These days, you can look around and see lots of people calling themselves “coaches.” They’re spiritual gurus in your Instagram feed. They’re self-help experts touting ways to achieve enlightenment, maximization, or peak performance. They have get-rich-quick or heal-yourself pills, potions, and processes. But there’s a huge difference between coaches like these—practicing what we might broadly term “life coaching”—and business coaching. Let’s explore.
First, let’s look at the similarities. Any kind of coaching, from athletics to business to life, has some degree of overlap. For example:
- Coaching is goal- and outcome-oriented. Whether it’s winning a championship or overcoming a personal challenge, coaching relationships tend to be outcome-driven (vs. more open-ended, “process-driven” relationships such as therapy).
- Coaches provide frameworks. From offensive and defensive schemes in sports to our own 21 Silver Bullets, most coaches provide education and theoretical frameworks to help clients improve in their targeted goal areas.
- Coaches meet clients where they are in order to give individual feedback. There’s a reason folks hire a coach instead of simply reading books or taking online courses. Coaches help their clients apply the educational frameworks to their specific situations, providing feedback that accelerates results.
- Coaches hold clients accountable. Ask any coaching client, and they’ll tell you that one of the most important reasons to hire a coach is the accountability piece. Lots of people know what they should do. Actually doing it sometimes requires extra help.
So what are the key differences?
Difference 1: The Content
First, the content for business coaching is different from life coaching. As I’ve stated elsewhere, “Business coaching is empowering entrepreneurs with awareness, education, and accountability. This happens through powerful mentoring relationships between coaches and clients. Business coaches offer their clients the awareness of possibilities, education in business best practices, and accountability for execution. The result is the transformation of client companies into profitable, life-enriching investments.”
In other words, the coach and client come together to solve a particular type of challenge—business challenges—and the content is focused on business best practices.
Life coaching, on the other hand, is more about personal counseling, troubleshooting, and personal growth. Folks come with particular challenges in their personal lives or looking for ways to improve themselves, and life coaches help them reach their goals.
As business coaches, we’re people working with people, and so of course personal challenges sometimes come up. But as business coaches our primary objective is to help our clients’ businesses thrive and to analyze personal challenges in light of their impact on business.
As business coaches, we're people working with people, and so of course personal challenges sometimes come up. But as business coaches our primary objective is to help our clients' businesses thrive and to analyze personal challenges in light of their impact on business.
Difference 2: The Value Proposition
The value proposition between business coaching and life coaching is different as well. As business coaches, our results are concrete. Does the coaching lead to increased profits or not? Do the strategies, best practices, and accountability processes actually lead to a better, more streamlined, more profitable business or don’t they?
Results with life coaching, on the other hand, are more subjective. Does a person feel better? Do they perceive themselves as being more effective or resilient?
While improvements to a client’s business can also have positive impacts like helping a person feel better and more effective, these are secondary results, not the primary outcomes we’re pursuing in a business coaching relationship with a client.
Difference 3: The Relationship
Finally, the relationship between business coaches and life coaches has to do with the nature of the relationship between client and coach.
The relationship between business coaches and their clients remains professional: you are professionals, working together as professionals on professional challenges.
Almost by definition, life coaches tend to delve into deep, significant personal issues with their clients (it’s a common enough theme that questions have been raised about the relationship between life coaching and mental health services such as therapy, and if/how life coaching should be regulated accordingly).
While it’s possible and appropriate to develop meaningful relationships and friendships with business coaching clients, the nature of the relationship is significantly different because it’s framed around different kinds of conversations.
Both business coaching and life coaching can be rewarding, lucrative professions. But it’s important to understand the differences so that you can pursue the path that will help you reach your professional goals. Occasionally, we’ve had life coaches check out our program only to realize our content isn’t right for them. That’s because the Coaches’ Coach is specifically designed to help business coaches launch, grow, and scale profitable practices.