnership. The International Coach Federation describes coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” This summarizes the purpose of coaching. It helps us to understand what it is, what it’s for, and how to explain it to others.
Happy coaching !
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