March 07, 2022

Do coaches give advice? An investigation

In a word, no. That’s the answer just about every coaching organization will give. It’s the answer Google highlights at the top of the results page. Even a Magic 8-ball will reply, again and again, “Don’t count on it.” Case closed, right? Not so fast.

In the spirit of a coaching mindset, let’s see what happens if we answer the question with another question:

Do coaches give advice?

Well, what does “giving advice” mean to you?

“Advice” is a pretty familiar concept in our everyday lives. We’ve all read advice columns, asked a trusted role model for advice, or offered our own advice to a friend. In all of these contexts, “giving advice” means “recommending a course of action.” It can take different forms and tones (”I think you should tell them how you feel” vs. “Why don’t you tell them how you feel?” vs. “If I were you I’d tell them how you feel” vs. “Tell them how you feel!”), but it always boils down to someone saying, “Here’s what you should do.”

Do coaches do that? Again, no.

“If the answer is just no,” you might be asking yourself by now, ”why is this blog post still going?”

This blog post is still going because of feedback like this from Bravely users about their coaches:

  • My coach gave me valuable advice that will help me adjust into my new workplace.
  • I reflect on my coach’s advice at least once a day!
  • Her advice was proactive and strategic, and I feel much more confident with the steps I need to take

Each of those pieces of feedback was for a different Bravely Pro, all of whom use the same coaching methodology and have never once said, “Here’s what you should do.”

With all that in mind, we want to answer these two questions for you:

  • Why don’t coaches give advice?
  • Why do people thank their Bravely Pro for their “advice?”

Why don’t coaches give advice?

We’ve all done it: a friend is sharing something with us — a challenge they’re going through or a change they’re navigating — and we launch into advice mode. Disaster. You just wanted to be helpful, but your friend wanted a friend, not a solution. The phenomenon is illustrated perfectly in the short film, “It’s Not About the Nail.”

Of course, coaching is a different dynamic — when you enter a coaching session, you’re open to your coach’s perspective. Still, some of the same principles apply:

  • You’re the expert on you. Your Bravely Pro is an expert in their own right, with deep coaching and career experience. But when it comes to the specifics of your situation, your strengths, your limitations, your values, and your aspirations, there’s only one expert: you. Giving advice — saying “here’s what you should do” — dismisses all of your self-knowledge and robs you of the opportunity to find the solution that’s best for you.
  • You get more from following through on your own ideas. Your coach knows that you have all the answers you need, and their role is to help you draw them out. There’s great power in coming up with your own solutions and, with support from a coach, putting them into action. The boost to your senses of confidence, influence, control, and accomplishment is unmatched.

Then why do people thank their coaches for advice?

Coaching is a new phenomenon in most people’s lives at works. It’s a solutions-oriented, collaborative process for creating strategies and next steps and taking on new perspectives. It’s not quite therapy, it’s not quite mentorship, and it’s not quite advice. People who have gotten to experience coaching for the first time through Bravely have called it “eye-opening,” “transformative,” and “life-changing.”

In the absence of a better word for the connection and collaboration of coaching (besides, well, coaching), “advice” becomes a shorthand. It feels like you got advice because you went to someone for a next step, and you left with one. When it comes to advice versus coaching, the destination is similar, but the journey couldn’t be more different.

A word of… advice to you before your next Bravely session: give yourself some credit for what you achieve with your Pro. It may feel like you couldn’t have done it without them, but, more importantly, you couldn’t have done it without you.

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