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The Difference Between Executive & Life Coaching

“Oh, you’re a life coach!”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, I’d be a richer man.

Sometimes when people ask me what I do professionally, I’ll tell them about my work as an executive coach. Often times, their immediate response is, “Oh, you’re a life coach!”

I’m suspecting I’m not the only one that happens to. Additionally, I’m sure there are many more folks out there who could benefit from a high view description of the differences between these two types of coaching.

To begin with, you should know that the International Coaching Federation alone, boasts a membership of over 20,000 certified coaches. Many organizations have coaching certification programs varying in length from a few weeks to years and the types of coaches are endless. “Coaching” is listed on as a competency needed for everything from store managers & entry level supervisors to school teachers & administrators. You’ll find job titles out there like “Soccer Coach”, “Health Coach”, “Customer Success Coach”, “Parent Coach”, “Job Coach”, “Continuous Improvement Coach” and the list goes on. All this is to say – there are lots of types of “coaching” out there, and therefore, a need for clarity on what coaching is.

Though within the arenas of Executive Coaching & Life Coaching, diverse niche’s exist, I want to give a general explanation of the differences.

What is a Coach? 

To begin, we should establish a simple definition of what a coach is. To put it simply, a coach is a thinking partner. Some might call a coach a wise guide or even a trusted advisor. The term “coach” originated in the 15th century as a way to describe a vessel that moved an important person from one place to the next. So, we are striving to serve our clients by moving them from where they’re at to where they want to be via non-directive inquiry. So then, what does coaching look like? Frederick H. Hudson, Ph.D., gives a great explanation of a coach in The Handbook of Coaching (1999) as

“a person who works with emerging human and organizational forces to tap new energy and purpose, to shape new visions and plans, and to generate desired results. A coach is someone trained and devoted to guiding others into increased competence, commitment, and confidence.”

The Differences Between Executive Coaching & Life Coaching (My Take)

Executive Coaching focuses in the realm of the things of leadership. In this context, a leader might reach out to their HR leader or trusted colleague, asking for help in a certain area. Through various avenues, they might get connected with an Executive Coach.

Leaders often feel isolated, need accountability and increased self-awareness. Entering into a coaching relationship could help facilitate that self-awareness, provide a safe place for creative problem solving or any number of other things. I’ve found with some of my clients, many times, they simply want to be more effective or efficient in a certain area. Things inhibiting an executive’s progress could be things like unknown blind spots or a need for new resources, training or information.

But THE MOST common need I’ve heard executives express to me is that the higher you go in an organization, the less people are honest with you. Therefore, they need an objective, third party, to bounce ideas off of who will help them objectively think through various situations and help them grow and move forward accordingly. Click here for more info about executive coaching.

Personal Coaching (or Life Coaching), focuses in the ream of one’s personal life. People might hire a Life Coach for purposes of reaching personal goals or excelling in an area where they’d like to increase their competency.

I have done some of this work and those seeking Life Coaching often feel stuck in the realms relating to life progress and other personal experiences. While therapy, often times, seeks to understand areas of the past and bring people back to “normal”, personal coaching focuses on what a client wants in the future and then helps people get there. Click here for info about personal coaching.

Executive Coaching & Life Coaching: Pain Points

While, both Executive Coaching & Life Coaching help the client identify the goals being strived for and provide the support to achieve their desired outcomes, they do differ in the realm of what the “pain point” is. Executives often will feel the pain in the realm of their leadership or other areas relating to their work. While people seeking personal coaching will often feel the pain in realms relating to their personal lives.

I hope this has helped provide some clarity on the different types of coaching. If you are an executive leader, I know a guy who is experienced in this realm and would love to meet you. Click here to send me an email. If you are seeking personal coaching, also feel free to reach out and I’d love to help you find the right fit. Life is a long road and getting help to walk it well for a season could be a great thing to get you from where you’re at to where you want to be.

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