What is a Coach?

Usually, I set aside Fridays for one-off posts on whatever topic appeals each week.  This time I have a special sequence of posts to publish over the next few weeks.  This first post, “What is a Coach?” is the first part of a talk I shall deliver at the end of March.

On 25 March, I shall be speaking at Sheffield’s first business and personal development event: “Change Your Business, Career and Life: Success Summit 2017“.  I am developing my keynote for the event.

I have recorded the first 10 minutes of the keynote and I’ve transcribed it.  The idea is to test the talk, by publishing it and requesting feedback.  I’m already seeing new possibilities and so this is proving to be a worthwhile exercise.

A further reason for these posts is to add to the publicity for the event.  People may be attracted as they catch glimpses of its content.

The Introduction Transcribed

This first part is the introduction to the keynote.  I’ve imagined being present at the event, hence the reference to 200 people.

This is an accurate transcript and one point of interest is to compare my speaking and writing styles.  One problem is punctuation.  I can hear the words but not the punctuation.  Like most people I don’t speak in clear sentences (a few people do!).  I’ve cut out the stumbles and false starts, mainly.  The subheadings are not a part of the talk.

Introduction: What is a Coach?

How many people here are coaches or consultants?  There’s about 200 in the room and it looks like there are about 30 or 40.  That’s a brilliant response!

Don’t switch off if you don’t think of yourself as a coach or consultant.  Just listen to what I have to say.  I want to tell you a story about my father and his work.  He was a sheet metal worker, self-employed, for thirty years between 1956 and 1986.  And he provided the side of the market that was bespoke to the industry.  He would go into a factory and he would be looking for solutions in terms of balustrading, machine guards, ducting.  They called him in if they had a problem and there was no off-the-peg solution.  He would discuss the problem and agree an approach.  They would gather data, design the solution – sorry he would gather data, he would design the solution, make it and fit it.  So, in effect he was a coach or consultant, providing solutions in bended metal.

And this is actually true of most businesses.  Most businesses solve problems.  They are selling a solution to a problem.  Even if you are selling a product and it’s an off-the-peg product, it’s much better if your customers buy the right thing.  They still need a bit of education and some help in making the right choice.

So, I’m going to ask you again, how many of you are coaches or consultants, even if it’s just in part?  Because everyone can be a coach, everyone can use coaching to support their business and for some businesses it might even become an alternative income stream.

Finding Your Vision

What I want to do today is to invite you to step back from your business and to look at it in ways that perhaps you normally don’t.  Whether your business is a great success or whether you are contemplating failure, it is always helpful to take time to do this.

Perhaps, you have lost sight of your original vision.  You had a vision about your personal lifestyle, your freedom, your contribution that others would value and simply the pressure of the work that you’re doing means that you’ve just lost track of them.

So, I’m going to walk you through your business, looking at 4 foundations in this first part that every business needs to have in place.  This is a chance for you to review your business and to try to work out where you need to pay attention.


Notice I start the talk with a question and then ask it a second time after providing more information.  The aim is to get the audience thinking about their response and hopefully seeing that coaching is not necessarily the preserve of a few.

The story is perhaps not brilliant as stories go but it will hold attention for several reasons.  First, it has local relevance and perhaps I should emphasise that more.  It is also the story of a successful business.  I’m not sure my father would agree with that but his business lasted 30 years and paid for a house and university education for two children.

I’m positioning myself as an expert in assisting coaches with local marketing.  The aim is not to persuade all the businesses present that they are coaching, so much as establishing the talk’s relevance, so that all present will listen and not dismiss me as not for them.  I need to establish my market is coaches or consultants but I don’t want a large section of the audience impatiently waiting for the next speaker!

Your thoughts about this introduction are welcome.  Next time I’ll say more about the shape of the talk .

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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