PSA: What is a Professional Coach, Really?

Professional coaching is a rapidly growing industry.  It is gaining in credibility.  Coaching is remarkably effective and utilized in the biggest organizations and by the most successful professionals.  And yet…

What is it?

When I use the word “coach,” what do you hear? It has long been a term for one who helps athletes achieve greatness in their sport.  Professional coaching is modeled after sports coaching.  A professional coach will partner with you in a way that is open, inquisitive and challenging to empower you to take action to achieve the results you truly desire.  A professional coach will not tell you what to do.

Professional coaches listen in a very specific and focused way.  They ask a particular type of question.  They ask questions designed to get to the heart of the matter, to help you see where you are holding yourself back, to help you see what you did not see before.  Coaching is not a typical type of conversation.  It requires training and practice, feedback for learning, and a LOT of introspection and self-awareness on the part of the coach.  Trained coaches know their own triggers.  They know what is going to bug them and how to deal with it when it does.  They know how to hold people accountable in a compassionate and rigorous way that creates results far beyond what they have ever experienced.

Training and Practice

As you read this last paragraph, it should become obvious that skilled coaches are trained.  A 6 week on-line training will not get you the in-depth skills required.  Great coaches have significant skills-based, real-life, client-practice training.  These skills do not come naturally.  They are learned through training and through practice.

When new people come into our coach training program saying, “I know I will be good at this; everyone comes to me for advice,” they are surprised to find out that coaching is not advice-giving.  It is not teaching.  It is not consulting or mentoring. It is a unique and particular way of being with people so that they soar – from their own power.  I know many effective and powerful coaches and none of them had this skill set before they got their training.

Professional Coaching Qualifications

And so my PSA (public service announcement for those who do not remember!): just because someone calls themselves a coach does not mean they are a trained professional coach.  Check them out! Check out their credentials.  Did they get trained?  Anyone can use this term as this industry is not regulated.  I say this as a way of imparting information.  I hold no judgment for people who say they are “coaching,” when in fact they are teaching and advising.  I do however, think that as our industry grows, we owe it to the consumers of our services to explain what coaching is and what it is not.

More and more, organizations are calling their managers “coaches”.  More and more, people who are actually consultants (skilled and knowledgeable professionals in an industry where they can share information that will help you grow in that industry) are calling themselves “coaches.”  While there is nothing wrong with this, a certain level of confusion is being created in the coaching industry, by people innocently throwing out this word because it is – at this moment – a trendy thing to call yourself.

What to Look For

Yes, I run a coach training company.  And there are quite a few others out there that are reputable.  Look for one that is 9 months to a year.  Look for one that meets in-person if possible.  Look for one that provides actual practice and feedback.  Scroll to the bottom of the blog for trainings I like.

And meanwhile, when someone tells you they are a coach, ask them this: “Where did you get your training?” You will not only gain some information about their qualifications, but you will also help the industry create clarity and consistency.  We will go ahead and thank you now.


Coach trainings I like:

Source Point Training – facilitating revolutionary change

About CTI | Co-Active Training

Wayfinder Life Coach Training (2021 FTK FALL) – Martha Beck

And of course, ours!  Coach Training – McLaren Coaching – Capture Your Success

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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