Although I have been a mentor and informal coach most of my life, I have practiced professional life coaching with clients for about five years now. During that time, I have built on my inherent gifts of encouraging and relating by adding professional training and observed coaching experiences.
As I talk with other coaches, a common conversational topic is whether life coaching is an intuitive gift or is something that a person can be taught. Is coaching something a person is gifted to do or can it be learned? In short, is coaching an art or a craft?
A craft originates in the left brain, the cognitive or rational side. A craftsman learns techniques and how to use particular tools to develop or create something. Once the creation is complete, there is little doubt of what it is. In coaching, there are certain structures that the coach brings to the coaching conversation. The coach brings order, direction, and momentum as well as some level of analysis to his or her relationship with the person being coached. Perhaps this is why coaches often talk about adding a skill to their “tool box.”
An art begins in the intuitive and creative right brain. The artist draws on his or her “inner eye” to make creative leaps and new connections. Because an object of art—no matter what the medium—is the result of the artist’s personal vision, the completed work often solicits the question, “Exactly what is that?” In coaching, there is a place for playfulness and creativity. The coach challenges the client to see things with fresh eyes, with a new perspective, or in a different way in order to create a vision for his or her life. Story-telling is an art, and the coach’s greatest contribution to the coaching conversation may be in helping the client to “tell the story” of his or her life, putting the pieces together in ways that the client has never done in the past.
Is coaching an art or a craft? Of course, the answer is, “It is both.” Both come together as the coach helps a person identify the vision he or she wants to pursue and then take the steps to achieve it. Although a person may have certain innate gifts that will facilitate the coaching conversation, the professional coach will want to learn more. Art and craft go together.