Being a coach vs doing coaching

Yesterday I graduated from my coaching degree. I now officially have a Masters of Science in Coaching Psychology.

A milestone and an achievement.

Three and a half years, more than 50 flights, and more hours than I can count in reading, thinking and reflecting on coaching.

What it means to be a coach, what it means to do coaching. And an umderstanding of the how, why and what of coaching.

Doing a degree is not a requirement to be a coach. The industry is unregulated and your teapot could call itself a coach.

So what exactly did I learn in this degree and why was it worthwhile?

The how of coaching

Well of course we learnt how to do coaching. Doing coaching is about the techniques and models you can use to help people change and reach their goals. This is of course important. Afterall, the “doing” is the main thing. Whether it’s coaching, medicine or something else, the main point of the endeavour is what you do. Things in this world don’t change without action. So we must learn the how of coaching – at least as a baseline for getting started.

Deeper than learning a technique, coaching psychology, as taught in my degree, also attempts to answer how coaching works. Knowing how something works gives you much greater power over using it. You get a better sense of nuance as to when a certain technique is appropriate or not. You get a better understanding of what techniques may be most appropriate in a given situation. You get a better sense of how to blend and combine techniques.

The why of coaching

A layer deeper than the doing of coaching is understanding the why, or the overall purpose of coaching. Understanding the purpose of coaching at a general level and at an individual level. By this I mean exploring in some depth answers to questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of coaching in and of itself?
  • What is my purpose in becoming or being a coach?
  • What is the purpose of each individual coaching engagement or session

Without a sense of purpose the ‘how’ becomes nothing more than a technique. A magic trick. A one size fits all algorithm. A sense of why brings in meaning and depth and humanity to the endeavour. A sense of why gives direction and embodies a ‘lifeless’ technique.

The what of coaching

Finally we get to the ‘what’ of coaching. This is ultimately a philosophical question. What is it we believe about life, and humanity and the world that coaching acts on? What do we believe about change and how it works?

For the non-philosophically inclined these types of questions might seem waffly or nebulous. But answering these questions helps you unlock how to BE a coach – not just how to do coaching.

The level of BEING a coach vs DOING coach are entirely different. At this level is an entirely new way of seeing the world. And a way of coaching where (to paraphrase Viktor Frankl) technique becomes less important than the spirit with which it is offered. When you can truly meet someone where they are – where two humans sit together over one challenge – that is when creativity, solutions and great change occur.

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