What Coaching Is Not

One of the first issues I often need to clear up when engaging with a potential client is what coaching is, and what it is not.

When most of us think about coaching we see the traditional image of a sports coach. Some guy standing in a tracksuit, whistle around his neck and maybe a clipboard or a stopwatch, shouting instructions to athletes.

Most people who approach me to discuss a coaching engagement, are after advice. What they need is someone to tell them what to do, to bounce ideas off, and often discover new ideas. There is nothing wrong with giving or receiving advice.

Others expect that you will teach them a new skill, or technique to improve themselves or their business. Let's break these common expectations into categories.


A trainer is a person with knowledge that passes on that specific knowledge. They take what they know, and train you in the skills you need. It is specific. If you have a trainer at the gym to help you lose weight, you cannot ask that same ball of muscle to training you on how to make a hollandaise sauce. It is easy through your life, especially in the work environment to have hundreds of trainers, each with a very specific skill-set.

Mentor / Advisor

I see a mentor as a bit of a hybrid version of the trainer and coach. A mentor has gained experience, usually in business or personal growth. They use their experience, and the knowledge gained to guide you, to help you avoid pitfalls on your growth journey. Many up and coming business people have mentors. I myself have a number of them. In a stalkerish way, some of them have no idea I am following them.

I look to individuals who have achieved greatness in the field of personal development for inspiration. Tony Robbins, John Maxwell and Sir Richard Branson are at the top of my list. They have all achieved a level of excellence I aspire to.

I also have a personal mentor that I talk to when I need guidance on specific issues relating to my coaching business.


What makes coaches different from trainers and mentors, is that they accept and know that the answers you seek, already exist within you. In my post of 5 April, I spoke about how God places your purpose (your vision) in your heart, even as you are being formed in your mother's womb, and this is so true.

A coach does not tell you what you need to achieve in life, and how to do it. A coach simply knows the right questions to ask to let you find the answer within yourself. And who doesn't like to be right anyway? None of us want to be told what to do. It is one of those little ingrained traits we all have. But to listen to ourselves, and to be right, that is an opportunity to say "I told you so" when you achieve that true calling on your life.

A coach also helps you to believe beyond any doubt, that you are able to achieve exceedingly and abundantly over and above what you think you can.

There is no reason that someone cannot be more than one of these. But you need to be clear on what you need and what you are willing to pay for. If you need a coach to discover your purpose, your destiny, you do not want someone who will impose their ambitions and dreams on you.

Before engaging and spending precious money on someone, sit down and reflect on what it is you really need.

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