If you haven't already asked yourself this question, it's important that you do so before you consider becoming a professional coach. There are many misconceptions out there, and understanding what coaching is not can be just as important as knowing what coaching actually is.
What Coaching is NOT
Coaching often suffers from a case of mistaken identity; sometimes being confused with consulting, mentoring, or therapy. But, it's none of those - though coaching incorporates aspects of each of those modalities.
Coaching is not Consulting. Clients hire consultants to identify problems and formulate solutions to fix them. Consultants are experts in what needs to be done, and once they come up with a plan for the client, the consultant's job is usually complete.
Coaches view their clients as being the "experts" in their own lives and businesses, and partner with them to help implement a plan they both create. And that's why coaches do not tell clients what to do, but instead, facilitate discovery of their own answers. Truth is, people are more likely to get excited about and follow through on ideas they help develop rather than those that are offered to them by someone else. The coach's expertise is in providing guidance, tools, and methods for clients to improve their own ability to implement solutions, now and in the future.
Consultants identify problems and formulate solutions; coaches provide tools and support to empower clients to develop and implement their own solutions.
Coaching is not Mentoring. A mentor helps guide a client to emulate the mentor's own success. Mentors are often chosen because they have travelled the same road the client is on. In contrast, coaches empower clients to discover their own paths. A coach's value lies not in their technical know-how or specific knowledge about their client's issues or field of expertise, but in the ability to help clients draw from their own experience and wisdom so that they can move forward.
A mentor stands in front of the client and says, "Follow me."
A coach stands beside the client and asks, "Where shall we go?"
Coaching is not Therapy. Therapists help their clients to become fully functional individuals. Often, this requires fixing problems, overcoming issues and challenges from the past, healing, and, sometimes, managing mental illness. Therapy deals most often with the past, so that a patient can exist more fully in the present.
A therapist usually helps the client heal by figuring out "why," while a coach helps the client move forward by focusing on "how." Coaches help clients focus on their plans for the future through a results-oriented process that moves them from functional to optimal performance... and, often, from optimal to OUTSTANDING!
Therapy examines the past to help a client cope with the present; Coaching builds on the present to create the future.