Do I need a Business Coach, Life Coach, or [Other Adjective] Coach?

By: Adam G Fleming in coaching, 3 years ago

I’ve been thinking about the adjectives people in this industry hang in front of coaching. There are dozens of tags people hang on their coaching services: business, life, leadership, productivity, career, wellness/fitness, etc. You’ll find all of them here on

All these adjectives sound like they are describing the type of coaching, but what they really do is describe the goals the client has. Because coaching is a non-directive process and the client drives the agenda, this adjective is selected by the coach because it tells the client “yes, we can work on that goal.” And, this can be helpful. But I’d like to present an alternative way of looking at that.

The noun described by all these adjectives is “coaching”. Coaching indicates a standardized methodology and a conversational process. A really good coach ought to be able to work with people no matter what their goal is. Coaches with some adjectives on the shingle they’ve hung out may have certain tools they recommend for the client to use in the course of their pursuit of a goal. Many of the tools are excellent, but by their nature, by definition, they are directive. I use some of them myself, and I want to be clear that they aren’t bad. If you don’t have resources, getting some tools from a coach can be a really nice jump-start to your growth process. However, if you’ve tried lots of tools without success, you may be wary of the next tool that comes along. But a self-motivated client ought to be able to manage a self-directed approach to finding the resources, even to making their own tools. Reinventing the wheel so it suits you is not always a bad idea. Think about a bicycle tire. Somebody had to reinvent the wheel to get something different out of the bike. Maybe the cyclist wanted speed for a race, or better grip for mountain terrain. In fact, people with specific, unique needs reinvent wheels all the time! A good coach should be able to facilitate that no matter what tools are being sought and used, whether the coach designed them, was trained on them, or not. When the client decides to invent their own metaphorical wheel, to help them over an obstacle that has a unique, personal reason, they are more likely to own the use of that wheel or tool. Instead of saying “I have an app for that,” the coach could be saying “What apps do you know about, what apps need to be invented?” I get it that you’re not always looking for an extra project, but if you’re stuck and can’t find a tool, your unavoidable problem may also be re-framed as an entrepreneurial opportunity, because there’s likely another person who needs that app… wheel… tool! There are tools that I don’t reinvent, for example, as a coach trainer, because I couldn’t reinvent something better than what I already have… at least not significantly better to be worth my effort. Also, I’m not passionate about tool-making. There’s somebody out there right now reinventing the tools for training coaches, because some people are just wired that way!

Once we accept that we may not want the tools an [adjective] coach provides, it gets even more interesting. There is a rule of thumb that sometimes the best coaching you can get is with a coach who knows very little about the goal you have. A coach who honestly does not know how to get there. If that seems counter-intuitive, bear with me a moment. This allows the coach to stay in a place of curiosity rather than tempting them to become the information giver. Few coaching clients recognize that finding a coach with less expertise may actually be the best approach! Imagine someone going to a business guru and saying “I want fitness coaching!” In fact, if the coach is worth their pay, if they really understand the paradigm and methodology, they can do it. Perhaps they will do it better than a fitness guru could, because they’re able to stay curious longer, and give out fewer morsels of advice… mmmm… so addictive that tasty advice is. Some coaches may disagree with me on this point.

You have to be really driven by your own motivation to access the power that getting coaching from a non-expert can give you. “Advice,” as Gandalf says to Frodo in the book The Lord of the Rings, “is a dangerous thing, even from the wise to the wise.”

You’re living your own life. Get advice when you really need it (which really means “when you will actually take it”). But the rest of the time, find your power from your internal motivation, because it’s your life, and you have to live it uniquely. That is why I’ve always preferred to just call it “life coaching.”

There are certainly two sides to this coin, and I’m not saying you should never seek out specific expertise, or that business coaching with a business coach is bad, fitness coaching from a fitness coach is bad. I’m not saying the tools and resources a coach may suggest are bad. Nope, I’m not saying that at all. Just make sure those people aren’t only equipped with good tools. They should also be equipped with the best questions, and remember, the best questions are driven by the coach’s curiosity, not from their knowledge. Be careful that you don’t abdicate your responsibility because you have a great [adjective] coach. After all, you may make the next great wheel, app or tool for people who have obstacles like yours, and that could be worth millions!

If you need a coach who doesn’t know jack, I’m your huckleberry. Okay, I’m half-kidding here. Check out my gigs on ExotericLiving. I might even have some good tools. Stay curious, my friends.

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