Effective Coaching Looks Like This

Effective Coaching Looks Like This

by Stacie Hoffmeister

When I was first introduced to business coaching as a professional service offering, I did not want much to do with it.  I didn’t understand what it was or how it was different from training, consulting, or therapy.  I also did not know how to distinguish between bad coaching and effective coaching.  But for some reason I kept getting asked by people to coach them.  I figured that they saw something in me that I didn’t see, and that they knew something about coaching that I didn’t know.  So I decided to learn about the coaching profession and set out to understand what effective coaching looks like.

It’s not quite clear when business coaching became a profession.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that the nomenclature gained popularity.  The 1990s saw the birth of coach training institutions and international governing organizations.  Today coaching is still a relatively young field when compared to psychology and consulting.  Now that I embrace business coaching as a valuable service to clients, many of my initial conversations with people about what I do begins with an explanation of what coaching is.

Just yesterday I was telling someone about how explaining coaching is a lot like defining marketing.  Whenever I introduce myself to people as a marketer, I notice that the label communicates very little.  There are brand managers, sales managers, media buyers, consumer researchers, country managers, global marketers, telemarketers, community managers, merchandisers, promotional managers, and brand ambassadors. Those who know marketing know that each of the marketing roles I just listed are different disciplines that require different training, experience, and personality types.

Coaching is similar in that there are many different flavors of coaches. There are those who specialize in academic coaching, small business coaching, career coaching, mentor coaching, women’s coaching, and so on.  As a coach and consultant, when I introduce people to my specialization in modern leadership, they may get a general sense of what I do, but at first it’s about as informative as saying I’m in marketing.

A coach, generally speaking, is someone that helps an individual or a team to get to a desired goal.  The world’s premiere professional organization for coaches, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), offers a succinct explanation:

“ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.”

No matter the specializations a coach claims, if a coach describes her/his services in a way that aligns to the ICF definition of coaching, then consider the coach as having the ability to provide effective coaching. Consider this the baseline.

I put emphasis on “partnering with clients,” because this is a key difference between coaching and consulting. As a consultant, I take responsibility for crafting recommendations that emerge after a period of analyzing a business problem.  Clients may choose to adopt all, some, or none of consultant-created solutions.  As a coach,  I co-create solutions with the client, or I support the client in creating solutions herself.  Because clients are a driving partner in the process, they are more likely to adopt the solutions completely and move more swiftly towards their goals.

I also emphasize “Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.”  This is a key difference between coaching and therapy.  Coaching is not psychotherapy.  Therapy focuses on treating illness.  Coaching treats clients as being “whole” and capable of actioning change in their own lives.  Coaching seeks to move a client from well to extraordinary.

This points to an important outcome of effective coaching:  Effective coaching helps clients to flourish.

What does it mean to flourish?  Merriam-Webster defines flourish as:

To grow luxuriantly (thrive); to achieve success (prosper); to be in a state of activity or production; and to reach a height of development or influence.

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful outcome?  To be flourishing?  Sadly, for many of us, especially the perfectionist and high achiever types, we do not give ourselves permission to flourish.  An effective coach can help clients navigate external and internal barriers so that the client can flourish in plans for life and work.

No matter what specialization a coach claims, I believe that effective coaching is a combination of work and life coaching.  For modern leaders, a state of flourishing requires harmony between work and life.  When the two are in conflict, that’s counter productive to achieving success and enjoying it.  I’ve yet to a meet a high achieving millennial, x-er, or boomer who was not trying to find the right balance of success in work and life.  Effective coaching skillfully recognizes this and works to help integrate these two competing facets of modern leadership.

Lastly, effective coaching requires a good feeling between client and coach.  The path to flourish need not be painful, and should be fun.  A client should explore this by having a complimentary session before starting a relationship with a coach.  Things to look for during the complimentary session:

  • Is there a connection that you feel with the coach?  Do you trust this person or do you believe that you can come to trust this person relatively quickly?

  • Does the coach open up possibilities for you?  This can feel like sparks of energy, a deeper degree of self awareness, and the will to take action about a positive change in your life.

  • Do you feel excited about speaking with the coach again?

A try before you buy mentality is very appropriate when it comes to coaching.  If a complimentary session is not offered to you by the coach, try asking for one.

To summarize, effective coaching…

  1. Focuses on partnership and co-creation with the client.

  2. Respects the client’s expertise, experiences, points of view, and wholeness.

  3. Causes the client to flourish.

  4. Integrates work and life conflicts.

  5. Imparts positive feelings between coach and client.

Effective coaching looks like a beautiful, steep yet secure, upward climb to becoming your best self and achieving your desired outcome.

For additional resources see:

Facts + Heresies FAQs

International Coaching Federation FAQs

What is Life Coaching? by Julia Stewart (School of Coaching Mastery)

How Great Coaches Ask, Recognize, and Listen by Ed Batista (Harvard Business Review)

Find the Career Coach Who’s Right for You by Dorie Clark (Harvard Business Review)

Have questions or are curious about coaching? Schedule a conversation with Stacie here.

Stacie Hoffmeister is an organizational coach and branding professional. She is the founder of organizational coaching firm, Facts and Heresies. Facts and Heresies helps individuals step up into their next level of personal and professional potential. Based in the New York, NY and Westchester County, NY area, Stacie serves individual professionals and organizations in her area and all over the world. 

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