Distinctions between “life coaching” and “performance coaching”

With the passing of Dr. Stephen Covey, one of my first mentors when I started coaching in the late 80’s, I began to reflect on this model of Performance Coaching I have practiced for 25 years now and trained and certified performance coaches for the last 12 years.

Many people ask me about Life Coaching and what the difference is from our designation at Source Point Training of Certified Professional Performance Coaches (CPPC). When studying with people like Dr. Covey, Larry Wilson, Lou Tice and the works of Peter Druker, I observe similarities in each of their philosophies in one key area – objective results.  I have always felt that “Life Coaching” was a bit arrogant in that who am I to coach you on your “life”?  Rather, the question for me is “how can I align with you (my client) on certain outcomes that you want to achieve in specific areas of your life?” That is why the most effective coaches coach in particular areas of expertise. Mine has been business, Structure for Performance Coachingprimarily, through the years and also a good deal of work with family systems. My belief is that when you are coaching people to performance and specific outcomes, you focus on actions and behavior with a high level of accountability to look at all outcomes for the purpose of determining what is working and what is not working. This eliminates a high need to FEEL motivated or inspired by someone outside of you.

When watching the Olympics in London and observing how each person confronts their results minute by minute, event by event, we saw coaches working with champions, continuing to confront results, determining changes needed and then took action. This is the model for performance coaching.

At Source Point Training, we teach our coaches the ground of being performance coaches which is ontological. This means that as we are coaching on particular outcomes, we are also seeing all the interdependences and what will change as a result of achieving a desired outcome. To be effective, we do not live a life in a set of compartments. Due to the way that our world is changing, we see this more and more – the cross over between work and play, family, friends and business associates. In his book The World Is Flat – A Brief History of the 21st Century, Thomas Freidman describes our world as the realization of what it means to become a global society. His words have been played out in the last decade in ways that have us stop and take notice.

What this mean as Professional Performance Coaches is in order to serve our client, we must stay very present, current and observant of what is occurring in the world around us. Performance Coaches work with their clients to explore their World View. This is not a physical or philosophical process, but one that can be broken down in the following way:

What are the immediate circumstances facing your client

What are their near term objectives – needs and desires stated objectively

What is their vision and sense of possibility for their future?

What are their core values and beliefs? These are shaped by life experience

What is their current frame of mind, attitudes, frame of reference, emotions that affects their openness to be coached?

What is their background – education, social influences, culture – that will drive beliefs and choices and actions?

Performance Coaches are always coaching to desired outcomes as set by the client. We are always working with clients to understand their world view or how it will change as they take on new levels of self-awareness and practices that bring about change.

As Performance Coaches versus Life Coaches, we hold our client’s agenda, recognize all results and respect their choices. We focus on forward movement and attitudes that support risk taking and moving out of what is familiar and predictable, “the way that it is” to “what can be”.

In coaching performance, we hold our clients as infinitely resourceful and capable at all times. Unlike a counseling or therapeutic relationship, we focus forward versus the history that got us to where we are. The language of Performance Coaching is powerful in that we use metaphors to look at where we are and where we are going as powerful coaching tools to engage clients in holding a new perspective or image of themselves.

When hearing of a difficult situation from my client, as a Performance Coach, I am more apt to say “So what, NOW what?” from a place of real inquiry. Many people would like to play the “waiting game” or “let’s be doubtful” because they want certainty in uncertain times – however, nothing will change unless you are willing to get uncomfortable and stretch yourself by taking on new skills, attitudes and behaviors – AND this is where the performance bar will always get raised by a Professional Performance Coach.

When the International Coach Federation (ICF) took on the role of becoming the governing body for professional coaches globally – they defined
the core competencies of coaching as:

Setting the FoundationICF Logo

Meeting ethical guidelines and professional standards
Establishing the Coaching Agreement

Co-creating the Relationship

Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the client
Coaching Presence
Communicating Effectively

Active – Listening

Powerful questioning
Direct Communication
Facilitating Learning and Result

Creating Awareness

Designing Actions
Planning and goal setting
Managing Progress and Accountability

These skills are taught and practiced in many ways around the world. To be recognized by the ICF as a credentialed coach, you must be able to demonstrate these 11 core competencies. You can look on-line and see that there are many trainings that teach these skills – some trainings can be a week long and others, like ours, are a 9-month learning and application process to demonstrate competency. Competency takes practice and experience, which is obvious in any profession. That is why it is unreasonable to expect to learn how to coach from a program that is a week or even one month.

In order to apply for the first level of credentialing with ICF, the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) Credential, you must complete 60 CCEs (Continuing Coaching Education) with a training organization recognized by ICF.  You then complete a Portfolio Application that also includes at least 100 hours of coaching with a minimum of 75 hours paid coaching. This raises the skills and level of professionalism that ICF is committed to and acknowledges as the minimum necessary for a professional coach to be prepared to best serve his/her clients.

Source Point Training is proud of offer a total of 140.5 CCEs upon completion of our Fundamentals and Mastery of Performance Coaching.  This number of credits allows our graduate to have the necessary CCEs for both the ACC and PCC (Professional Certified Coach) credentialing levels with ICF.

What are your views on the distinctions between “life coaching” and “performance coaching”, please post your thoughts and ideas, we’d love to hear from you!

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By Barbara Fagan
Co-Founder & President, Source Point Training

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