Coaching is a Profound Personal Relationship

Hey there! Coach Dave here.Coaching is a Relationship NOT an intervention

Coaching is…

A profound personal relationship between a coach and a player
in a co-created pursuit of life-changing results and winning on the players’ terms.

I was one of the founding members of the Coaching movement; When I joined the International Coach Federation in 1998; I was member #72.

In establishing CoachVille with Thomas Leonard in 2000, I have played a major role in the emergence of the movement, the “approach” and the Profession of Coaching.  I have a deep connection to the field AND even to the word Coach.

In this article I will share with you what the word Coach means to me AND I will share a few misconceptions about the word and places where I feel the word is used incorrectly.

People create results by playing better!
What do people want to play better?

Life games: business, career, health, romance, money

Business/Career skills: sales, marketing, leadership, media relations, social media

Life / business skills: public speaking, writing, relationships, attraction

Athletic games: basketball, soccer, baseball, physical fitness

Artistic crafts: voice, piano, trumpet, acting, dance, painting


Anything that a person can play can be coached.

The distinction of play has a few important qualities:

1) You can NOT control the outcome, but you can influence it with your skill, creativity and energy

2) There is NOT one right way to do it, self expression is possible; even encouraged; there may be some skills that have a correct “way” but the ultimate expression has many/infinite possible ways

3) Yourself AND others; you play the game for your own purpose or enjoyment AND there is typically a strong component of playing FOR a positive influence on the lives of others.

4) The pursuit of mastery; in most games you can pursue mastery for as long as you want to play.  The player defines mastery on their own terms with a blend of personal satisfaction AND degree of influence on others.

5) The definition of winning; in most games the player defines what winning means for them.  Even in competitive games where there are winners and losers a great coach will help the player define their own definition of “the win” that may be different than the team result or competition result.  For example in a running race the player may come in 23rd place (not winning) but beat their personal best time (winning!)

The coaching relationship

In order to coach someone, you have to know them personally.  Any ideas, feedback, instruction or content you share with them is personalized to their current level of awareness, ability and situation.

In order to BE coached by someone, you have to be known by them.  You must share your goals with them. You have to be willing to receive feedback from them.  And you need to KNOW your coach as well. To trust someone in this way you need to know them as a person.

A great coach typically knows the game/skill/craft that the player is playing from personal experience but is not necessarily an expert player themselves; being a great coach is about being able to help other people become good or even great at doing something.

What coaches do…

Well, a great coach will do MANY things to co-create the relationship and the desired results.

Here are a few key elements

1) Profound belonging
To get into a game in pursuit of life-changing results you need to be open to growth and expansion.  To create anything new you will face challenges that require risks and exploration.  The Coach creates an experience of belonging for the player so that they FEEL connected, safe and supported. They create shared purpose, permission space and judgment-free awareness. Mostly this happens through engaging in provocative conversations; conversations are the life blood of the coaching relationship.

2) Personalized Game Plan
The pursuit of life-changing results is NOT a “one-size-fits-all” situation.  The coach will get to know the players superpowers, skills, desires, values and fears (and a bunch of other things) and guide the player into a way to play a little better; and then a little better.  Playing better requires an expansion of WHO you are and WHAT you can do. Step-by-step toward mastery AND becoming.

3) Evaluate what matters
Feedback is the breakfast of champions!  To become better at anything you need a LOT of feedback; from your coach and from the world you are aiming to influence.  A great coach co-creates situations where the player can learn to SEE, FEEL and EMBRACE feedback and learn from everything.  Failure, messes and mistakes are an essential part of any worthwhile game!

4) Inner FREEDOM
Everything new result that you want to create requires actions that are outside of your comfort zone.  A great coach creates situations where the player can play just over the edge of their comfort zone and explore each fear as an engaging new territory!  Inner Freedom means you are FREE to play with fear.

5) Winning Environment
We become what we see; so all sustainable change requires environmental upgrades.  A great coach guides the player toward finding and creating the environmental upgrades needed to gradually pull the player toward the results they desire.  Creating winning environments is the truest master coaching super power.

Coaching is NOT…

Here are a few ways and places where I have seen the word coach used that I would NOT call coaching.

1) NOT An intervention for people with problems;
Coaching is not about fixing people with problems; coaching is about playing better.  You don’t go to a basketball coach because you have a basketball problem!
It is more about going from new to good or good to great.  Certainly if a player in pursuit of mastery is facing a problem the coach will help them find a solution.  But it is not the player who IS the problem.

2) NOT An expert who tells you what to do; or shares their “secrets”.
When an expert is sharing how they do something or the “right” way to do something, this is called training.  It can be valuable, but it should not be called coaching because it is not personalized to the player. While a coach should have knowledge of the game you are playing – possibly even expert knowledge – they use their knowledge only as it applies to the players’ personal situation. Coaching is not about telling people how you did something, it is about helping the other person figure out how THEY will do that something.

3) NOT Only asking questions because people have all their own answers.
This is the framework from Humanistic Psychology.  While highly idealistic it has been thoroughly debunked.  We do NOT have all our own answers, rather we do have the ability to choose what is best for us from among the choices that come from a wide variety of sources; including the coach.  A part of what has made human life so interesting is our desire to share what we have learned and experienced with others.  This sharing is essential to our human nature and our emerging consciousness.

4) NOT A group conference call with Q&A, “Hot seat” or “mastermind”
Sharing information in any group setting is training. Even if the information sharing contains the opportunity to ask a question or look at one persons’ personal situation, it is still training.  Training can be good in some situations but it should not be confused with coaching; Coaching requires a personal relationship for everyone involved.

5) NOT A watch or app that tracks your progress toward a goal.
Goal tracking can be good, accountability of action can be good, but it should not be confused with coaching.  Again, coaching requires a personal relationship.

“Coaching is NOT an intervention for people with problems.
Coaching is an investment for people with a game worth winning.”
– Coach Dave Buck

Final thoughts…

I hope this post provided some clarity!

If you are someone who creates programs, I would be honored if you would consider these distinctions when deciding what to name your next program.

Want to keep going…

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