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The Difference Between a Coaching Style & Coaching Philosophy

April 28, 2022 by Britt Fulmer

The Difference Between a Coaching Style and a Coaching Philosophy & How to Leverage Both

Deciding to become a coach is bravery in action. It takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and planning to build a strong coaching business. Some of the most important work you do will happen before you ever meet with your first client. Identifying a coaching philosophy and developing a coaching style are two aspects of your coaching practice you will want to nail down early. 

Coaching Philosophy vs. Coaching Style

There are three main components that make up a coaching philosophy: Purpose, Values, and Coaching Style. That said, purpose and values are typically unchanged over time and form the foundation and roadmap for making future business decisions. A coaching style, however, does change over time. So, for the purposes of clarity, we will look at coaching philosophy and coaching style as distinct entities in a coaching business.

The Difference Between a Coaching Style and a Coaching Philosophy & How to Leverage Both

Your coaching philosophy is one of the first and most significant ways you’ll communicate with potential clients. It is a reflection of your values and principles, and it serves as a set of guidelines for how you approach both the what and how of your clients’ goals. These values and principles largely remain the same throughout your life, providing you with an anchor point for everything related to your business. 

Unlike a coaching philosophy, a coaching style is fluid. As you become more comfortable in your coaching practice, your style is likely to change, grow, and develop. This development is key to your ability to stay relevant and successful in the coaching profession. For example, you may start your coaching practice with a very business-like approach. However, after getting to know the kinds of clients you attract (and most like to work with), you might realize they are a more laid-back group, and so your style will change to reflect a more relaxed coaching style. 

While a coaching style can ebb and flow with the needs of your clients over time, your coaching philosophy will largely stay the same.

Developing a Coaching Philosophy

The irony of developing a coaching philosophy is that you should coach yourself around the concept in order to clarify your values and principles. An excellent way to do this is to start with some powerful questions: 

  • How do you define coaching?
  • What made you want to become a coach?
  • How do you know coaching is the right fit for you?
  • What does coaching mean to you?
  • What results will your clients get from coaching?
  • Why makes coaching important to you? To society?
  • What is your ideal coaching relationship?
  • What is your ideal coaching client? 
  • What’s important about finding the right coach-client fit?

These are just a few questions you can ask yourself to focus your mind on developing your coaching philosophy. Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to do some writing. Use these answers to create a professional philosophy that you’d be proud to share on your website and with your clients. 

One way to do this is to identify the values that show up most frequently in your answers and assign an action to each value. For example, if your value is client resourcefulness, an action you might attach to that value is to always refrain from offering advice or suggestions until the end of the session.

At the end of the day, your coaching philosophy should do three key things: 

  1. Tell prospective clients what to expect from your coaching program.
  2. Provide an anchor point from which to weigh all business decisions.
  3. Serve as a set of guidelines as you strive to grow your business.

Developing a Coaching Style

If a coaching philosophy is the reflection of your values, then your coaching style is a reflection of your approach to coaching. Often, the niche you desire to work within will help guide you in a specific coaching style. For instance, trauma-related coaches may take a softer approach to a coaching session, while a performance coach might take a more direct and straightforward approach. 

Many coaches have a more general style, or a general way in which they approach all coaching conversations, and an individual style, or how the coach adapts to each individual client. For example, a coach who works with creatives and artists might incorporate more visualization and creative brainstorming techniques into their coaching conversations. However, they may lean more heavily into direct communication with one client over another, depending on the needs of the client. 

Though there is some adaptability in your coaching style and approach, all coaching style decisions should be weighed against your coaching philosophy. If your coaching philosophy states that you value more creative approaches to coaching, you wouldn’t want to adapt your style to a client who does not value creativity in coaching. Instead, you would abide by your philosophy and refer that client to another coach whose philosophy and style fit better with their needs. 

When it comes to developing a coaching philosophy and style, it’s important to honor your values and your strengths. This is the perfect place to set expectations, create boundaries, and clearly define your ideal client. This will eliminate wasted time and allow you to build a business that feeds your soul and maximizes your impact on potential clients.

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