Coaching Clarified

What it is, isn’t, and how it helps transform companies

THE GREEN LIGHT indicated we were live, and the host of the business radio show turned to me, and said, “We have Dean Newlund here today. Dean is a coach. Dean, which professional sports team do you coach for?” The year was 1995 and coaching was not taught at every major university and community college, nor was it a word used interchangeably with leadership – as it is today. “Like in pro sports,” I told the interviewer, “I coach businesspeople to reach their potential, not as athletes, but as leaders.”

So what is coaching? And, what isn’t it?

Coaching is cousin to therapy, mentoring and managing, but is actually quite separate and distinctive. Here is how they are all different.

Therapy: Exploring and releasing the past by diagnosing and treating dysfunctionality.
Mentoring: The mentor has the answers and the experience that they share. The focus is on knowledge transfer. Like teaching.
Managing: The manager tells and instructs and is focused on measuring and getting performance from others.
Coaching: The coach is future-focused on development (not performance), changing perceptions, building personal accountability and taking action.

In coaching we say that “behavior follows perception”; so the coach’s job is to listen, ask open-ended questions, clarify understanding, reframe a situation if needed, and make requests to move the coachee from their new awareness into a new behavior.

The industry has matured a lot since 1995. But what remains the same is a belief that employees who develop into better people and leaders help create innovative, purpose-centered and sustainable companies.

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“How you do one thing is how you do everything.”

– Unknown