The Ambiguity of the Word Coach

The Ambiguity of the Word Coach image 8856136316 3ed635d09c m.jpg

Margie Clayman   November 15, 2014

The other day I saw news that a formerly well-known email guru was starting a new business. This fellow had made quite a splash when he announced that he had left his previous company of employ, and he was going to make his search for a new job a public adventure. When I saw that he had an announcement I was expecting to see that he had brought his talents to a new great company or perhaps started his own new business. Well, I was right about the latter, but it was not quite the type of business I expected. The fellow has defined himself as a coach who can help you find a job/start a career.

I have to admit, with all due respect, that this really confuses me. You weren’t actually able to find a job, you just started your own new career path. How does that make you a career coach again?

We run into this a lot in the online world. People call themselves business coaches because they have established a very good foundation for themselves online, either on Twitter or Facebook or perhaps some other platform. If you are in the business world, you know that most of the time promoting yourself is not going to win the day. What you really need to know how to do is promote your company, your products, your clients, your people, your brand, and your legacy. Successfully doing that enables you to position yourself as a business coach. Establishing yourself successfully online makes you, perhaps, a self-promotion coach, but that is not the same thing. Not even remotely.

It is for this reason that I also worry about people who define themselves as life coaches. All too often I have seen proof that what people present online does not always match how their lives actually are. How do you know that these life coaches are really capable of coaching you to a content life? What credentials do you need to be a life coach? I always raise my eyebrows a little when I see that title.

Is coaching about action or advice?

Then again, maybe my definition of “coach” is all wrong. Do you have to have professional playing experience to be a coach on a sports team? It certainly helps, but you can have a knowledge of the game that players can trust without actually getting out there and tackling people or hitting homeruns. Maybe the guy who has started his new career as a job coach learned the ins and outs of finding a job and from his journey decided he could better serve people by helping them along. Maybe the life coach can’t follow his or her own advice but can see how other people can improve their lives. Does that make them coaches?

Ever since the social media revolution, the numbers of “coaches” seems to have increased dramatically. I would guess the word “coach” is one of the most commonly used words in Twitter bios. To me, the word carries a sort of gravity to it, and therefore it should not be self-applied and it should be used sparingly. Perhaps, however, I am simply overthinking it.

So, coach me. What do you think?

Image Credit: via creative commons

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