Coaching – Definitions and Expectations

People are often confused about what a coach actually does. Using a sport analogy, coaches don’t win the games, the players win the games. Coaches, however, help players be more effective and successful at their particular sport.

Like the sport analogy above, the coach members of San Diego Professional Coaches Alliance have a wide range of experience and professional qualifications to assist organizations and individuals who want to be more effective and successful in some aspect of their business and life.

We have summarized below the different types of coaching, consulting, and other professional services that we believe can help you determine what assistance or support might be appropriate in your particular situation:


Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.

Different types of coaches

We have further classified coaches into the following three broadly different coaching niches:

1. Business/Executive/Organization

Coaches in this category typically work with individuals within an organization to help them improve their performance and that of their organization. The fundamental premise is that the individuals have the answers to their challenges.

The powerful questions of a coach, however, provide the opportunity to sort it out or develop a new perspective or approach on how to accomplish their desired result. A coach provides the individuals an opportunity to clarify issues and opportunities, establish action plans to overcome roadblocks, and hold them accountable for accomplishing their desired outcomes.

The methods (called modalities) that coaches use when working with clients may include questioning, observing, and using assessments (often referred to as instruments) that help the individuals to see themselves as they are seen by others, to see how their actions affect others, or to see what they need to do to overcome resistance by others caused by their actions. Coaches may work with clients face-to-face, by telephone, email or in group settings depending on circumstances.

Coaching is more effective when it is used as an opportunity to improve an individual’s performance, enhance their career, or facilitate a career change. It is less effective when attempting to fix an individual’s performance that results from attitudinal or other personal issues that are unrelated to their job.

Click here to search for coaches that specialize in these areas.

2. Life/Health/Wellness

Coaches in this category focus on the individual’s personal development. Unlike business and executive coaching, which is typically geared towards leadership development that drives specific outcomes for a business or organization, life coaches focus on the individual’s goals.

Many life coaches specialize in areas such as health and wellness, self-esteem and confidence, personal finance, time management and work-life balance, to name a few. While the enrollment process might be very similar for an executive coach and a life coach, the questions and conversations tend to address the individual’s well-being more deeply, exploring internal belief systems to foster crucial mindset shifts that allow for good habits to be developed.

In life coaching, the desired results are defined by the person being coached, and not by a business or organization. The coach and client then partner to co-create the plan, then define and execute the action steps that are necessary to achieve those results.

Click here to search for coaches that specialize in these areas.

3. Marketing/Speaking/Writing/Presentation

Coaches that specialize in one of these four categories help clients put their best foot forward in how the world sees them and/or the organization they represent. Bringing their years of expertise, these coaches turn powerful inquiry of the client’s needs into defined intentions so that actionable guidance can be laid out to lead the individual toward success. Through exercises, practice, review, experimentation, and direct feedback, clients reach outstanding results they would have struggled to achieve, if ever completed, on their own.

Depending on which of these four categories the client is seeking, the results might be highly tangible (such as a marketing piece or a new book) or a noticeable improvement in ability (as in turning out chapters with greater ease) or a combination of both (i.e.: creating a speech together that didn’t exist before and delivering it powerfully).

Coaching in these categories may seem more like one-on-one training, as it is important that the client gain skill sets that cannot be achieved solely by inquiry and suggestion. In the end, the client needs to be satisfied that they have grown in confidence and capability as well as, when appropriate, yielded quality output.

Click here to search for coaches that specialize in these areas.


Consulting is bringing experience, skills and knowledge to help an organization solve an issue where the organization could benefit from an independent perspective to analyze, evaluate, and/or recommend procedures or processes to achieve a goal. Consultants are typically experts based on their significant prior expertise in a functional area and/or industry.

Consultants advise and recommend on strategy, operations, or processes in professional and technical areas, such as: financial, human resources, marketing, logistics, operations, and other technical areas. Consultants operate under the premise that they have the responsibility to make recommendations and give advice on a range of issues on which they have substantial experience.


Mentoring is a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentee) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth. Mentoring can be offered informally or as part of a formal mentoring program.


Facilitating is a content-neutral role where the facilitator is experienced at enabling groups and organizations to work together more effectively, collaborate, and achieve synergy.  Facilitators do not make recommendations or give advice. They focus on creating an open environment where everyone’s views are respected and considered. Facilitating is often used to enable individuals, business and organizations to improve strategic planning sessions, improve teambuilding, and initiate organizational change. It is intended to help forward or assist the progress (an action, a process, etc.) of a person or organization.


Advising is offering an opinion, recommendation or suggestion based on the knowledge and prior experience of the person giving the advice. Advising is often given as part of consulting but not in conjunction with coaching. Coaches are sometimes asked for advice based on the coach’s experience but the distinction between coaching and advising needs to be clearly understood by both the client and the coach.