7 October 2022

Demystifying Coaching: What Coaching Is and Isn’t

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


This blog forms part of a series on Coaching where I seek to demystify the practice of coaching (mainly aimed at those who have not had prior experience) and outline how it can be a really powerful approach to drive transformational personal or professional change.

Before I dive into what I believe coaching should be, I thought I would share an amusing anecdote from a call I received on my mobile the other week:

Mobile rings with unrecognised number

Me: “Good morning, Steve Halsall speaking”

Lady (with a strong Brummie accent): “something completely undecipherable” (with a young child chunnering away in the background)

Me: “I’m sorry you were breaking up, would you please mind saying that again?”

Lady: “I’d like to book a coach… to Blackpool”

Me: “I’m sorry I think you must have the wrong number, we provide another kind of coach!”

End of conversation.

The only similarity between her version of a coach and mine is that we help clients on a journey (metaphor warning!), but our coaching journey is one of self-discovery, self-enlightenment, and self-development.

Definitions of Coaching

Red Tiger’s Coaches are all ICF (International Coaching Federation) accredited and this professional body provide the following definition:

“Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.”

International Coaching Federation
demystifying coaching: buzzwords of definitions
Coaching buzzwords

The Association for Coaching defines it as “a facilitated, dialogic and reflective learning process that aims to grow the individuals (or teams) awareness, responsibility and choice (thinking and behavioural).”

There are numerous definitions out there and rather than reeling of all of them (for a good summary I would like to direct you to the 2nd chapter in the book “Becoming A Coach – The Essential ICF Guide”), here is a wordcloud with some of the key coaching buzzwords that I’ve extracted from some other definitions.

Benefits of Coaching

5 benefits of coaching

Coaching vs Mentoring vs Therapy (or Counselling)

There are plenty of articles that outline the difference between Coaching, Mentoring and Therapy/Counselling. There is no doubt that coaching can be seen as therapeutic. A critical role of a coach is to be clear about where their skills start and end, and potentially signpost individuals if they require specialist help. There is often a blurring of lines; coaches may need to play a mentoring role, mentors may use coaching techniques, and some coaches can also be trained therapists/counsellors. Clients can also potentially work alongside one or more of these types of ‘helping professions’.

My Understanding of Coaching (in that I am more than prepared to be challenged on my views!):

  • As a coach we do not consider our clients to be broken or need fixing (which could certainly be different to how therapists view their clients). We are also not there to advise.
  • Coaching engagements tend to work on things that are specific and measurable and are more solution focused. Coaches should not create a situation where the coachee has a dependency with their coach.
  • The frequency of sessions and duration of an engagement does vary but it tends to be relatively few sessions and usually short term (2-6 months).
  • My role as a coach is to facilitate and prior knowledge of the challenge that presents itself is not necessary.
  • Coaches tend to be credentialed (e.g. the ICF accreditation that the Red Tiger team have).

My understanding of Mentoring

  • Mentors are typically engaged with co-workers, or external people in a related field.
  • Mentors are there to share their knowledge, insight and advice.
  • The relationship is typically more long term (over many years), often informal (likely to be pro bono) and flexible in terms of outcome.
  • Mentors are likely to not be credentialed but there is a growing trend to professional mentoring training

My understanding of Therapy (or Counselling)

  • These specialists are usually tasked with supporting a client through an illness or dysfunction.
  • Therapists often offer guidance and advice and are usually highly trained in specific areas (e.g. CBT)
  • A therapist engagement tends to be longer in lapsed time.
  • Therapists are typically licensed.

To Be Coached or Not To Be Coached, That is the Question

In conclusion, throughout this series of coaching related blogs, we have aimed to give you a balanced view of what coaching is (and isn’t), the benefits of coaching, and the objections you may think about when considering a coaching engagement.

My advice is speak to people; you will be surprised how many have benefitted from coaching. It is an investment in you and I would expect you to do your due diligence. Check for potential coaches credentials (ICF accreditation), read their reviews and arrange a free Clarity/Chemistry meeting. Use that meeting to get a free sample of coaching, but more importantly get a feel for the individual coach’s style and how you feel they could be in building that rapport and bringing out the best in you.

My own personal coaching style is to challenge (with permission from my client) but also to co-create a space where we can have a bit of fun. I certainly don’t want my coachee to approach a session with apprehension, I’d much rather they look forward to it.

“I would absolutely recommend coaching and this isn’t something I would have naturally been minded to do before I had this opportunity. Steve did an excellent job of balancing listening, challenging and observing with humour and empathy which made for a really comfortable and productive experience across all sessions.”

One of Steve’s coaching clients

I am interested in hearing about your experiences of coaching and your views on the differences between coaching, mentoring and therapy. Feel free to leave your comments in the box below.

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Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.


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