An SME is a Subject Matter Expert. A PE is a Process Expert. Which one is a coach? A coach is a Process Expert – expert in the coaching process to be specific – and may or may not be a Subject Matter Expert.
Becoming a process expert in coaching involves accredited coach training that encompasses the competencies and ethics while teaching the core process for coaching. Over time the efficacy of the coach evolves as they become a coach and embody the coaching mindset.
Being a subject matter expert is based on education and experience. In the world of coaching, subject matter expertise is typically developed before the journey to becoming a coach begins. Participants in coach training commonly have degrees, master-level degrees, and even doctorates plus years of professional experience.
Process Expertise as a coach is essential to the efficacy of the coaching. Subject Matter Expertise may help, and it may hinder – which is based on the skill of the coach to keep their knowledge out of the way and use it only for understanding and exploration.
Consider the help versus hinder dilemma by reflecting on the pros and cons of being a subject matter expert.
Pros of being a SME:
· Clients often seek a coach that is a SME (because they do not understand the process and they do want someone who understands their circumstances).
· SME helps define niche for coaching services which in turn helps with marketing and credibility.
· When a coach is a SME, they continue learning in that area of expertise.
· SME coaches may offer a library of related resources on their websites.
· Knowledge can help inform questions.
Cons of being a SME:
· Clients may expect the coach to tell, teach, or advise.
· Clients may expect the coach to give the answers instead of exploring and developing as they find their own answers.
· Being a SME may limit curiosity.
· Knowledge can limit exploration because the coach “knows” the answer – remember, the answer is different for different people.
While subject matter expertise can hinder if used improperly, it can also benefit when used appropriately.