Oranges, Tangerines, Grapefruit and…Sardines: Pick Your “Coach” Smartly

You do it. I do it. We all do it. And just the other day, I did it again. I shopped the competition.

I went browsing around at various websites, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles of people who – like me – refer to themselves as coaches. As I did so I felt sorry for me, and for you.

I felt sorry for me, because I realized just how much front-end education and confusion-clearing effort is ahead of me as I market my services. Sorry for you, because I realized that you – if you’re like most of my network of friends and business contacts – aren’t prepared to know how to choose a coach if you ever get to the point of thinking you might benefit from one (you will, by the way…).

I started with a simple Bing search: Coach in Arizona.

I got various college, high school, and athletic coaches. I got a tour bus company. And I got a directory site that listed:

Life Coach
Career Coach
Resume Coach
Business Coach
Retirement Coach
Health Coach
Christian Coach
Vibrational Healing Coach
Performance Coach
Weight-loss Coach
Relationship Coach
Divorce Coach
Divorce Recovery Coach
Energy Transformation Coach
and on

And on.

Then I read some of the descriptions of what these various coaches do, and there are some oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, limes, lemons… and some sardines. Let me explain my citrus analogy by temporarily leaving it behind.

When is a Coach not a Coach?

I know why there are so many “kinds” of coaching labels. It’s market segmentation, mostly. These labels are probably intended to help potential clients pick a coach that relates to a felt need. Unfortunately, that just plays into a less-than-best idea of what coaching is.

The ICF (International Coaching Federation) describes coaching in this way: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Now, the ICF has firmly established themselves as the de facto standard for coaching and all things coach related, and they’ve been accepted as the standard-setter. Their definition (which I embrace and use, too) is founded on some pre-suppositions:

  1. Every individual has infinite potential and the creative faculties to grow toward their potential.
  2. Individual may or may not have skill deficits they need to address to achieve their goals, but…
  3. Every individual has a way of thinking that has brought them to their current state in life – and if that individual wants to achieve a different state in life, their thinking must change – regardless of “skills”.
  4. The coach’s role (and this idea is rooted in Timothy Gallwey’s famous book, The Inner Game of Tennis) is to help the individual achieve that new, desired state by helping them change their thinking.

So (back to citrus), to the extent that a person calling themselves Life Coach, a Performance Coach, etc. is focused on doing that – they are oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemon, lime – all citrus. The moment they start telling you what to do or get involved in skill-building…or showing you how THEY did it, well that’s a whole other can of … sardines.

But What If I Need Skills or Instructions?

I see that hand! Great question.

If there is a skill gap or knowledge gap, then get TRAINING or MENTORING. And it is certainly legitimate, and somewhat common, for coaches to be involved in delivering training of some sort, as well. John Maxwell Team coaches certainly do … but we don’t call it coaching. Coaching has nothing to do with your skill – or the coach’s expertise in doing marketing, business development, sales, relationship building, weight loss, or whatever destination you’re trying to get to.

Training tells you what to do. Indeed, at some point, you need to KNOW. Knowledge is a good thing, but it’s not the primary thing. Just look at the highly successful people, like Bill Gates and other m/billionaire dropouts, who have arguably achieved far more by doing than they would have by simply seeking knowledge.

Mentoring shows you how the mentor has done that something before. That’s useful, but you’re not your mentor, and your circumstances are not your mentor’s. It’s highly valuable to learn from the experience of others, and there’s often no reason for you to reinvent a wheel — but it’s not the primary guarantor of your success.

Coaching helps you do that something successfully by removing the barriers that have kept you from doing it successfully thus far.Click To Tweet

Chances are, You Know What to Do

Hey I hate to bring “religion” into this, but here’s a relevant bit of trivia. Do you know what the Bible says is “sin’ (a word that literally means ‘missing the mark’)? It says, basically (in James 4), that if you know what to do and you don’t do it – you’re going to miss the mark (sin). If you know are HERE and want to be THERE in any area of your life, you need to change your thinking, for sure. And, yah, maybe you also need some skills. But the key to closing the performance gap is your thinking, and only a coach – a person who has the skills, training and mindset to listen actively, to ask curiosity based questions – only that kind of coaching can help bridge the gap.

I am going to mix my metaphors here. I have championship posters from each of the reigning years of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Those championships weren’t attained because the team were skilled professionals basketball players. There were DOZENS of equally skilled players on other teams. Those championships came because of mindset. Coach Jackson helped Jordan and his teammates change their thinking. He didn’t help them dribble and shoot better by teaching technique or by showing them how he pointed his fingers just so.

Want to get from HERE to THERE in business, in life, in relationships, in health. You know WHAT to do?

Get a coach who can unleash you to do it.

If you’d like more information about the Maxwell Method of coaching, or the proven team development and personal development curriculum used by John C. Maxwell to train millions of leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners and individual performers (a fancy word for commission-only or commission-mostly careers like Realtors, Mortgage Brokers, automobile sales people, etc.) leave a comment or send me a message.