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Dispelling common myths about coaching

What really is coaching and why do people get it mixed up with other helping strategies?

When I meet a potential client for the first time, I always ask them how they would define coaching and what they think coaching is about. One thing I have realised is that a lot of people aren't sure what coaching is, and consequently are unclear on the benefits they will get from it.

We live in an advice-giving world. We are born and our parents tell us what to do; we go to school and our teachers tell us what to do; we come into the workplace and many of our managers and leaders tell us what to do and lead through advice. We are wired to be rewarded and promoted for being the solution maker and chief problem solver. When someone reaches out for help via coaching when they are stuck, it’s not surprising that many assume the role of the coach is to provide ready-made answers, serving up the magical silver bullet.

There are other misconceptions I often encounter when embarking on a new coaching relationship.

Coaching is only for underperformers:

Myth: Coaching is often seen as a remedial tool for employees who are struggling. In reality, coaching can benefit high-performing individuals as well, helping them to continually improve, unlock their potential and reach new levels of excellence.

Coaching is the same as mentoring:

Myth: While coaching and mentoring share some similarities, they are distinct concepts. Coaches don't necessarily need to have direct experience in the coachee's field. The focus is on helping the individual discover their own solutions, whereas mentoring involves a more experienced individual guiding a less experienced one based on their in-depth knowledge and expertise.

Coaching is the same as giving advice:

Myth: Coaching is more about asking powerful questions, active listening, and guiding individuals to find their own solutions. It's not about telling them what to do, but rather empowering them to make informed decisions.

Coaching is too time-consuming:

Myth: Effective coaching doesn't necessarily require lengthy sessions. Short, focused coaching interactions can have a significant impact. It's about quality and relevance rather than quantity.

Coaching isn’t going to be right for every situation. For example, if you are a newly promoted manager and looking for support to develop tactic competencies on managing absence, a structured learning programme is likely to be more helpful in the first instance. In situations of acute distress, mental health concerns, or urgent performance issues, other support mechanisms, such as counselling or therapy, may be more suitable interventions.

If you’re still a little unsure of what coaching is and whether it’s something you could benefit from, here are a few of the reasons why people seek it out.

Clarifying goals and aspirations:

Coaches work with individuals to clarify their goals and aspirations, both short-term and long-term. By defining clear objectives, individuals can better direct their efforts and focus on what truly matters to them.

Self-Discovery and Awareness:

Coaches facilitate self-discovery by helping individuals explore their values, strengths, beliefs and motivations. I often describe it as holding up a mirror in a way clients can see themselves, their interpretations, judgements and choices in different ways. Increased self-awareness enables individuals to make informed decisions aligned with their authentic selves.

Overcoming Challenges:

Individuals often seek coaching when facing challenges or obstacles in their professional lives. Coaches provide support and facilitate individuals to navigate difficulties, explore their challenges and find effective solutions.

Accountability and Commitment:

Coaches hold individuals accountable for their goals and commitments. Regular coaching sessions provide a structured space for reflection, celebration of achievements, assessment of progress, and adjustments to enable individuals to stay on track.

Confidence Building:

Coaching helps individuals identify and overcome limiting beliefs or barriers that may be holding them back. By challenging and reframing negative thought patterns, individuals can build confidence and pursue goals with greater determination. Developing a positive mindset is a common outcome of the coaching process.

Continuous Learning and Growth:

Coaching fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth. Individuals who seek coaching are often committed to ongoing self-improvement, learning and adapting to new opportunities and challenges. Coaching also encourages individuals to develop resilience and adaptability in the face of setbacks and changing circumstances.

There are many benefits to coaching. However, the key to success lies with the strength of the relationship between coach and coachee. It's a dynamic interplay of trust, open communication, empathy, and collaboration — a shared commitment to growth that forms the foundation of every successful coaching journey.

For me, the joy of coaching comes not from handing out ready-made solutions but from illuminating the path for individuals to discover their own answers. What I most enjoy are those moments of self-discovery where someone realises the extent of their strengths and vastness of their possibilities.


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