What Is Your Coaching  Definition? Here's Why It Should Matter To You

by Jean-Paul Cortes

There are two reasons why you might be on this page: you might have heard, read or seen someone talk about coaching and how it works and you want a better coaching definition. The second reason might be that you are considering being a coach or may even be training to be a coach already.

Regardless, you probably already know some one that might already have been coached or is working with a coach. Would it surprise you then, that in as much as coaching has gone mainstream, not many coaches have a decent answer to give when asked "what is coaching?"

Why having a good definition can make or break your coaching business

A lot of coaches tend to run in circles when asked to define coaching. In trying to figure out what to tell their prospects or clients, they end up working too hard to be understood in the best of cases; in the worse, they have people walk away without the faintest idea of what they talked about.

Even the big guys in the coaching world, like the ICF, have quirky ways of defining coaching. Yes, I’ll include a few definitions in a little bit so you see what I mean.

More importantly, I’m about to give you the real reason why having a good definition should be your top priority (it might not be what you’re thinking...).

Here's a little secret that a lot of coaches don't know: coaches fall flat on their face because they try to define coaching as something they do and not how what they do helps their clients succeed. 

If you don't get what this means yet, go back and read it again. It’s that important. Because not one of your clients will give a hoot about your long winded definition; they just don’t care. All they want to know is how coaching will help them.

It’s always about them and what you can do for them; it’s never about your coaching model, process or training. That may come up later, and it’s certainly important, but when someone asks you what coaching is what they really want to know is:

What will coaching do for me?

When you create a definition in this way, it actually creates an advantage for you big time. Why? Because it shifts the focus off of you and turns it towards your client…the one who really matters.  .

Let me drive this point home; let’s take a look at three definitions I found by doing some research online. 

International Coach Federation 

The ICF defines coaching as: "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential."

It’s pretty vague; they lost me at “inspires them to bla, bla, bla.” The problem is that it’s way too general to really be effective.

Here’s a good piece of advice that you should permanently burn in your coaching psyche: You simply cannot be the “coach of all trades.” Your clients are very specific when it comes to working with someone, especially this day in age when anyone with an Internet connection has so much information at their fingertips.

We’ll get to more of this in a moment; here’s the second definition:

International Coach Academy

"Coaching involves dialogue between a coach and a client with the aim of helping the client obtain a fulfilling life. This is achieved by helping the client establish what is important to them and by clarifying their values. With the client’s input the coach co-creates value based goals and a plan to achieve them. Through collaboration, the coach supports the client to achieve these goals."

It’s somewhat better; but not quite. It still leaves you feeling somehow that they’re talking at you but not to you. There are still a lot of holes gaping at you in this definition.

Here’s another one:

The OCM Coaching Definition

"A process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful coach requires a knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place"

If you notice, it’s really talking about a process, something that will occur at some point in time because I’m following a way of doing things.

And, that’s the common theme with most coaching definitions, generalities, vagueness, splattered words on a page that sound nice but don’t really mean anything.

Who are you trying to coach?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself to improve your coaching and your coaching business. You would be amazed to see how many coaches out there remain clueless about who their ideal client is, about who they’re trying to coach.

And that’s why their marketing, websites, brochures and every other method they’re using does not work. Because when you’re not clear about who you are serving, their needs, their pain, you will have a hard time making them feel good about working with you.

What makes you different?

I’m about to tie all of this together, I’m about to give you the clue on creating a definition of coaching that will never leave you stumped the next time a client asks you what you do.

Remember, it’s not “what” type of coaching you do, but what WHAT you do DOES for your client.

It’s not some clever slogan or some mysterious definition; it’s actually something very specific that goes to the heart of your client’s needs and wants.

But to make things easier for you, here’s a very easy formula you can follow to get started:

Creating a definition formula: "I help (this group of people)…do (this benefit(s))…(better, faster, easier, etc.)"

It’s all about how you position yourself. The answer to the "why should I do business with you, instead of a hundred other coaches out there million dollar question.

To wrap things up, your definition of coaching has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what “what” you coach does for your client.

Use the formula above to get started, you’ll start off on much better footing than 90% of all coaches out there and you’ll be able to finally explain what you do in terms that actually make you money.

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