As a coach, maintaining a distinction between coaching and teaching is a challenge, especially with new clients. They get confused about when coaching or teaching is appropriate. There is a natural tendency for them to ask your opinion. Their experience with coaching may be more like teaching or training.
Teaching or training on the other hand does lend itself to a prescriptive role where a base of knowledge is established and then people move on to being more creative about their solutions. Coaching depends on the client having that base or developing that base of knowledge quickly if someone breaking new ground.
They probably selected you as an expert in your field, and after all…. isn’t that what you are there for – to impart knowledge? Well, yes and no.
Expertise in a field, industry or technique gives you an edge to ask compelling and thought provoking questions. Your experience lends itself to helping your client explore areas they may not have thought about.
However, it is not a requirement for you to have this experience to be an excellent coach. The art of asking great questions can be mastered without having specific knowledge of an industry.
Think about this – it is far easier for a new coach to learn enough about an industry or client group than it is for them to develop their coaching or questioning style. In fact, sometimes not knowing answers is more of an advantage.
So, how do you handle the coaching or teaching request?
Sometimes the client knows better and sugar coat their request, “You have so much experience with this, what do you think I should do…or what has been your experience around this topic?
It becomes a challenge when your client views your worldly knowledge and experiences as an opportunity to short cut the process of coaching – turning the conversation into a teaching instead of coaching session.
One of the ways I handle this request for experience is to let the client know I will share observations when them once we have had a chance to explore what they know and how they might develop their own unique approach.
This approach does two things – it lets them know I heard their request and will honor it and that I support them in building confidence in their own capabilities for thinking and reasoning.