The difference between “coaches” and REAL COACHES

It’s time to have this talk. Why? Because too often I find myself in coversations where I have to explain the difference between “coaches” and REAL coaches.

First of all, we have to define what coaching is, in order to understand what is the benefit of it in our lives.

ICF (the golden standard of professional coaching) defines coaching as „partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.“

What does this mean? More simply put, Coaching is NOT an intervention for people with problems!
Coaching is for people who want to play better at something that matters to them and win the games of their lives on their own terms.

What does a coach do?

A coach’s  job is to help you win at life in your own terms, by being there for you, by creating the safe space in which you can think things you never thought before, in which you can say things you never said before, in which you can create things that you never created before. All of that, by giving you the tools and methods to unleash the power within you.

Why? Because you have all that you need inside of you. And a coach is there to reveal that to yourself.

Like a sports coach, a professional coach will help you see your blindspots, will help you own the skills that you maybe are not aware of, and will help you develop the set of skills that you need in order to reach your dreams/goals.

But how can you choose a coach when you don’t know where to look?

First of all, FIND A COACH THAT IS PROPERLY TRAINED! What does this mean?

Nowadays, there are a lot of people that call themselves coaches after they graduated from a two-weeks course. Yes, you can  find valuable information in two weeks, but there is no way that you can have proper training and experience in two weeks.

And for sure, you cannot gather too much coaching hours in two weeks.

Look for coaches that graduated from ICF Certified Schools, because in that way you can be sure that at least they have a structure, a method and that they respect the ICF Code of Ethics.

Why do you want your coach to respect the ICF Code of Ethics?

Because coaching has a lot in common (but it’s not the same!) with therapy, and by going too deep in some areas, coaches that don’t have the structure and methods, can cross the line very easily, and they don’t posses the necessary tools to manage those situations if they go wrong.

A good coach that respects the ICF Code of Ethics will know when to stop, what buttons to push, where to recommend therapy and where to stop a coaching relationship.

As a client, you need to know these things before starting a coaching relationship, because you will trust them with very personal issues, with a lot of personal beliefs, and you want a person that brings the best in you, not that damages  you.

Also, a properly trained coach, will always send you a coaching agreement, with non disclosure policies.

As a transformational coach, I faced a lot of misconceptions about what I do and how I do things, and a lot of people have put me in the same boat with other „coaches“ that have nothing to do with coaching.

As coaches we don’t get paid to „just“ have conversations. We have transformative conversations. We practice skills together, we brainstorm, we use tools from Positive Psyschology and Neuroscience to start and develop growth processes, we expand awareness, we have difficult conversations, we communicate clearly and we mirror yourself in ways in which you may not be comfortable.

Seek for coaches that invest in themselves, that are involved in a continous growth process with themselves, because coaches that are really good at what they’re doing, they never stop growing.

A little about ICF Certifications.

There are three levels of ICF Certifications for Coaches:

ACC – it requires 60 hours of training and over 100 hours of paid practice

PCC – it requires at least 125 hours of training and over 500 hours of paid practice

MCC – it requires at least 200 hours of training and over 2500 hours of paid practice

See the difference?

Of course, not everybody wants and needs these certifications, but at least the school they gratuated from needs to be ICF Certified. In order to graduate from these schools you have to pass Practicums/Exams that are evaluated at ICF Level.

What does this mean?

For example, at CoachVille (where I graduated from), in order to graduate from the full program, you have to have at least 125 hours of training, and you have to pass 4 exams (5 hours long , each!), and at least one of them has to be at PCC level. That means that during a Practicum,  there will be at least 6-10 people that will listen to you coach, and that will look for every ICF competency in your coaching session (no pressure), that will listen to how the coachee shifts their energy while being coached and if you notice that shift, they will observe non verbal communication (tone of voice, what the coachee says in and between the lines) and so on.

I am sure that by now you have a pretty good idea of what a coaching training means.

It means maybe hundred of training hours, maybe hundred of coaching hours at professional level, it means hundreds of hours of self study and personal development.

Coaching is a very profound relationship between a coach and a coachee, and you deserve to have someone that is properly trained, in order to win at life in your own terms.

What’s the thing with coaching niches?

There are relationship coaches, health coaches, executive coaches, career coaches, life coaches. What’s the difference?

Every branch of coaching comes from life coaching. Why do I say that? Because in order to reach a goal, you need a transformation. You cannot reach a goal with the same mindset that you have now, because if you would be where you want to be, you wouldn’t hire a coach.

So a niche is a particular area where the coach has a very good expertise, but in the end, it all comes down to transformation and life coaching.

For example, I am a Transformational & Career Coach, because I have a particular set of skills that allows me to make transformation easy for my clients, but I also have an HR Background, so I can coach really good especially around careers.

What defines a good coaching relationship?

There has to be a strong connection between the two of them in order for greatness to be achieved. Building awareness, building trust, being vulnerable together, are things that make the coaching relationship a successful one.

The coach has to have the ability to listen, not only hear, to really listen to what you say, but especially, to what you don’t say. The coach has to have the ability to catch your resistances or fears even when you notice them, even if you don’t think you feel them.

Basically, the coach needs to be able to see things, patterns, that you cannot see for yourself. He/she/they must be able to guide you away from limiting beliefs towards beliefs that make you flourish, that take you to the next level. „A coach is not going to coach you for who you are, a coach will coach you for who you will become (Doc Rivers).“

The player, on the other side, has to be open, present and aware. A good coach will first guide you towards an expansion of awareness, because awareness is the starting point.

Bonus tip: a coach NEVER gives advice. If you want a quick fix for your problems, you need consulting.

I will adress the transformation steps in another blog post, but until then I hope that now you have more clarity about what a coach should and shouldn’t be/do.

My wish is that clients will begin to do more research when they want to hire a coach, because coaching is a very BIG and IMPORTANT job. You don’t go to a therapist that didn’t graduated from Psychology School, you don’t go to a doctor that didn’t graduated from Medical School.

So go for REAL coaches that are properly trained in order to have the best results!  

1 Comment

  1. Ada Chindea October 28, 2021 at 10:03 am

    So very well put, Irina! Bravo for having the courage to address a problem that’s on everyone’s mind!
    Loved it!


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