I have been doing professional life coaching for eight years and I find that I still have a number of opportunities to introduce and explain the concept to people. Just about everyone understands athletic coaching either from observing a sports coach in action or serving as a volunteer coach. Life coaching is a bit different. Three basic ideas will help you understand how life coaching works.
First, the person being coached is the focus of coaching. The coach is thoroughly engaged in the coaching conversation, but the conversation is all about the client. When we engage in a normal conversation with a friend or colleague, we expect that each person will have their fair share of the time—not simply reacting but sharing their own ideas and experiences and carrying their part of the conversation. In coaching, it is all about the client. The coach is there to serve the client’s agenda—to listen, ask questions, and support.
Second, the coach guides the process and the person being coached provides the content. The client identifies the subject or challenge that he or she wants to address and the coach helps the client to discover their preferred future, identify and gain clarity about what will get them there, set a goal, develop action steps to get there, and support the person being coached as they pursue their goal. The client knows more about the situation than anyone else so the coach helps the client listen to himself or herself, helping the person being coached gain new self-understanding about both purpose and potential.
Third, every person being coached has gifts and abilities to address their concerns even if they do not realize it. The coach helps the person to discover and apply these capabilities. The coach helps the client to dig deep and come up with the resources already available within to apply to the task. Most of us already know more than we are doing; we just need to get moving!
In all of this, the coach is not passive but active—questioning, encouraging, and sometimes challenging the client in her or his personal growth. Coaches help their clients to become their best selves.