What is a professional coach?
A little history
The coaching comes from the maieutic art initiated by Socrates and described by Plato. Socrates describes this science as the art of “giving birth to the spirits of their knowledge”. Thanks to questioning, feedback and reframing techniques, Socrates made people aware of their contradictions and thus helps them question their beliefs, to reconsider their position, to refine their thinking.
Timothy Gallwey was the first to describe a coaching method designed to take into account the mental preparation of top athletes. He then refined his practice to meet the performance challenges of companies. Gradually coaching extended to the personal sphere to meet a need for well-being, quest for meaning and personal performance.
Today coaching tools come from different areas of the humanities such as management, helping relationships and communication. Different professions such as teachers, managers, coaches, consultants, therapists, sociologists, psychologists, specialists in emotional intelligence, contributed to the emergence of this profession.
Proposal for definition
There is no official definition of the term “coach”. From an etymological point of view, the word “coach” comes from the English verb “to coach” which means “to train”, “to accompany”, “to motivate”. François Délivré, professional coach, recognized author in the field and co-founder of the Academy of Coaching School in Paris, defined the professional coach as an external third party whose job is to conduct a series of individual interviews designed to enable a person to achieve his objectives more quickly and to succeed in his professional or personal life. For Vincent Lenhardt, author on coaching, management and collective intelligence, coaching is “the accompaniment of a person or a team”.
The life coach is a trained professional and needs to know the approaches and practices of professional coaching, question techniques, conduct change coaching, motivation techniques, and personal development. Alongside these skills, and depending on his field of intervention, the coach will master a basic approach in psychology, human resources or psycho sociology such as systemic analysis, transactional analysis, neuro linguistic programming, and organisational theory.
The role of the coach is to promote the personal or professional development of a person or the development of a company. He is a facilitator. Thanks to the relationship of trust that is created between him and the coached, he helps the person who is coached to:
Better understand each other (thanks to objective feedbacks)
Take a step back from a given situation or certainties
Identify strategies, skills and interferences
Consider other solutions to solve a problem or achieve a goal
Drive the changes he wants
Find his own solutions
Distinction between professional coaching and other similar professions
Professional coaching differs from other helping relationships such as:
The therapy aims to solve a psychopathological disorder while coaching is geared towards achieving a goal. Therapy focuses on the “past-present”, while professional coaching focuses on how and the “present-future” couple.
The consultant provides advice and expertise to the client while professional coaching coaching aims to help the client find his own solutions.
Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced professional (the mentor) brings his or her experience to a less experienced person (the mentored). Professional coaching differs from mentoring in that coaching is not part of a “knowing-learner” relationship, but in the context of a co-development and co-operation relationship.
When to use a coach
Who uses a coach?
When you wish to get individual coaching (someone wants to develop their own skills or solve a problem)
Manager support (in this case, a company uses a coach for a manager whose skills she wants to develop)
Executive support (the manager brings a problem concerning his company)
For which objectives?
In the case of individual coaching (person-centered coaching also called individual coaching or, in some cases, life coach or personal development coach), the requests are various and can relate to:
development of skills and abilities
the professional future
a professional reconversion
starting a business (business coaching)
get out of his comfort zone
personal branding (in the particular case of an entrepreneur)
support for change
speaking in public
the quest for meaning
to find one’s way
learn to let go
know each other better
improving relationships (relationship coaching)
When coaching relationships, it is about improving your communication, your relationships, resolving a conflict, going out of a psychological game or going out of a power game.
In the case of coaching a manager, a project manager, or more generally a team leader (team coaching or professional business coaching), the cases of appeal are related to a specific need and strictly professional such as:
team management, a job, skills improvement, team cohesion, strengthen your managerial posture, internal conflict management in a group, the animation of meetings, project support
As part of the coaching of the leader (coaching organizations, strategic coaching, executive coaching, business coaching or business coaching) the topics are extremely diverse. It can be an accompaniment of:
to the clarification of objectives
refining the corporate strategy (strategic vision),
to the animation of the executive committees,
to change management
to improve the overall performance of the company
Why is it difficult to choose a professional coach?
The coaching professions are not very regulated and it is possible to find self-proclaimed coaches that has not done any training or acquired the skills required to perform well in this job. In these conditions, choosing a professional coach is not alway easy.
How to choose a professional coach?
Accreditation is a process of evaluating the professional skills of a coach by an accredited association. It aims to appreciate the pragmatic experience of the accredited professional coach, his skills, his posture, his reflections on his professional practice.
Respect for a code of ethics
Any good professional coach must be able to present you his ethical framework. The code of ethics represents a set of rules that the coach agrees to respect as part of his professional accompaniment, including:
the obligation of professional secrecy,
the confidentiality of exchanges,
the prohibition of abuse of power,
the establishment of a contract,
the fact of refraining from acting outside of one’s competence.
Supervision is a process in which a professional is accompanied by a person of the same profession, more experienced (the supervisor). Supervision allows the professional coach (here called “supervised”) to:
interact with a peer when he encounters a problem with a client (the supervised coach can not effectively accompany a client);
avoid the phenomena of counter-transference (situation in which the coach is projected on his client and can not take a step back and remain objective);
improve your coaching practice.
A professional coach who is not supervised takes the risk of influencing his client according to his own frame of reference (his vision) and without taking into account the specific problems of the client.
Mastering a basic approach
In addition to coaching training and to be operational, the certified coach must master a basic approach in psychology and/or psycho sociology. If he works with a manager and a leader, he also needs tools to analyse groups and organisations.
Work on oneself
Coaching is a discipline dealing with humans, it would be dangerous for a client to be accompanied by a professional coach who has not done a therapeutic job on him. The therapeutic work of the certified coach allows him:
to have better knowledge of himself, of his behaviours, attitudes, motivations;
identify areas of darkness that may affect interactions;
to be independent outside the eyes of others.
The objective is that the professional coach has done a job on him sufficiently deep so that his own interference does not affect his objectivity. Otherwise, he could unconsciously influence the client according to his own frame of reference and not respect the individuality of the client.
The know-how of the coach
In addition to the skills previously described, the certified professional coach must have certain qualities such as benevolence, integrity, active listening, self-confidence, a positive vision of life, a form of wisdom and common sense. He must also be able to confront the client when necessary.
Coaching is above all a relationship of trust and co-development. The first criterion involved in choosing a professional coach is the way you feel with him. Are you comfortable? What does your intuition tell you?