Does The Old Model of Coaching Still Work?


Coaching is a growing industry that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. As our society shifts from an industry and product-focused world of salaried, 9-5 jobs, to a service-based, entrepreneurial society, the need for coaches continues to grow. No matter what niche a coach focuses on, what they bring to the table is becoming more and more important as people are becoming wiser to the necessity of personal development and living a healthy, fulfilling life.

In the past, coaches only offered one thing - a question and answer session to guide their clients to self-realizations and action. But that need has evolved, and so has the job of a coach. Now, to keep up with the demand, coaches have to be more than just someone who asks the right questions.

Coaches today find more success and fully meet the needs of their clients when they take on the additional roles of mentor and consultant, moving beyond questions into the realm of solid advice and planning.

But how did the coaching industry transform into this new dynamic? When coaching began, what was its role, and how is it shifting to catch up with an evolving society?

The Word Coach Goes Way Back

Coaching as we know it today didn’t officially start until the 1980’s, when it was developed by a man named Thomas Leonard (more on him later). But, in reality, coaching has been around much longer than that.

Think about the word coach, and see what else comes to mind. You’ll probably think of a sports coach or maybe even a voice coach, but can you think of any other definition of the word?

If you’ve ever watched a movie set in the 1800s, you might have heard of a stage coach, which was another name for a horse and carriage. A stage coach literally transports someone from one place to another, so it’s no wonder coaching borrowed the term. As a coach, you help someone move from one space in their life to another!

Coaching has taken on a new meaning in our society, but the definitions are still very similar. A coach can be seen as a guide, helping someone move towards their goal. After the word coaching was adopted to describe a person instead of a vehicle, it was mainly used to refer to a sports coach, but, believe it or not, modern day personal coaching has its origin in sports.

Sports Translate Into Life

In 1974, Timothy Gallwey published a book called The Inner Game of Tennis, which paved the way for the coaching industry by connecting the game of sports with the mental and psychological practices necessary to win.

In brief, The Inner Game of Tennis, proposed that there are two opponents in tennis, the person you're playing against and the inner critic inside your mind. Gallwey suggested that recognizing the voice of your inner critic, distancing yourself from it and then playing from a space of confidence and intuition would result in more wins.

This revolutionary way of thinking about sports was transferrable to every aspect of a person's life. While the original concept was directed towards sports, people began to notice that it was applicable in their personal and work lives too.

Naturally, if a sports coach can guide you using this methodology, a life coach, personal coach or work coach should be able to do the same. Not long after the publication of this book, the pioneers of the coaching industry started creating coaching models, citing this book as a reference.

The First Life Coach

Before getting into the pioneers' stories, I want to briefly discuss the evolution of the term “life coaching.” While coaching is a vast and dynamic field today, when the industry first began, the broad term life coaching was the most relevant description. If a sports coach coaches sports, then anyone who coaches someone with their life must be called a life coach. That’s too broad for the evolved industry today, but for the sake of historical accuracy, I’m going to use the term life coach to describe the origins of the coaching industry.

The life coaching industry really began with Thomas Leonard, a financial advisor for a company called Landmark Education. In the 1960s a personal development movement became really popular, and at the head of that movement was Werner Erhard, who held large seminars where he trained people on life improvement techniques.

Erhard sold his training model to Landmark Education in the 1980s. Thomas Leonard began using the model on his private clients because he noticed that most of his clients' financial issues were really rooted in personal life choices. Leonard started calling himself a life coach, and it was at this time that the term coaching migrated and wasn't solely being used in sports.

At the same time Leonard was developing the first personal coaching model, a group in the UK was also drawing on the influences of Erhard and Gallwey. This group created the GROW model, which became extremely influential in the coaching industry of the 1990s.

The Evolution of the Coaching Industry

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the coaching industry was booming. Thomas Leonard began to train other coaches, developing Coaching University. As the demand for life coaching grew, the demand for trained, certified professionals grew.

Though this certification model was very successful in creating trustworthy, trained coaches, it also created a strict structure for coaching that catered more towards benefiting the coach than the client. This question and answer model was helpful, but as our society evolved it became outdated.

It has only been very recently that we have begun shifting into an entrepreneurial-based society. Our industrial past lended itself toward structure and one-size-fits-all coaching models. When a 9-5 job or brick and mortar business ownership were the main two choices as a career, it made sense to present all clients with the same model of personal transformation.

Now, our society is more focused on the individual. Technology has given us a freedom of choice, and the old coaching model just doesn’t cut it. Clients are now looking for advice and structured plans rather than exclusively self-investigative questions.

What Coaching Clients Really Want

When the coaching industry began to rise, it focused on asking open-ended questions that allowed clients to explore their own intentions, goals and perspectives. The coach was never encouraged to offer advice, give references or develop plans of action.

That’s all changed. Clients now expect coaches to teach and guide them to the right answers. They want advice, real-life examples, references, plans and structured lessons to help them meet their goals.

This is true for any style of coaching, not just business coaching. Client of wellness, creativity, relationship and spiritual coaches, and everything in between, don’t want someone to just encourage self-exploration; they want structured, personalized guidance.

When you’re venturing out on your own, seeking independence, freedom and control over any part of your self, you want solid advice from someone who has done it before. That’s the shift our society has taken, and that’s the shift coaching had to catch up to.

The Mentorship Method

Unfortunately, there are still many outdated coaching models that haven’t evolved. That’s why I developed The Mentorship Method. This method trains coaches how to be the coach their clients are looking for by teaching them to:

  • Be a coach - learn how and when to use the question and answer format
  • Be a mentor - learn how to use your experience to relate to and guide your clients
  • Be a teacher - learn how to create your own teaching materials
  • Be a consultant - learn how to offer personalized advice and planning

Coaching has evolved so much over the years, and if you want to be a successful coach, you have to keep up with the changes.

Click here to learn more about the Mentorship Method.


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