In this article I’ll talk about the difference between a friend, manager, mentor, parent, and a professional life coach.  All of them have enormous value in your life and all of them are necessary for you.  Let’s look at why that’s important. 

What’s the difference?

Let’s talk about Friendship.  Friends are a big part of your community and they are so very important.  They’re wonderful to have fun with.  You get play time through your friends.  They make us laugh, and good friends are really great at listening and commiserating.  They listen to our complaints and dramatic stories and give us validation and sympathy.  They are there for us to help us when we need it.  We do the same for them.  It is absolutely valuable, fun and necessary to have trusted friends.  If you are a friend of mine, I adore you.  

Next up, Managers.  Your manager is someone who will set expectations for what they are asking you to do at work and together, you set your job’s goals.  Good managers will coach you too, but the coaching is always within the context of your work.  You and they want to get the best of your work so that the company can thrive.  Managers won’t coach you on your personal life or your long term goals (like retirement, traveling, or buying a house).  And of course, it’s difficult to talk to your manager about wanting to do a different job at another company or change career paths entirely.  “Hi boss, I know I’m a good application developer, but I really really want to become a nurse.  Can you help me?”  They might be willing to help, but they are probably not the best person to talk to about this.  

What about your colleagues?  Just like you, your colleagues are there to get work done.  You will work together to accomplish goals.  Colleagues who are part of a high performing team will work together, rely on each other, and help each other.  Even if conflicts come up it’s usually within the context of your work.  Working through those conflicts at work help you achieve success.  Of course, sometimes colleagues become friends too.  This is a wonderful thing and can make work more fun.  

Mentors:  You might have a mentor or two at work too.  This person will help guide you in your professional life.   They can give you advice about how to do certain tasks, and can teach you a new skill. Mentors are great at teaching you how to do something new that you haven’t done before.  They also can be very good at giving advice.  Advice from a mentor is often from their own perspective, based on what they have learned, and offers a specific action you can take.  Many people will have more than one mentor at work.  They will consult with each one for specific things.  For example, I have one mentor that I will talk to about skills for managing a team, and another mentor to talk to about learning specific technical skills. 

Parents and family members are there to help guide you and raise you.  They teach you their perspective of right from wrong. They help you to build a work ethic when you’re growing up.  Parents make you do your homework, your chores, and they are your original friends, advocates,  community and mentors.  If you’re lucky, which I am, your parents helped you learn how to live your life and become a reasonable adult.  And now that you’re an adult they may still be there to offer advice and commiserate with you.

So,  if you have all the support of your friends, managers, colleagues, mentors and parents, then why would anyone want a coach?  What is different about coaching that you can’t get from any of these other places.

It’s all about context.  With friendships you have the context of enjoying time together.  Typically you don’t want to talk about anything with a friend that could potentially risk the friendship.  A manager is within the context of your job. You might not be able to talk to your manager about hating the work assignment you are currently focusing on, or wanting to completely shift direction in your career.  When talking to your colleagues at work, it is within the context of work or your friendship with them.  There are some things you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) bring up to a colleague.  Mentors at work help you within the context of what you’re seeking mentorship about.  They will help you with specific skills, and not often skills outside of your work environment.  Parents of course, have the context of your family.  If you have a very challenging topic to talk about it may be difficult to talk about it with a family member, especially if you think it would risk the relationship.  (Mom, I would like to spend the rest of my life on a space station.  What do you think?)

What about professional life coaching?

A coaches only context is YOU and what you want.  Great coaches do not have any preconceived notions about what is right or wrong for you.  They won’t have an opinion about what you “should” be doing or not doing.  A great coach will come to you with zero judgment and let you talk about anything at all, even if it is very uncomfortable and could never be brought up to any of the other people in your life.  This can be extremely valuable to have because it allows you to explore where you are coming from and what you personally want or don’t want.  A coach only sees your side of the story. It’s only your side of the story that they need to help you move forward.  

Let’s think about this within the context of playing basketball.  It’s almost March, so there is a lot of basketball on the TV in our house (Go UCONN!).  Anyway, if you are playing basketball your friend will encourage you during the game, and tell you you’re doing a great job.  They will cheer you on, and take you out for a celebration after the game, whether you’ve won or lost.  The team manager will be watching the metrics and results.  The manager will analyze the metrics around the wins and the losses, and will focus their attention on the changes that need to be made to earn the next win.  Those changes may or may not involve a focus on you specifically.  You team-mates (colleagues) will communicate with you directly about your game performance.  They will work with you during the game and call out whether they’re ready to catch a pass or take a shot.  Your mentors will work with you on improving your dribbling skills, or improving how you communicate with your team members, or help you learn the rules of the game.  Your parents will show up at every game with full team gear on and cheer you on at all costs.  They might get mad at the manager if you end up getting benched because someone else has better metrics than you do. 

But a professional life coach, on the other hand, is 100% on your side and only your side.  A coach is not your friend, manager, colleague, mentor or family member. They approach you with 100% acceptance and love and are there specifically for you to help you achieve your goals.  

So you see, when you hire a coach, they are there specifically to help YOU and only you. The coach will ask questions that might be totally unrelated to basketball.  “If you could do anything you wanted at all, would you keep playing basketball?”.  “What do you love about the game?”, “What do you dislike about it?”,  “What do you wish you could change?”, “In a best case scenario – what will you achieve in the next six months?  What about a year from now?  Five years?  Ten years?  In your lifetime?”.  Your coach will be there for you with a completely open mind, with absolutely no agenda for you other than helping you to see what you want, and guide you on a plan to get there.  

I am a certified professional life coach, and focusing 100% on a person and what they want from life is what I love the most about it. 

I am able to have zero outside agenda, and focus all of my time and attention on helping the other person see what they want.  I help them get there.  Sometimes it takes a little tough love.  I ask people to dig deep and truly see what they are capable of. That can be scary and often people are skeptical. I hold space for that and simply lift them up to where they can see the path forward for themselves, and I never judge them. No matter what.  

In addition to being a coach for some people, I am also a friend, manager, colleague, mentor, and daughter to others.  I am able to apply some of my coaching skills there too, however, I always need to keep the context in mind.  At work, I need to care about both the person and the results.  As a friend, I want to create fun and support.  As a mentor, I can teach specific skills, and as a wife, mother, sister, and daughter I show up as a supportive family member and I won’t ever do anything that could risk the relationship. (at least not intentionally)

So if you are struggling because you are overworking.  You are burnt out.  You feel like you need a change and you’re stuck not knowing what to do, it may be very valuable for you to hire a coach.

Please consider scheduling a consultation (click here) with me.  I would love to hear about your goals and help you get there!
Inspired Leader LLC – I offer life and career coaching.
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p.s. If we work at the same company together, or we are close friends, or you are a member of my family, then I’m sorry; I’m not the coach for you (see reasons above). I do have access to a large network of wonderful professional coaches and I can help you find a great one if you like.