Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt say everyone needs a coach, but I often hear “everyone thinks they are a coach.” So, what’s the story?

Both are valid observations. When we do something new—be it a new job, learn a new skill, go through a life transition we’ve never been through before, we can benefit from the trained ear of a coach. It’s also true that many of us have incredibly valuable life experiences upon which to draw to help others, but knowing your friends always turn to you for advice isn’t quite enough to qualify you to coach people. Coaches do much more than advise. They listen between the lines and try to help move people in the direction of what’s most important to them. They also hold people accountable for following through. Everyone knows we all know what to do, for example, to lose weight (eat less, exercise more) but actually doing it takes commitment and follow-through most of us don’t have on our own—much as we want to lose that weight. A good coach doesn’t let us slip through the cracks with our “can’t do,” “don’t want to” attitudes. They will honor what we are truly committed to so we can more forward. Learning to do that takes something—not the in depth knowledge that it takes to become a therapist but training and practice in working with people’s strengths and skills that have been proven to move people forward.  Therapists can make terrific coaches but they need to reframe how they see their job from being an expert to being a wise guide and collaborator with their client.  Like going from ballet to modern dance, they have the moves in their in depth knowledge of human nature but need to use themselves a little differently.

As someone who loves nothing better than training people in coaching and preparing them for certification by the coaching industry, if you have ever been interested in becoming a coach or learning coaching skills that you can integrate into your current work (healthcare, HR, law, consulting), I welcome your questions and comments.