Professional coaching is a relatively young calling. It’s still evolving. Since the early days of what we might refer to as modern coaching, there has been an ongoing dance between the energies of purism and realism.
The energy of purism in coaching has been well represented by those dedicated souls who worked long and debated hard to: define what exactly coaching was, figure out how it differed from other helping modalities, establish the core coaching competencies, and defend coaching from being absorbed into some other existing discipline such as consulting, therapy or training. Coaching purists believe in the transformational potential of pure coaching, and scoff at any attempt to blend coaching with any other form of assistance you might provide to a client.
The energy of realism in coaching has been well represented over the years by all those other dedicated souls who explored the many ways to: apply coaching to real world problems, gain recognition, create demand, and otherwise help coaches apply their skills and make a living – outside of the world of pure life coaching or the training of other coaches. Coaching realists often shake their heads at purists who artificially restrict the range of possible support being offered to clients. They look on with incredulity and frustration as so many purists, and graduates of coach training schools who believe that to venture outside of the pure coaching model is some form of sacrilege, struggle to find commercial success.
For the purists, who defend an intentionally narrow definition of coaching, the strength in this approach is that it has helped all of us learn and master the core coaching skills, and overcome decades of conditioning to simply give advice, share experience, diagnose, prescribe, or present a solution. The grounding we receive in the core coaching competencies has helped us all appreciate the transformative power of carefully designed and supportive relationships that help our clients find their own answers. The purist energy in coaching helps defend the core “being,” or way coaches show up and empower clients.
The realists have helped us find thousands of real-world applications for coaching and found many productive ways to integrate knowledge, experience, and prior art into coaching conversations that help clients greatly accelerate their learning and not re-invent the wheel.