Confusion over definitions

“Coaching is a hot subject, a modern-day ‘buzzword’ that means different things to different people. When we talk about coaching, we are not always talking about the same thing. When asked whether coaching and managing are distinctly defined, almost half our respondents (46%) answered sometimes or never.

In their 2016 survey they distinguish between Business and Executive Coaching.

  • Business: more about consulting and deals more with business processes and systems.
  • Executive: focused on changing behaviour in the business.

When looking at line manager coaching, this is wrapped up in their role as a manager and can be both forms.

I see this confusion often and not just in the organisational arena, also more broadly. I think that the fact that all sorts of people call themselves coaches and have a range of different approaches encourages that confusion. Coaching is not a profession, so there are no rules controlling the practice. This makes accreditation by independent Associations all the more important as an indicator of standards and competence.

Initially coaching was explained by likening it to the much more widespread and visible sports coaching. However, this was a ‘double-edged sword’ as people then understood it to be highly directive. If your experience was the football coach for your child’s junior league, or Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, you would expect a lot of control by the coach. This was not the approach advocated by coach training schools who promoted ‘non-directive’ coaching. Due to its increasingly widespread use, this style is slowly becoming understood, at least in large organisations.

Different schools have different approaches and users find it difficult to understand those differences and know what they are buying; or whether one approach or another may be better suited to their needs. It’s important for providers to be able to explain their style or methodology, so that coachees know what to expect.

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