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What Coaching is Not

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April 25, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
4 min read
CCoaching differs from mentoring, therapy, consulting, or training. It's not about easy answers, has no one-size-fits-all approach, and fosters personal growth through transformative partnership.

In an era where personal and professional development is highly valued, coaching has emerged as a key tool for growth. However, there often needs to be more clarity about what coaching truly entails. This confusion not only undermines coaching effectiveness but also leads to unrealistic expectations. To clarify, let's explore what coaching is not.

1. Coaching is Not Mentoring

The line between coaching and mentoring is frequently blurred. While both are developmental in nature, they differ significantly. Mentoring involves a more experienced individual guiding a less experienced person, often in the same field. It's a relationship based on imparting wisdom and sharing specific insights.

Coaching, in contrast, is not about the coach's expertise in the coachee's field. It’s about unlocking a person's potential to maximize their performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them. The coach need not have experience in the coachee's field of work.

2. Coaching is Not Therapy

Coaching is often misconstrued as a form of therapy. However, coaching and therapy serve distinct purposes. Therapy delves into past traumas and issues to heal emotional pain and dysfunction. It's about understanding and resolving past issues to improve emotional functioning.

Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on the present and future. It's about setting goals, creating outcomes, and managing personal change. While coaching can be therapeutic, it's not therapy. It doesn't deal with psychological disorders or past traumas.

3. Coaching is Not Consulting

Consultants are hired to provide solutions. They diagnose problems and offer their expertise to solve them. This process is often directive and advice-based.

Coaching takes a different approach. A coach does not provide answers or solutions. Instead, they facilitate a process by which the coachee can arrive at their own solutions. It’s a process of inquiry, reflection, and discovery. The coach’s role is to ask powerful questions that challenge the coachee to think critically and creatively.

4. Coaching is Not Training

Training typically involves the acquisition of specific skills or knowledge. It’s instructional and often follows a set curriculum. The trainer is the expert who imparts knowledge to the trainees.

Coaching, conversely, is personalised and exploratory. It doesn’t follow a set curriculum. Instead, it's tailored to the individual needs of the coachee. The coach helps the coachee to uncover their own knowledge rather than imparting it.

5. Coaching is Not Easy Answers

People sometimes seek coaching with the expectation of quick fixes or easy answers. However, effective coaching is about more than providing ready-made solutions. It's about the coachee engaging in a challenging process of self-discovery and personal growth.

Coaching requires effort and commitment. The coachee needs to be willing to look inward, challenge existing beliefs, and step outside their comfort zone. The coach facilitates this process, but the coachee must do the thinking.

6. Coaching is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Coaching is highly individualised. What works for one person may only work for one person. A good coach understands this and does not apply a cookie-cutter approach. They adapt their coaching style to meet the unique needs and learning styles of each coachee.

7. Coaching is Not Just for Problems

There's a misconception that coaching is only for addressing problems or fixing something that's broken. However, coaching is equally effective for enhancing performance, developing leadership skills, and fostering personal growth. It's not just a remedial tool but a developmental one. Remember, you do not have to be ill to get better.

8. Coaching is Not a Short-Term Intervention

While coaching can produce quick results, it’s generally not a short-term intervention. Real change takes time. It involves learning, unlearning, and relearning. This process cannot be rushed. Effective coaching relationships often span months.

9. Coaching is Not Without Challenges

Coaching can be uncomfortable. It involves questioning deeply held beliefs and confronting uncomfortable truths. This discomfort, however, is a part of the growth process. A coach supports the coachee through these challenges, providing a safe space for exploration and learning.

10. Coaching is Not an Authority-Driven Process

Unlike traditional hierarchical relationships, coaching is a partnership. The coach is not a superior who directs but a partner who guides. It's a collaborative process based on mutual respect and trust. The coachee is not a passive recipient but an active participant in their own development.


Understanding what coaching is not helps in appreciating what it truly is - a powerful, individualised process aimed at enhancing personal and professional growth. By dispelling these misconceptions, we can engage in coaching with realistic expectations and a clear understanding of its potential and limitations.

As a partnership based on trust, commitment, and mutual respect, coaching can be a transformative experience, leading to significant personal and professional development.