What Coaching Really Is

Free Advice Chalk IllustrationA friend called me recently to get some help with a work situation that was driving her crazy.  “Do you want advice or do you want me to coach you?” I asked.

“Aren’t they the same thing?” she replied.

No.  They aren’t.

Coaching—or what you might know as Life, Business, Executive, or Leadership Coaching—has been around for about 30 years now.  Although many people understand generally what it is, there are still some misconceptions out there.  So what’s the difference between getting advice and getting coached?

The main difference is this: it’s not a coach’s job to give advice. No coach is smart enough or has the depth and breadth of knowledge to give perfect advice all the time.  Truth is, most people don’t want advice.  Even when the person being coached says “Tell me what you think I should do,” nobody really wants to be told what to do.

What most people really benefit from is a conversation to determine what the goal really is. This can sometimes be the hardest thing to clarify.  From there, they need a discussion about possibilities, obstacles, what options make the most sense, and what kind of support they need to accomplish the steps they have decided to take.

Advice is simply that.  Any sentence that starts with “You should…,” “I would…,” or “Why don’t you…” is advice.  And you can bet cold hard cash that in most cases, anything following those words will not be heard or heeded.

The beauty of coaching is that it uncovers what people already know in their hearts but maybe just needed a little digging to get to.  Giving advice is easy—in fact, I do it all day long for free.  Coaching requires skill and practice, and that’s why people pay for it.

About the Author

Madeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

10 thoughts on “What Coaching Really Is

  1. Nice post, Mad!!!! Your writing style is GREAT.

    Off to deliver SLX for 2 days. Hope your week is going well.


    LINDA MILLER, MCC| Global Liaison for Coaching
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  2. Reblogged this on One2One Coaching and commented:
    This not only applies to executive coaching situations but to sports as well. Despite a coach or instructor’s sometimes considerable investments in personal development and coaching accreditation you’re often asked for an opinion on or free advice about someone’s technique. While it often feels the same way that another professional might feel when asked for free legal or medical advice its important to keep in mind that this is also your opportunity to promote your service and that a coaching solution will take more than a quick fix to implement and is definitely worth paying for.

  3. Reblogged this on Organizational Strategies and commented:
    It sure is frustrating when people who know little about the situation are directive and dismissive. This is what normally happens with “friends” “giving advice” on work/professional situations.
    Very often people need to talk out ideas and strategies, brainstorm options, sort possibilities, and bounce off ideas, and evaluate with someone else. I agree: that is more what coaching is. Thanks for clarifying.
    Sometimes people do need training or information from someone more knowledgeable.

  4. The way I like to explain it to others… Coaching is about providing guidance on techniques and strategies on how to think through and resolve the problems that most individuals would like ‘advice’ on.

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