The difference between business coaching and advice
The aim of coaching as defined by the Institute of Leadership and Management is "to develop an individual's performance by unlocking their capabilities through guided conversation and questioning." The principle that coaching helps the individual to find their own answers is the key factor that distinguishes it from business advice or mentoring.
Unlike an advisor or mentor, a coach does not have to be an expert in the same industry or profession as the client. Indeed, this is often a disadvantage because that opens up the temptation to the coach to start providing advice. Whilst it is often helpful in a coaching session to introduce useful leadership theory which has a solid research foundation, a good coach would never "advise" the client what he would do in the same circumstances or, even worse, "tell" the client what to do. Coaching is much more powerful than that. Coaching helps an individual understand their own values and motivations (often for the first time in their life) and from there, to set goals and agree actions that are going to be fully aligned with those values.
Think about your own life for a moment. When when you best motivated? Was it when your family, teachers or friends told you what subjects to study, which profession to follow, what hobbies or interests to pursue, or where you should live? Or was it when you came to your own decisions about these and other similarly life-changing matters?
Business advisors will usually tell you the "right" or "wrong" way to do something, giving all their clients the same basic guidance. Coaches recognise that everyone is unique and that the best solution for one person can potentially be the worst for another.
Sometimes we need advice or mentoring if we are in a new situation that we have never encountered before. There is a place for both advice and coaching. But ultimately, to achieve the highest levels of success, it is coaching that has the power to truly unleash your potential. This will happen when a good coach helps you to sort out your thoughts into a logical plan of action; and then gives you the motivation and confidence to stride forward and deliver that plan.
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About Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill is a leadership and well-being coach who specialises in bringing a positive psychology approach to his coaching. Over the last five years he has helped literally hundreds of clients to restart their lives, develop new levels of confidence, change careers, improve their work/life balance, or become better leaders and managers.