What Coaching Is and Isn’t

Before we start today’s post, answer the following question.

What does coaching mean to you?

In the past, I answered that question as telling someone what to do. That’s what I learned from the popular culture. Sports coaches tell you what to do and how to do it. Sure, a life or business coach would do the same.

A few years ago, I took a coaching course, and I realized that my definition of coaching wasn’t correct. Coaching isn’t telling people what to do and how to do it, in fact, something entirely different. It is asking people questions to make them find out what to do and how to do it.

The Socratic Method

The Q&A method of coaching has deep roots. It is based on the Socratic Method. This method is more effective than preaching. Preaching creates resistance in the receiving end.

When you use the Q&A method, the coachee finds their own solutions to their problems. This has advantages on multiple levels.

First, the coachee is less resistant to the solutions found in the coaching session because they came up with those solutions. Those solutions weren’t dictated to them.

Second, the Q&A method bypasses the ego of the coachee. If your definition of a coach is someone who preaches you, you might think that a coach-coachee relationship puts you in a lower position as a coachee.

If the Q&A method is used, there’s no hierarchical relationship between the coach and the coachee. It’s a relationship of equals. Two individuals are discussing a matter to find the truth, which is the most important life skill.

Overcoming Resistance to Coaching

When there’s no hierarchy in the relationship between the coach and coachee, it’s much easier for a prospective coachee to hire someone as a coach. This is especially true for accomplished individuals.

When you are already successful and see coaching as someone better than you teaching you, than you’ll have a hard time getting into such a relationship, because of two reasons.

You might think that people more successful than you won’t work as coaches, and you might not want to be preached by someone who isn’t more successful than you. If that’s your perception of coaching, you’ll be missing out on some opportunities.

A Coach Is Genuinely Interested

In a proper coaching session, the coach is genuinely interested in the problem of the coachee. The coach asks questions to clarify the events and the way the coachee perceives and approaches the problem at hand.

During a coaching session, two things can happen. First, the coachee can realize how they contribute to the problem at hand, and decide to stop doing that. When someone has a persistent problem in their lives, most of the time, they are doing something to contribute to the problem.

Second, the coach can ask a question that would stimulate a solution in coachee’s mind. I remember a coaching session where I wanted to brainstorm about how to find customers. My coach asked me which message I wanted to convey to my prospects. That question made me look at the problem at hand from another angle, and focus on my message instead of obsessing about customers.

The Q&A method is not only relevant to the professional coach-coachee relationship. It’s helpful in various contexts, such as boss-subordinate, parent-child, between friends and romantic partners.

Which friend would you like to have? The one who starts preaching to you once you start talking to them about a problem? Or the one who listens to you and asks you questions to process the problem at hand?

Summary

Unlike the common impression, coaching isn’t about preaching people what to do and how to do it. It’s about asking questions to someone to help them find their own solutions.

The Q&A method of coaching is more effective at motivating people because the solutions aren’t dictated to them but reached by themselves.

Developing good questioning and listening skills is not only beneficial when working as a professional coach, but also in boss-subordinate, parent-child, friendship, and romantic relationships.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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