Understanding coaching starts with knowing what it’s not.

In the business world, terms like ‘mentoring’, ‘teaching’ and ‘counseling’ are often used interchangeably with ‘coaching’. This is a grand misunderstanding that causes confusion about what coaching actually is. It’s also a personal pet peeve. But I digress.

[Tweet “When you coach someone, your mission is to help that person gain self-awareness. “]

Coaching is about the here and now: what does this person want to accomplish? What’s in the way? You help people arrive at smart conclusions on their own and resolve their own problems.

Teaching, on the other hand, is helping someone develop a specific skill or capability. You can teach someone, for example, how to program in HTML or the steps to conduct a financial audit.

Mentoring is when you share your own wealth of experience to shape how someone sees the world and their opportunities in it. It’s allowing someone to draw on your knowledge as they face decisions in their own life.

And lastly, counseling is a term that most accurately applies to people with specialized training. It focuses on improving current situations by examining and resolving issues from the past – often from childhood.

Teaching, mentoring and counseling each have their merits and rightful places. It’s not my intention to dissuade you from using these approaches if and when it’s appropriate.

But to be the most effective leader you can be, use coaching as your primary approach. You’ll get better results and a more motivated, committed team. And you’ll create a line up of people who are prepared for higher levels of leadership.


Leadership Development: This week, before you start a conversation in the break room, ask yourself what kind of ‘advising' you've been giving to your team. If it was something other than coaching, make a conscious effort to help your team look at their goals and discover what's in the way of their accomplishments.

If you liked this blog post, you'll love my new book Lead Advanced: 6 Skills to Be The Ultimate Executive.


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