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So What *Do* You Do?

Post-it notes with question marks

Over the last many months, as I've launched my business and talked about it with others, I've sometimes struggled with describing what it is I do with my clients. Part of this struggle is being an introverted newbie to this whole solopreneurship game - I'm gradually losing the shakes whenever I think about marketing and sales - but another part is rooted in people's perceptions and understanding of coaching.

Many people have never met a professional business or life coach, and only a tiny percentage of people have actually worked with one, but almost everyone understands coaching in sports. So in honor of the 2018 Winter Olympics (insert inspirational music here!), I'm going to describe my coaching with a sports analogy.

Olympic medals in snow

You're humming the Olympic Theme now, right?

Side note: I'm pretty sure sports analogies make the world go 'round. They are EVERYWHERE. Keep track of how many you hear in one day, especially at work. Challenge yourself: Try to get through a day without using one! Good luck!

Back to coaching.

First, consider athletes who compete individually in a sport, like tennis or swimming.

Tennis player

This is not Serena, so you will not see the G.O.A.T on this post. Fail, I know.

If you're a high-performance athlete or want to become one, you get a coach. That coach works with you, maximizing your strengths and talents, and minimizing your weaknesses. She helps you picture your dream of winning that Grand Slam and then lays out for you how you can get there. She supports, pushes, encourages, and even nags you sometimes, to keep you accountable to your dream. She figures out how to take advantage of your internal motivations in your march toward greatness, so you can achieve it as quickly and fully as possible.

Next, there's team coaching.

Please, Hockey Gods, make this the year Team USA's women get the gold back!

If you're on a team, you need a coach to set up the systems and practice drills that will help your team excel. The coach works with each individual on the team as well as the team as a whole, and he often interacts even more with the captains, who are considered the team's leaders. He understands how to motivate the team, gets the team to communicate effectively, and clearly establishes roles and responsibilities, in addition to working on individual skills with each athlete. He teaches the team to act as a unit and become greater than the sum of its parts.

Guess what? Professional coaches do the same thing outside of sports.

One-on-one coaching is all about learning who YOU are and who you want to be. The coach works with the individual to unearth her strengths, values, and vision, and then helps the client figure out how to achieve that vision. The coach helps the client understand her internal motivators and holds her accountable by reminding her of her vision and the actions she is taking toward its fruition. The focus of the coaching engagement could start out pretty narrow (improving leadership skills, launching a new business, getting a promotion, etc.), but it almost always widens to incorporate the whole person and her environment - because life isn't lived in a "work" box and a "home" box anymore.

This team looks happy - I bet they have an awesome coach!

Team coaching has a similar parallel to sports - team coaches work with business teams to maximize their performance. The coach helps the team leader(s) establish and maintain best practices within the team and facilitates understanding and optimal communication among team members. The coach may meet with each team member individually or not, depending on the engagement, but he definitely meets with the team as a whole and helps them become high-functioning, efficient, and effective.

That's it. Pretty simple, right? My coaching is for people and teams who want to accelerate their achievements and optimize their results. And if I were a tennis or ice hockey coach, I would say the same thing.

Does this help with your understanding of coaching?

Are there any other analogies you can think of that might describe your experience with a coach?

What do you think is different between a professional life or business coach and an athletics coach?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

And if you want a first-hand look at what coaching can do for you, book yourself a free 30-minute sample session here!

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