'Life' or Personal Coaching is everywhere! You can't open a magazine or turn on the telly without seeing reference to 'Coaching' in all its guises. Be it which celeb is seeing a 'Life Coach' to help them with their addiction, or on the latest sitcom in which the protagonist visits a 'Life Coach', often resulting in a hilarious parody of the stereotypical American-style, crystal-healing, chakra-realigning, saccharine-sweet, larger-than-life personality (in a recent programme, the voluptuous 'Life Coach' sat on the leading character's face so that she could experience rebirth).

‘Life’ or Personal Coaching is everywhere! You can’t open a magazine or turn on the telly without seeing reference to ‘Coaching’ in all its guises. Be it which celeb is seeing a ‘Life Coach’ to help them with their addiction, or on the latest sitcom in which the protagonist visits a ‘Life Coach’, often resulting in a hilarious parody of the stereotypical American-style, crystal-healing, chakra-realigning, saccharine-sweet, larger-than-life personality (in a recent programme, the voluptuous ‘Life Coach’ sat on the leading character’s face so that she could experience rebirth).

There are a plethora of similar misconceptions about the coaching industry. A recent Harvard Business Review reports that coaching is a $1 billion a year industry and a 2014 study of the professional coaching industry by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), found that coaching was used by three quarters of organisations surveyed and that an additional 12% plan on introducing this next year. Coaching is clearly popular, but what does a professional coach do and why are so many businesses and individuals using them for everything from de-cluttering their homes and finding the perfect partner to increasing profits/turnover and improving the effectiveness of their teams.

So, what is a coach?

You’ll see a variety of alternative terms bandied about – life coach, personal coach, performance coach, executive coach, confidence coach etc. – essentially they all share the same skills and techniques and have the same role to play.

Myles Downey, author of ‘Effective Coaching’ suggests that coaching is:
‘The art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another’

Sir John Whitmore, author of ‘Coaching for Performance’ states that coaching is concerned with:
‘Unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them’

The Association for Coaching cite Australian Coach and Academic, Dr Anthony Grant whose definition of coaching is:
“A collaborative, solution focused, result-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and person growth of the coachee”

The Coaching Academy, say:
“At the heart of coaching is the idea that it is a form of personal intervention that is future focused, goal orientated, and concerned with enabling others to grow, learn and move forward with their lives or businesses more effectively than if they were doing this alone. “

As the coaching profession has evolved over the years, the resulting maturity of the industry has brought together more of a consensus of opinion in terms of definition, however there still exist a number of fallacies as to what a coach does. So, time to separate the coaching fiction from the coaching fact...

Kris Robertson’s top 10 Coaching Fallacies - PART 1. (Stay tuned for PART 2 next week!)

Coaching Fact or Fiction?


Fiction: Professional coaching is for low performing employees.

Fact: Coaching used to be a euphemism for "you're not very good at your job, but before we can fire you we need to show that we've done everything we can to support you so we don't have to go to an employment tribunal." Not anymore. According to the editor of Harvard Business School's Management Update, "whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a recent survey by Right Management Consultants, 86% of companies said they used coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders." This is supported by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2014 who found that 76% of organisations offer coaching, rising to 85% in the Public Sector, with coaching more common in larger organisations.

Good coaching focuses on an individual's strengths and aims to draw out their ‘can do’ attitude in their pursuit of their objectives. A good coach isn't there to "fix" anyone, but to help the client identify what they want and to help them bridge the gap between this and where they are now. Often this can be just as valuable for high performers – it’s no surprise that people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and most of the top leaders on the planet have at least one coach.


Fiction: Executive coaching is unnecessary and expensive.

Fact: Coaching can cost a great deal of money. Harvard Business School's "What can Coaches do for You?" research whitepaper reports some executive coaches cost up to $3,500 (c£2100) for an hour of coaching. While this is an extreme, The Association for Coaching survey suggests that most coaches earn between £300 to £1,200 a month per client. So this suggests that either there are a lot of people wasting money each month or people are getting some value out of the coaching and are willing to pay the coaches’ fees. According to the 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study commissioned by the International Coach Federation, individual clients reported a median ROI of 3.44 times their investment in coaching. Ultimately it seems, regardless of the cost, coaching is an investment that can produce not just indeterminable rewards but measurable, monetary rewards that can be seen on the bottom line.


Fiction: Executive coaching is only good for senior management

Fact: Coaching is good for anyone who is motivated to create a better life. Initially executive coaching was seen as being a perk of senior management and some organisations still focus their coaching efforts on their top performers. For example, a column by the Economic Times titled "A Personal Coach" says coaching is "designed to help senior leaders create and execute breakthrough ideas, develop strategic pathways and set milestones. Companies across the board are similarly opting for coaching to help their high-potential executives perform in larger, rapidly-changing roles in a globalized world." But professional coaching isn't just for the executive suite. Research by the CIPD in 2014 shows just that coaching is consistently ranked as the most effective talent management activity each year and that whilst senior managers and those identified as ‘talent’ are more likely to receive external coaching, there is the growing trend on organisations using coaching with the rank and file. A number of businesses and organisations now have a full-time Coach working with any employee - not just management - helping them work on both their personal and professional lives.


Fiction: Coaching is a spiritual intervention and relies on the power of "the universe"

Fact: When I first started researching coaching, part of me thought that ‘life –coaching’ involved lots of tree-hugging, incense, meditation, and the compulsory requirement to wear clothes made from wicker. While there are many great spiritual coaches that may incorporate these practices into their session (usually without wearing wicker!), most coaches are practical, pragmatic people, focused on tangible results, using tools and techniques, many of which are grounded in years of psychological research.


Fiction: Coaching is pretty much the same as counselling.

Fact: Whilst coaches and counsellors share many of the same ‘soft-skills’ in that they ask insightful questions, give their client’s the time and space to be heard and create a supportive and non-judgemental environment built on on-going mutual respect and trust – there are some significant differences. Many counselling approaches are concerned with the exploration of why the person is in the situation they currently find themselves in, questioning their history and childhood in order to help the client find some answers. Coaching instead is concerned with helping the client focus on what they want, and how they might begin to start making steps towards achieving this without digging into the client’s past from a therapeutic perspective. Similarly, counsellors often work with vulnerable or dysfunctional people whereas coaches tend to work with, as US Coach Laura Berman-Fortgang put it, ‘the worried well’. Coaching also, whilst spending quality time helping the client explore their values, challenge potentially limiting beliefs and learn through increased self-awareness, has a focus on the future – it is a goal-centred, action-orientated process, whereas counselling is focused on ‘resolving personal or psychological problems'.



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