It’s fine by me if people are a bit unsure about coaching as their development option. It does not upset me in the slightest if a future coachee confesses to a level of hesitancy or even cynicism.

To be so open is welcome. It’s a data point. We can work with it. We can look to understand where it comes from. I enjoy grappling with root causes and exploring such topics together. I coach people; this quality of engagement is beneficial.

And quite often the hesitation is rooted in a lack of understanding about what coaching is and is not.

I hope this blog will generate greater awareness of the art of coaching. It was prompted by a really interesting comments from more than one player with whom I’ve been working.

The context: one of them wanted to share that they were feeling a bit cynical about coaching however it had been strongly suggested as a way of building on their strengths and developing as a more senior leader. They were interested to find that this comment did not deter me. To the contrary … ”Fine. Let’s talk that through”.

And talk it through we did. They became a coachee. Someone with whom I really enjoyed working.

One year on they  asked to add on six extra sessions as “it has been so invaluable”. The sponsor for the coaching has also “seen the impact the coaching has had”.

The interesting comment: “I’m glad it wasn’t a deconstruction and rebuild. That it isn’t therapy. That it’s about building on my existing success and focusing where I want to focus in order to succeed in future.”

I’ve been thinking hard about that. Deconstruction. Rebuild. Not therapy.

Clearly as a profession we have more work to do in explaining what we do, where it starts and where it ends.

They had thought that a coach would be looking to “knock me down and build me up again”. They’d thought that coaching equals psychoanalysis. This is the impression that they had of our coaching world.

They hadn’t realised, until they experienced it, that in coaching their objective for the future is key and we find ways of navigating over, under, around or through barriers and interference. We grapple with “what’s getting in the way” of future development and success. And what might enable it.

Coaching can be challenging if that serves the player’s objectives, so discomfort may be part of the process. Contrast this with therapy or counselling where the journey is key, the goal is often healing and the environment will possibly be designed to create a sense of comfort.

In coaching we build on “what is right” without a presumption that “something is wrong” (in fact, given I only work with successful people, very often nothing is wrong).  We are enhancing success; unlocking that next level of performance; invigorating and reinforcing talented people.

In therapy people may be off-balance in some way. If someone is in a less well-functioning state then the different skills of a psychiatrist or psychotherapist are needed in order to ensure reactions are managed and contained. Coaching, whilst supportive as well as challenging, doesn’t need to be contained in quite the same way.

I could continue but I think my point is made.

I need to be better, we need to be better, at explaining what coaching is not as well as what it is. This short blog hopefully contributes towards that.

No deconstruction at play. Promise.

Tony Jackson coaches executives, leaders, teams and organisations. His coaching practice, developed over 25 years, is qualified, supervised, results-focused & impactful and will help you accelerate your growth, effectiveness and success.

Read more blogs from Tony: Which choice will you make to develop your leadership impact?