What is the Deal with Coaching?

Posted By: Charles Weathers For Good Connections, Learning Together,

By: Charles Weathers, The Weathers Group, and Patrick Jinks, The Jinks Perspective

Words mean things. Do you know where the word coach originates?

It comes from the mid-16th century French term coche and the German word kotcshe. Both words refer to a wagon designed to move people from one place to another. Where was this coach first made? In a Hungarian village named Kocs. In the early 19th century, Oxford University introduced the term coach to refer to a trainer/instructor who “carries” a student through a course or exam. It has evolved from there, of course.

The point is that a coach helps move people from one place to another – in a pulling fashion, not a pushing one.

Today, there are many types of coaches. Leaders seek out career coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches, leadership coaches, marketing coaches, and more. Fortune 500 CEOs use coaches. World-class singers, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs use coaches.

What about nonprofit leaders? Between the two of us, we have coached countless nonprofit leaders who have found great value in the approach.

However, many still wonder what it’s all about. Here are a few questions we often hear, and some perspective on each:

What is the difference between coaching and consulting?

First, it is important to acknowledge that we need both coaches and consultants. Context, objective, and learning style all matter when deciding when to engage each. Both add tremendous value in the right situations. Here are a few differentiating aspects:

  • Coaches tend to ask, while consultants tend to answer. Again, both are valuable tools.
  • Coaches don't necessarily have to be the subject matter experts to help the client (coachee) with a problem, while consultants generally possess technical aptitude in the specific issue area for which they are engaged.
  • Coaches often focus on the person; consultants often focus on the problem.
  • Coaches help the clients uncover and arrive at their solutions, and consultants provide solutions.

We both coach AND consult at times. However, we make sure we know which role our clients need from us, and we are clear with them about where we believe each fits best to meet their objectives.

One more consideration: Coaching is also NOT counseling or therapy, which require an entirely different set of credentials and experience.

Who should consider a coach, and when?

A leadership coach does for a leader’s mind something similar to what a physical trainer does for an athlete’s body. It’s about stretching our limits, building leadership muscle, and developing effective habits while eliminating bad ones.

Anyone who wants to improve their performance should consider a coach. Effective leaders engage coaches not because they are failing, but because they want to continue succeeding.

Don’t engage a coach until you are ready to listen, share openly, think at a deeper level, be vulnerable, and be accountable.

  • In a consulting relationship, the consultant carries more of the accountability and responsibility for solution identification.
  • In a coaching relationship, the coachee carries the larger share of that accountability. A coach serves as a safe accountability partner.

One great time to engage a coach is during (or in preparation for) a transition – new job, new strategic plan, new initiatives, new vision, new challenges.

How do I find and engage a coach?

Ask colleagues in your network.  Reach out to entities (like Together SC) and ask for referrals.  Search LinkedIn to get a feel for what and who is out there.  Reach out to coaching networks and certification entities to check out their resource directories.  Both of us have found in our coaching careers that the relational component is critical.  A coach and client must connect.  If there is no chemistry, trust, or comfort level, keep looking!

Coaching is not an engagement best entered into through an RFP process. Dating may provide an apt analogy. Would you suggest getting married on the first date?

How long does a coaching relationship last?

Informal coaching relationships can often serve their purpose in a matter of minutes! Even in a formal engagement, we have had coaching relationships last a weekend. A client had a specific goal. They needed a thought partner to challenge, support, and stretch them. They needed a coach for two to three days to help them navigate an opportunity. It works.

We have also both enjoyed coaching relationships that lasted in excess of two years.  Those can work too. Many Fortune 500 CEOs KEEP a coach! It all depends on the client's objectives and commitment.  

There comes a time for coaching relationships to end. Mentoring relationships can last longer (even a lifetime). There also come those times for "this" coaching relationship to end – when the next coach can better serve the client in getting to the next level. 

What are some unique benefits of coaching?
  • A non-judgmental space where you can be vulnerable and creative.
  • The coach cares about you enough to ask the tough questions. In fact, it may be the toughest compassion you will ever receive.
  • The coach won't let you "hide" from yourself.
  • It's all centered on you, and for many leaders, it is ironically the only space they have where they are the center.
  • A forced pause to focus on the high-priority intentions, values, practices, and plans that will elevate your leadership and performance.
Your Engine's RPMs

Coaching is much more than an event or transaction. It may help to think of coaching as your engine’s “RPMs":

R Relationship in which collaboration, cooperation, and co-creation happen between the coach and the coachee.

PProcess of pulling the coachee along a desired path from one place to another.

MMindset that keeps inquiry at the forefront, invites innovative thinking, and opens doors to new opportunities.

Get the RPM’s right, and your leadership engine runs smoothly and at your unique optimal speed!


Charles Weathers
Patrick Jinks

Charles (The Weathers Group) and Patrick (The Jinks Perspective) are two of Together SC’s most trusted and in-demand business partners. They coach nonprofit executives, teams, and boards across our state and beyond. Both are members of the Forbes Coaches Council and regular contributors to forbes.com.

Charles is a USAF veteran who transferred his military leadership and strategy training into a successful civilian career as a management consultant.  He has been recognized, in both the military and private sector, with numerous awards for his speaking and leadership abilities.  He completed his coaching training through the Pastors Coaching Network.

Patrick is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker whose speaking stages have ranged from TEDx to The United Nations. His unique coaching approach has been featured in The USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. He is a certified leadership coach through Leadership Systems, Inc., where he serves as an adjunct coach and trainer.  His podcast, The Leadership Window features local and international experts and practitioners in leadership, through a social sector lens.