The Difference Between Coaching and Advising

What’s the difference between coaching and advising a client? Are you using the title coach but a little unsure of what that means?

You’re not alone. 

There are thousands more coaches of all kinds: health coaches, business coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches, divorce coaches, career coaches, and many wear the hat of an expert in their field too. 

So, whether you are or you’re not a personal trainer, this is for you. 

Coaching has great value. 

Yet, when you’re playing the role of cheerleader or you’re giving expert advice you’re not actually coaching. 

This episode explores when coaching is valuable and when you want to advise, if you do have the knowledge. 


  • Support
  • Ask questions
  • Improve accountability
  • Encourage autonomy 
  • Encourage self-examination 
  • Ask for realistic goals


  • Provide assessments 
  • Give recommendations for actions 
  • Set realistic goals
  • Give answers 
  • Evaluate performance
  • Determine next steps 

When clients don’t know what to do in order to achieve results, trainers determine the actions that make the most sense for them.

When clients know what to do but aren’t doing it, coaches help discover why that is true. 

To be an effective leader in programs, you may be both. First, you’re trying to determine the exercise plan based on a scientific combination of current status, health and activity history, hormones, goals, and limitations. That’s training using exercise science to create an exercise prescription. 

Concurrently or next you may be trying to consider why past attempts failed or why clients are non-compliant. That’s coaching using questions. 

Both skills are necessary for the improvement of fitness.  

Where does the line between coaching and advising blur? 

Where coaching and advising blur – and where effectiveness begins to wane, is when what is intended to be a coaching call becomes empathetic and without objective. 

A coach is definitely a warm person. However, it’s not enough. Are you able to ask questions that help someone see the answers for themselves? A coach allows an individual to have more personal power. When a coach praises or judges and evaluates she robs the client of personal power. 

Let me do a check-in with you, respectfully. You may have just felt a little offensive to what I just said. I’d like for you to stay with me. I hope you’ll consider that you’d only take offense if it was something you felt you did. 

If you say, good job! I’m proud of you! I’m so glad you did that…

Any of those is evaluative and a judgment. Though they’re praise and you may see that as positive, they indicate an evaluation. 

If instead you asked, how do you feel about that? Or I can only guess how good that feels, what’s it like for you? How is that different from what you’d experienced before? 

If you’d like more information on how to buff your coaching skills. Not those we associate with cuing and positioning clients, but skills like mirroring and reflecting, stay tuned. I’ve got a Coaching Midlife Women’s workshop coming up later this month you’ll love. 


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