What is Coaching? (And What it is Not) 

 February 4, 2020

By  Donna Woodrow

There are a range of different services to assist with your professional development and sometimes it challenging to know which one will yield you the best results. In this article we're going to discuss what coaching is, and what it is not. So that you are more informed to make a better decision. Next time you consider hiring a coach, you'll have a better idea of what to expect. 


So then, what is coaching?

Traditionally the word 'coach' has been synonymous with the sporting world. The best performing teams and athletes hire skilled coaches to improve their performance. Now the rest of the world wants to experience this too. Businesses hire coaches for their executives leaders and teams to improve performance, and everyday people are hoping to access a coach to help them through life's challenges

There are many different models of coaching but they all have one thing in common. The entire coaching process revolves around a conversation between coach and coachee. As the client, this conversations facilitates you to access your own resources and answers - to work towards an agreed outcome. Generally coaching focuses on a specific task and the performance of that task. This might be to improve work performance and output. It might be to change an unhelpful belief, or to have better access to internal resources, such as courage or compassion. These are a few of the possibilities that a coach may be able to help with.

This conversation you have with your coach will primarily involve questions to get to the heart of the matter and facilitate change and transformation for you. Coaching can facilitate;

  • Improvements in performance.
  • Changes in beliefs and values.
  • Greater access to internal resources.
Quotation marks image white 03 - What is Coaching? (And What it is Not)

As a coach, I hold the belief that you have the answers to your own challenges within you. facilitate a clearer awareness of your own resources - and assist you in accessing them to overcome challenges.

Coaching is not...

I'm not going to discuss the pros and cons of each alternative service listed below. They all have their purpose and can be highly effective when used under the right conditions. The purpose of this blog is to make some key distinctions on how Coaching is different from these other services. So that when you're looking to hire a coach, you're clear on whether a Coach is the kind of support you're looking for. 

Coaching is not Mentoring

This service is at the top of my list as I think it's the service that most often gets confused with coaching. It's easy to do, because mentoring and coaching look similar from a distance. Both coaching and mentoring are aiming to help the growth of the client faster than the client might achieve on their own. But, it's how the coach and mentor do this that distinguishes the two.

A mentoring relationship involves a skilled or experienced person guiding a less skilled or experienced person through a particular process or role. The mentor - seen as the expert in the relationship - may give advice to the mentee to guide them along. Mentoring can be useful in times when there is a specific technical skill or work process to learn. Sometimes the mentor is able to provide access to new relationships and networks for the mentee that would be beneficial to their career.


The mentor is considered the expert.
The mentor provides advice and guidance.


You, the client are considered the expert.
The Coach asks questions so that you may find your own answers.

Coaching is not Training

Teaching or training is like a mentor-ship in that the trainer is the expert and is imparting knowledge and skills to their studentsBut training is often a short term process, with little to no follow up or support after the training session. Training is useful for learning technical skills and downloading theoretical knowledge.

For example, you might undertake training in Understanding People. A great course for learning the theory about personality and the framework of the Enneagram. It also covers the practical application of the Enneagram. But what the training process cannot teach you is how to overcome the specific internal challenges that arise for you when relating with others. This is a job for a coach.


The process involves short-term knowledge transfer generally with minimal support after completion.


The process involves a mid to long term relationship with regular scheduled support for specific outcomes.

Coaching is not Counselling

Counseling and therapy helps clients through a process of remedial change. Remedial change presupposes that there is something wrong that needs fixing or curing. Counselors are often tasked with helping someone heal from long standing suffering or traumaThis process and support often focuses on understanding the past and how it has contributed to the clients present state.


Involves remedial change - healing from past wounds and challenges.


Involves generative change - creating new ways of being in the present moment.


The terms coaching, mentoring, counselling and training get used in different ways by different people, because they are all in the field of facilitating growth and development for an individual. Yet it's important to distinguish at least some of the ways in which they're different. And to know what kind of service you're signing up for. 

Plumbers and electricians are both considered tradies - but you wouldn't hire a plumber to fix your electrical problem. So don't hire a mentor, a trainer or a counselor - if what you are really in need of is an excellent coach.

If you're still not sure what the right service is for you, comment below and ask us your questions or contact us for a private and confidential chat. We'll never work with someone just for the sake of it, if what you're looking for is not suited for coaching, we'll let you know. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

- Donna

Donna Woodrow

Donna takes a genuine interest in the collective and personal growth of the human race and its individuals. Donna is a seeker who loves to travel and invests considerable time in her own personal growth. Donna is a professional coach and trainer, experienced Enneagram facilitator and the Managing Director and Partner of Modo Coaching & Training.

Donna Woodrow

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