by Marci Wilson-Boggs

(Marci is an Associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and a participant in Summit Coach Training.)

These days we hear a lot of memes about so-called Life Coaching, and they seem to range from the utterly serious to the absolutely absurd. (Imagine a gym with a personal trainer yelling commands at a client and that visual being compared to life coaching. Hint: it’s not equivalent.) The reason these comparisons seem to exist is twofold: 1) Sometimes people connect the word coaching singularly to sports, and 2) People don’t really understand what coaching is, and what it is not.

According to the International Coaching Federation, one of the most well-known International credentialing organizations, the word coaching is defined as, “partnering with Clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”[1] A good coach becomes a companion alongside their client, allowing them to think out loud, and spend dedicated time thinking through important subjects and issues that affect their lives. The speed of our daily lives has continued to race with ever-emerging new technology, and many of us don’t feel we can take the time to plan intentionally, dream about where we want to be, or consider potential directions to take as we journey through this lifetime.

Coaching allows a person to:

  • spend time on their most important questions and
  • discuss issues,
  • set priorities,
  • or goals,
  • or put dreams into words.

This is critical time to spend, and if we truly desire to derive meaning from our lives, we need time to talk things through. We deserve that.

Now, let’s consider what coaching is not. Coaching is not therapy or counseling, although these are very important. Sometimes coaches refer clients to qualified and well-respected therapists if necessary, but coaching primarily concentrates on the “partnership between self-discovery and sustainable action.”[2]  Coaching is also not mentoring or spiritual direction, although those can also be important. Mentoring is learning from someone with more experience, or someone who has done what you want to do. Spiritual direction focuses on the client’s relationship with God or their personal faith journey. Also, consulting differs from coaching in that it focuses on solving a specific problem or challenge rather than discussing dreams, goals or plans.

So, who needs a Coach? In a word, everyone. We all need an encouraging listener, and a curious, inquisitive person to ask questions, clarify thoughts and add accountability. A coach is present without judgment or personal agenda, to focus fully on the client’s life and growth, learning and action leading to the fulfillment of their dreams, desires and intentions. A coach can help a client see their situations from a different perspective, or reflect their thoughts back to them for clarity or for a deeper understanding. Also, coaches commit to keeping conversations confidential and maintaining professionalism in their practice, which adds a level of trust to the relationship.

In case you didn’t know before, I hope now you have a clue as to what coaching is, and how important it is for everyone. If you would like to find a coach, or become a coach, feel free to contact the Center for Congregational Health or Pinnacle Leadership Associates. We’d be happy to meet you.


[2]    Pinnacle Leadership Associates, Disciple Development Coaching, (c)2012.