That’s actually a much larger question than an FAQ really allows me space to answer. The somewhat vague answer is that we’re a lot of different things to a lot of different people. A bit more solid and official sounding answer as written by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as
[P]artnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.”
Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:
Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
Encourage client self-discovery
Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
Hold the client responsible and accountable
This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.
My personal definition draws heavily on that well worded and extremely specific ICF response but I would also add “helps you see what awesome stuff you’re capable of and then helps you do those awesome things.” Less articulate maybe but it’s easier.