What Does Coaching Look Like?
Updated: Apr 3
Coaching is a powerful buzzword these days, but how do you know what to expect or look for in a coach? Understand more about what the coaching process looks like and what to ask or search for when selecting a coach to work with.
Coaching is everywhere these days! It has become a huge buzzword in business, academia, and just about every major industry with many people jumping on the trend. It's important to have an understanding of the coaching process and what to look for to assess if the coach you are interested in hiring is right for you.
What is a coach?
A coach is many things but a good coach is not your therapist, friend, or advisor. A coach believes that you are the expert in your own life and will work with you from that perspective. They know you are already creative, resourceful, and whole. This means they will expect you to take the driver's seat and rely on your honest engagement to answer questions, reflect on experiences, and strategize action steps forward. A coach is a sound-board and partner that can help you chart the path to reaching your goals and living a life that makes sense to you.
What is a coaching session?
A coaching session is more than a nice conversation. A coaching session is a designated meeting time with a specific topic and desired outcomes that are determined by the client.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as "a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential."
Coaching sessions are typically conducted over the phone or online, although some coaches offer in-person sessions. The frequency and length of the sessions will vary depending on your needs and goals. Overall, you can expect a supportive and empowering experience that helps you to unlock your potential and achieve your goals.
During a coaching session, the coach will listen to your concerns and goals and work with you to develop a plan or next step.
"You have to help people do more of the work that has impact and meaning.”
― Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
1: Set the Agenda
When you first meet with your coach you will discuss the goals you are bringing to coaching and identify what you are going to focus on in the coaching relationship. Clarify what you are hoping to get from this process. After that, in each session you will identify the topic for that day. The coach will work with you to ensure you have the takeaways you need.
You and your coach will look at all aspects of your session's topic or agenda. The coach will ask powerful, open-ended questions to help you gain clarity and insight into your current situation and explore different perspectives and solutions. A coach may challenge your current thinking or help you see obstacles that may be barriers to success and work with you to develop strategies for overcoming those obstacles.
Coaching is most effective when it is productively applied. After exploring the topic, you and your coach will partner to identify what's next. This could be a step, an action plan, or something else. Coaches also provide accountability and support to clients, helping you stay motivated and on track.
Coaching at-large is currently unregulated. Unlike mental health counseling, psychology, social work and other disciplines, there is no national licensing body and regulation board for coaches. If they felt inclined, anyone could call themselves a "coach." While it is not required to earn a specific credential to practice coaching, your coach should provide sufficient information to show they have training, specialized experience, and engage in ongoing professional development.
I am a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). ICF is the considered the gold-standard for coaching, world-wide. ICF sets the standards known as the Core Competencies and certifies coaches who meet those standards. To become a certified ICF coach, you must meet certain criteria for Education, Experience, Mentor Coaching, Performance Evaluation, and Certification Exam. ICF also outlines a Code of Ethics for best practice coaching. If you are looking for a coach with the highest credentials and certified rigorous training, look for an ICF credentialed coach.
Coaches that are not certified by the ICF can still be very effective at what they do. However, they should be transparent about their credentials, experience, and expertise. A good coach will let you know upfront why they are trustworthy and be willing to answer any general questions you have about working with them for free, as a courtesy consultation.
Before I began coach certification training, I was a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. I used my psychology, counseling, and motivational interviewing skills as my primary coaching tools. I had a lot to offer, but was coming from a different skillset than a traditional coach. I made sure to let clients know about my qualifications and experience with special populations to support trust building in those relationships.
There are many independent coach training organizations that provide their own credentials and certifications. I am a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Certified ADHD Coach. Some coaches earn different specialized certificates or endorsements to provide services that meet the needs of specific populations they work with.
If you are thinking about working with a coach and do not see any mention of their credentialing on their website or social media, make sure to ask questions about their expertise, qualifications and training in your consultation appointment. What makes them good at what they do?
You don't need fancy credentials to coach, but you should have confidence and training with the receipts to back your claims.
A Final Word
Coaching is a transformative process. I have witnessed so much power and vulnerability in my clients and seen them make sweeping changes that were previously completely overwhelming to them. Knowing a little more about the coaching process and the background of coaches can empower you to take the next step. There are a lot of options when choosing a coach. The right one is out there for you!