Understanding The Roles & Responsibilities of Coaching as a Career

By Jodi Nicholson, MCSC   

Success Coach Institute

What is Coaching?

Coaching is a strategic process that enables both an individual and a corporate client or business to achieve their full potential. Other definitions of coaching according to a report published by the Institute of Leadership and Management state coaching as “a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve,”  (Parsloe, 1999); and that coaching is a flexible process “whereby an individual, through direct discussion and guided activity, helps a colleague to learn to solve a problem or to do a task better than would be otherwise the case,” (Megginson and Baydell, 1979); and concerning itself "with amplifying the individual’s own knowledge and thought processes. It is about creating a supportive environment in which to challenge and develop critical thinking skills.” (Guest, 1999). Although coaching and mentoring share many similarities they should not be confused with each other. Coaching takes on a fundamentally different approach and is a separate process typically honoring a code of ethics, guidelines, certification and specific techniques that are not necessarily present when mentoring.

Coach and Mentor: What’s the difference?coach certified

So how do you differentiate between a coach and a mentor? A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor (or teacher), a person that teaches or leads by example, possibly in a particular niche, specialty field or path in life and offers guidance for an individual (mentee) to follow in their footsteps or processes. A coach on the other hand brings about lasting change through various methods such as questioning without counseling, motivating and empowering without having the need to know the exact processes or details of a given niche.

Let’s examine coaching in greater detail, and outline the role and responsibilities of a coach and the coaching relationship whether it’s professional (paid) or philanthropic (un-paid or pro-bono).

Responsibilities of a Coach and the Coaching Relationship

  • Assists the individual client or company in making real improvement and long lasting change for the better
  • Facilitates a safe and trusted environment to explore thought processes, systems and strategies
  • Provides motivation and unwavering support to discover needs, unlock desires, and create a vision of an ideal life (or business) through guided conversation
  • Uses questioning techniques to facilitate client's own thought processes in order to identify solutions and actions rather than providing the answers or solutions
  • Supports the client in setting appropriate goals and then helps to implement methods of assessing progress in relationship to the goals and desired outcomes
  • Observes, listens and asks questions to understand the client's unique situation and provoke deeper thought and consideration for a well-rounded solution
  • Adds depth to situations offering greater consideration and multiple perspectives that bring about clarity
  • Creatively applies tools and techniques that may be strategic, spiritual or neutral to facilitate a desired outcome
  • Encourages a commitment to action and inspires the development of lasting personal growth & change
  • Incorporates neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to create behavioral changes focused on positive results
  • Encourages clients to establish foundational balance in all aspects of their life to build solid values towards successful outcomes
  • Maintains an unconditional positive regard for the client, meaning that the coach is supportive at all times and non-judgmental of the client, their views, lifestyle and aspirations
  • Ensure that clients develop personal competencies and do not develop unhealthy dependencies on the coaching relationship
  • Evaluates outcomes using objective measures wherever possible to ensure the relationship is successful and the client is achieving their goals
  • Encourages clients to be develop a growth mindset, continually improving competencies towards the achievement of goals
  • Possesses qualifications, certification and/or experience in the field of coaching and transfer that knowledge through performance to clients
  • Manage the relationship to ensure the client receives the appropriate level of service and that programs are measurable, reasonable and of the right time frame related to the level of desired achievement
  • Maintains the professional or philanthropic role of coach and does not waiver to clients as a friend, therapist, consultant or mentor

A coach does not provide answers to specific problems, nor do they teach or instruct per se; which are predominant features of a mentor. These roles further differentiate the fields and responsibilities of a coach versus those of a mentor. Instead, coaches work with the “coachee” (client or company) to facilitate expanded awareness through questioning, analysis and reflection, and therefore enable the person being coached to formulate their own ideas and solutions based upon their current knowledge base.

A coach should be able to develop excellent rapport, trust and a powerful relationship with the coachee based on honest and truthful dialogue, exceptional listening skills, challenging perceptions and displaying non-confrontational behavior in a safe and secure environment. These qualities are mastered in a number of ways whether through coach specific trainingcoach certification or years of practical experience. In coaching the focus will be on the individual’s performance within the context of their own performance, raising awareness of their importance, improving self-confidence and worthiness and having an impact for the better on their life, business and legacy.

Because coaching involves the participation of the coachee, finding their own solutions and agreeing to the actions they will take, it drives deeper and therefore a tendency to make a lasting behavioral change for the better.

What does coaching achieve?

One of the most common misconceptions about coaching is that it deals with problems, or if you have a coach then you must have problems in your life, in your business, with your performance or, be a poor performer and low achiever. This is not the case at all and a myth. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. Coaching may well cover issues that arise, or work on techniques and skills, but the main emphasis is not on addressing problems or managing poor performance. Coaching is about achieving a high-performance culture, establishing clarity, focusing on the strengths of a team, a business or an individual person and their assets that enable peak performance, growth and ultimate success. Coaching analyzes challenges and looks at the whole picture from multiple perspectives from a balanced viewpoint, and centered position without pre-judgment. It is about challenging people to challenge themselves and then helping them to realize how brilliant they can be, and then achieving an overall improvement in life as they build their legacy.

Coaching offers the client a secure, supportive and motivating environment to explore what they want in life and how to achieve the aspirations to the fullest. By assisting the client in committing to action and doing goals rather than just talking about it, people accomplish what they want and get to where they want to go. Coaching allows the individual or business the safe space and support they need to grow and develop. The role of the coach assists the client to establish a grounded position, design a plan, build momentum through action and maintain the motivation and commitment needed to achieve their goals. Coaching can be performed in various specialties to really laser in on a niche for even greater focus towards achievement. Let’s look at a few specialties in detail in case you are considering becoming a niche-specific certified coach or want to work with a coach or mentor that offers specialization.

Coaching Specialties – What’s your niche?

Coaches tend not to require a detailed knowledge of a particular industry or the role of their coachee in order to be successful, as they are not issuing instructions or advice. Therefore, they can work within a wide range of areas using core-coaching strategies with individuals to help improve awareness and performance. In many cases personal coaching is differentiated from business coaching purely by the context and the focus of the coaching program established. Taking a closer look into the various coaching specialties can assist the coach to better define their target client, establish a solid practice, define marketing and business strategies and build a relationship with the coachee based upon the client’s needs.

In general, business coaching is conducted within the boundaries placed on the individual, company, team or group by the organizational context. On the other hand, personal success coaching as a life coach, wellness coach or youth coach for example is taken entirely from the individual client’s perspective. Let’s look at a few specialties, features and benefits of the top coaching niches.

Personal Success Coach / Life Coach – Personal Success Coaching and Life Coaching is a rapidly growing industry worldwide, especially in the USA, UK, Europe and Australia. Life coaches may choose to work face-to-face with clients yet other modes of communication are much more far-reaching like Skype, email, telephone and internet based relationships, making it a worldwide business venture for the coach with extraordinary potential. A life coach works in a highly supportive role for those clients who wish to make some form of significant change and growth in their life. It is very personal and each relationship is unique, nurtured and specialized for the client. Although patterns and similarities may be evident on the surface, the actual in-depth discoveries are all different because each client’s experiences and perspectives are personalized. Coaches that work in this field may want to consider core coach training and success coaching strategies and take the title of: Life Coach, Personal Coach, Success Coach, Youth Coach, Relationship Coach, Health & Wellness Coach or Mentor Coach.

Performance Coach Clients seeking a Performance Coach can be an individual or a business, and they are most likely looking for enhancement of an individual skill or sport, team sport, or for the enhancement of a business team, executive or business department such as sales or customer service. Performance Coaches up-level and elevate rather than rectify, fix or repair a performance issue. This type of coaching may incorporate leadership skills and facilitate growth because the reward achieved by the coaching itself is an increase in performance. In business, this performance is usually related directly to the bottom line with a financial gain or departmental improvement that indirectly has an effect on the income. Keep in mind that when an organization is paying for development services such as coaching, performance is usually the key reward or benefit they are looking for. Even if an executive or manager receives support indirectly to balance work and home life, it will be with the aim of increasing their effectiveness and productivity at work as the primary reason for the performance coaching and not for more altruistic reasons. Performance coaching derives its theoretical models from business and sports psychology as well as general management approaches. When working with an individual it is related to personal improvement of a specific skill or anticipated win, going for personal best with improved performance, accolades and awards. This specialty can be further defined with a descriptive adjective before “________ Performance Coach” such as: Athletic Performance Coach (Soccer, Golf, Baseball, etc), Team Performance Coach, and Sales Performance Coach to name a few. Performance Coaching is often combined with mentoring skills within the specialty for added value.

Business Coach or Executive Coach  - There is a great deal of overlap between business and executive coaching and most coaches will offer either service, but there is a growing number of professionals in various parts of the world that call themselves one or the other to differentiate and stand-out in the marketplace.

The key differences between business and executive coaching are that Executive Coaches typically have a track record working with high-level executives within the business niche, they understand the CEO level in great detail because they have held the same position, or have a degree that mirrors the educational level or higher than the executive client. An Executive Coach is 100% confident in dealing with high-profile business leaders and attracts the executive client. An Executive Coach typically works with an individual while the Business Coach works with the business and individuals within the business as a team. An owner, board of directors, human resources department, or other department may contract a Business Coach, while the individual executive on a personal basis might hire the Executive Coach privately. It’s important to define specifically what you do as a coach when entering into this particular niche.

Companies are inspired to seek a Business Coach if they a brand new company, an established company possibly going through organizational development, re-organization, having changes brought about by mergers and acquisitions, or simply realize the need to provide key employees with support through a change of role or career. Not too long ago coaching was reserved for company directors and senior management, and now it is being made available to all as a professional or personal development tool. Business coaching is also closely linked with organizational initiatives as a catalyst to help staff accept and adapt to changes in a manner consistent with their personal values and goals, company culture, mission and vision.

Business Coaching and Executive Coaching can enhance morale, motivation and productivity and reduce staff turnover as individuals feel valued and connected to the company. This role may be provided by internal coaches, professional coaching agencies, or a single entrepreneur that establishes their practice as a Certified Success Coach, Executive Coach or Business Coach. In most instances, companies hiring this type of coach look at credentials or certification.

Career Coach  - Career Coaching is typically an interim short term service and assists in the process of helping clients select a job, work or career; helps determine a course of study that may assist in defining a career; helps candidates become employable; assists in career transition or new placement; and helps candidates choose a career that may be suitable for their aptitude, personality, education, interests and skills. Often times people seeking career coaching know what they want to get out of the process, yet are unsure about how it may work. Others need complete guidance and have no clue and expectations. The Career Coach helps to identify clearly the objectives the clients wants to attain long term and short term and helps establish the route to get the desired result. Career Coaches make an effective correlation between the internal psychology of a candidate with the external factors of employability, education, training and courses. In this specialty having knowledge of resume writing, communication and vocational psychology are all beneficial as well as familiarity with various assessments such as cognitive ability tests, personality tests and placement assessments. 

Health & Wellness Coach  - This is an emerging specialty field and is being recognized as a way to assist people to manage and cope with their illnesses and conditions, as well as the proactive stand to take action on having a sense of good health, wellness and an improved state of well being. Many holistic health practitioners, nutritionists, fitness and yoga instructors and/or personal trainers are adding success coach certification and core coaching strategies to their educational qualifications to maximize client relationships and coach people to balance within the triad of mind-body-spirit philosophies. The Health & Wellness Coach may incorporate meditation, exercise, diet, supplements and nutrition into the mix in greater detail than a life coach because they have specific knowledge and training that complements the field. Many in this specialty are mentors and lead by example. They are a product of the product. This field can also be enhanced through a multi-level marketing company or direct sales company that sell related products, programs and services in a wellness or vanity portfolio so the Certified Coach has multiple streams of income established.

Leadership Coach  Leadership Coaching has a positive impact on teams of people towards high achievement and improvement. A Leadership Coach typically facilitates groups in a work environment, student environment or association of common interest to reach peak potential within the context of an organization’s values, culture and meaningful goals on common ground. It may encompass conflict resolution, team building and talent management. It’s a process of personal development designed to enhance the success of a team and support emerging leaders to lead a team, company or organization. A Leadership Coach may also work closely with the human resources division of companies, management teams, and departmental leaders to improve communication, carry out company directives and goals and bring about a well-balanced culture. One of my mentors and probably the most well-known and well-respected Leadership Coach is John C. Maxwell who said: “Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, 'I'll get a bigger job, then I'll learn how to be a leader.' But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn't a position, it's a process.” Therefore, I believe a Leadership Coach understands the process and is always growing to facilitate the experience as a respected leader with passion and excellence.

Wealth or Finance Coach  - An ideal specialty for Financial Planners, Wealth & Financial Consultants, CPAs, Accountants, or a person with a financial background to enhance their current business by incorporating core coaching strategies to achieve balance and then enhance through right questioning and strategic planning a person’s wealth, investment portfolio or finances. A Wealth & Finance Coach may be hired by businesses or individuals to enhance capital positioning, work through a merger or acquisition, or even improve communication regarding money, finance, interest, investments, taxes, income and expenses. This specialty can capitalize upon the skills and talents of a business and executive coach as well as it is even more niche specific if those qualities and experience are present. Knowledge of international money matters is a handy asset to this niche to standout even more in the marketplace.

Spiritual Coach, Christian Coach or Ministry Coach – On the realm of divinity many titles can be used; yet a common principal may be evident. This specialty is faith based and within each title comes its own specialty and possible controversy so be specific. In other words, a person of Catholic Faith most often will not seek out just a Spiritual Coach, but they will seek out a Catholic Coach or a Priest that has become a Certified Coach. A Christian Coach doesn’t market their services in a Muslim community. I apologize for the vast and exaggerated examples yet it is best to tell the truth fast. Know thyself. And then you will know your target client. This is most definitely the most specific type of coaching that can be the most controversial so be clear in your business if this is your calling. As a Certified Coach you can refer to a faith but if you choose to call yourself a title, it is wise to be an expert in the field and obtain specialized training or have the knowledge in you, meaning it is a part of you. I have had the opportunity to certify many Success Coaches that specialize in faith-based coaching such as Ordained Ministers, Pastors, Rabbis, Church Group Leaders in Ministry, and people who are Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, etc., and all have had either specific training, certifications, credentials or other experiences they want to enhance. They are looking at new ways to minister or lead and through success coaching and certification they were able to grow and better serve their community. Again, a very “niche-specific” niche so know thyself. Namaste.

Family Coach, Youth Coach, Relationship Coach, Dating Coach or Couples Coach  - Communication, building rapport, improving self love and self-esteem, and establishing trust are just a few qualities that this type of coach may bring about within families, youth, relationships, dating or amongst couples. These various specialty coaches establish clarity and direction within relationships using interpersonal skills, compatibility techniques, long-term directives, and the continuous desire to build, maintain and grow respectful, lasting, trusting and loving interactions. The focus of most coaching programs in this specialty involve confident and congruent communication, understanding body language, non-verbal and verbal communication, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), truth and the virtue and values that are established amongst couples, families, youth and individuals at the core. This coaching specialty is typically added to the credentials of licensed therapists, counselors, lawyers, mediators, and psychologists to name a few in order to expand their practice and enhance their field of expertise through success coaching.

Success Coaching  - A Success Coach specializes in core coaching competencies, foundational principles of success, establishes balance and ultimately focuses on achieving a desired and positive outcome. A Certified Success Coach can adapt their training into a more specific niche because it covers all areas of life and business through an eclectic approach to plan, visualize, take action and celebrate each and every day, each win, and most important, each success. A Certified Success Coach has the tools and unique system to design and develop a successful protocol for clients so they can easily adapt a new and empowered mindset, implement positive changes with clear action steps and attain a much more productive, positive, happy and successful life. When you train for a career as a Success Coach you can discover your specialty or niche of choice with foundational strength, confidence and excellence.

Adding Mentoring or Consulting To Your Coaching Practice

Because there are many similarities between coaching and mentoring it can easily be incorporated as a feature to your coaching practice. Similarly is the aspect of consulting and if we mirror mentoring and consulting we can establish that a consultant typically has experience, knowledge and a proven track record in a given field. It’s an ideal enhancement to your coaching credentials when it is in alignment with the right experiences. Because mentoring enables an individual to follow in the path of a presumably older, wiser and experienced colleague who passes on knowledge and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities, a consultant can embrace those same qualities into their coaching practice. Having a Coaching, Consulting and Mentoring Practice becomes an effective way to market your services, maximize your talents when you have the experience to back it up and specialize in a niche specific field. This has been the foundational piece in my personal practice for the past 25 years by sharing what I know and how I did it when I take on the role of mentor. Each year I gain more experience, referrals and results for my clients. It’s a process and each year, you as well will be able to add another year to your number of years of experience. If you have a unique gift, you may already have 10, 20 or even 30 years of experience to share as a mentor, coach or consultant.

Additionally, your fee schedule is commensurate with your experience, hence, you may be able to up-level your income and fees related to the value you bring to the experience. Coaching is not generally performed on the basis that the coach has direct experience of the client’s formal occupational role unless the coaching is specific and skills focused. Offering services under Coaching, Consulting and/or Mentoring can be beneficial when combined appropriately with the service you provide, whatever that service is called. Designing your business with the help of my company, another colleague or a Success Coach, Consultant & Mentor is a great place to establish foundational clarity, balance, a solid business plan, marketing plan, goals and directives so you can determine the level of success you desire that’s believable, achievable, fulfilling and profitable. One of the world’s greatest mentors Walt Disney said: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” A truth I respect, a truth I do, and a truth I definitely wish for you.

Best of Success!

About Jodi Nicholson

Jodi Nicholson is a Certified Coach, Consultant and Mentor and specializes in helping clients achieve clarity, balance and success in their life and business. As a lifelong entrepreneur she is an active board member at The Success Coach Institute and author of the iCoach To Success Professional Coaching System. To learn more about becoming a certified coach, or  to receive coaching and enjoy a complimentary session with Jodi, please email her at or visit her website at

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