Coaching is a partnership between a coach and an individual that supports the achievement of results, based on goals set by the individual.
The individual chooses the focus of the ‘conversation', while the coach listens and contributes observations and questions as well as concepts and principles which can assist in generating possibilities, potential and actions. Coaching can be seen as a collaborative process in which clients discover answers for themselves through the coach's use of questions. Through the coaching process the clarity that is needed to support the most effective actions is achieved.
Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful.
Coaching presupposes that and it is not the coach's responsibility to ‘fix’ the client. The client is an expert on themselves and the skill of the coach, and their role, is in allowing the person to come up with their own solutions. This doesn't mean that the coach brings nothing to the relationship - they have knowledge based theory, methods, exercises and questions that help the person move forwards. Nevertheless, the coach's skills are based around processes, not solutions.
In essence, coaching has two main facets. First it is performance focused, which means it is concerned with helping individuals perform tasks to the best of their ability. Second, it is person-centred, which means that the individuals being coached are seen to have the important insights.
- an equal partnership of trust between the coach and the person being coached.
- involves ‘conversation’ rather than advice giving, discipline, or therapy.
- built on client accountability
- results orientated
- a fairly short-term activity and time bound
- consists of one-to-one developmental discussions or whole team/group sessions in team/group coaching - these can take place face-to-face, or over the telephone and can be supported by online interaction
- focuses on improving performance and/or developing/enhancing individuals’ skills.
- works on the belief that clients are self-aware and do not require a clinical intervention
- focuses on current and future performance/behaviour rather than the past
- a skilled activity
Descriptions used by some of the major coaching bodies and authors on coaching:
International Coach Federation “Coaching is an interactive process that helps individuals and organisations to develop more rapidly and produce more satisfying results. Coaches work with clients in all areas including business, career, finances, health and relationships. As a result of coaching, clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and more fully use their natural strengths. "
Sir John Whitmore, author of Coaching for Performance". . unlocking a person's potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. "
Anthony Grant, University of Sydney, 2000". . . . a collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee. "
Assist people to identify specific goals and then reach those goals faster and with ease.
Provide clients with the tools, perspective and structure to accomplish more through a process of accountability.
Re-frame beliefs and create a point of focus for clients to reflect upon"
Types of Coaching
Coaches can be directly employed by an organization to coach or have coaching embedded in their role as a manager or Human Resources professional. (Internal Coaches). Alternatively, they can be contracted by organizations or individuals to deliver coaching (External Coaches).
Coaches can also specialize in particular types of coaching - some examples include:
Usually paid for by individuals and focusing on any aspect of personal development - some examples include: better work-life balance, well-being and health, confidence building.
Provided to employees as a professional or personal development tool, or to small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Provided to employees or individuals who are looking to make a career change, or those who are facing redeployment or are experiencing redundancy.
Executive or Leadership Coaching
Often provided to high flyers or those with the potential to be a high flyer - at CEO or board level.
Often provided to managers in order to improver performance and productivity.
Tailored to the individual and focused on the individual being able to perform specific well-defined functions effectively. Examples include public speaking, team working, interpersonal skills, and decision making.
Personal or Life Coaching
Working with individuals who want to make some form of significant change happen in their lives, Personal or Life Coaches assist their clients by offering support and challenge based on their individual context. Here a key role of the coach is assisting the client to maintain the motivation and commitment needed to achieve their goals.
Coaches can also specialize in working with particular clients - Relationship Coaching, Parent Coaching, Youth Coaching, Group or Team Coaching and Retirement Coaching, are just a few examples.
So how do you know you are getting coaching?
- It is not one-to-one training
- It is not one-to-one consulting
- It is determined by your agenda, preferred way of working and learning style
- You take the action not the coach
- You are challenged and stretched to arrive at solutions that work for you, rather than ones that have worked for your coach
- The focus is on your growth and development as much as action and achievement
- It is short-term
- The relationship with the coach is not hierarchical- the coach is not the expert and you are not dependent upon them - it is a working partnership focused on assisting you achieve your goals.
Sonia Thomas is the Editor of Coaches Plus, the online resource centre for coaches, coachesplus.com Just visit to sign up for free coaching tools.
For more information on coaching, including how to become a coach, and to sign up for free coaching tools and resources, just visit us at coachesplus.com