What is coaching?

Have you heard of a successful athlete who doesn’t have a coach?
Business isn’t much different from sport: it’s demanding, challenging and competitive, and high performance doesn’t happen by accident. Your coach is there to help you be a more successful self.

The term coaching typically refers to methods of helping others to improve, develop, learn new skills, find personal success, achieve aims and to manage life change and personal challenges. Coaching commonly addresses attitudes, behaviours, and knowledge, as well as skills.

The coach partners with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. My 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.

Coaching begins with a personal interview to assess the individual’s current opportunities and challenges, define the scope of the relationship, identify priorities for action and outline desired outcomes. Subsequent 40-minute coaching sessions are scheduled in advance at regular intervals, usually once every fortnight. Between scheduled coaching sessions, the client is usually asked to complete specific actions that support the achievement of their personally prioritised goals. The coach may provide, where required, additional resources in the form of relevant articles, checklists, assessments or models to support the individual’s or business’ thinking and actions.

The duration of the coaching relationship varies depending on the individual’s or team’s needs and preferences. For some objectives, six months of coaching may be sufficient. In case of more complex and more ambitious challenges , clients may find it beneficial to work with a coach for a longer period.

What to expect?

The coach:

  • Provides objective assessment and observations that foster the client’s self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Listens closely to fully understand the client’s or circumstances
  • Acts as a sounding board in exploring possibilities and implementing thoughtful planning and decision making
  • Champions opportunities and potential, encouraging stretch and challenge commensurate with personal strengths and aspirations
  • Fosters shifts in thinking that reveal fresh perspectives
  • Challenges blind spots to illuminate new possibilities and support the creation of alternative scenarios
  • Maintains professional boundaries in the coaching relationship, including confidentiality, and adheres to the coaching profession’s code of ethics
  • Holds the client accountable for making progress and reaching the goals they set for themselves

The client:

  • Creates the coaching agenda based on personally meaningful coaching goals
  • Uses assessment and observations to enhance self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Envisions personal and/or organizational success
  • Assumes full responsibility for personal decisions and actions
  • Utilizes the coaching process to promote possibility thinking and fresh perspectives
  • Takes courageous action in alignment with personal goals and aspirations
  • Engages big-picture thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Takes the tools, concepts, models and principles provided by the coach and engages in effective forward actions

A bit of coaching trivia

The derivation of the word coach in the teaching/training/developing context is fascinating. Coach, meaning personal private tuition, was originally university slang. It was based on the metaphor that to move from one point to another swiftly you would ride on a coach, (then a horse-drawn coach), which would require the help of a coachman. (Chambers dictionary says) Coach was first recorded in the sense of a private tutor in 1848, and in the sense of an athletics coach in 1861. Brewer’s 1870 dictionary says: “… Coach – A private tutor – the term is a pun on getting on fast. To get on fast you take a coach – you cannot get on fast without a private tutor, ergo, a private tutor is the coach you take in order that you get on quickly (University slang)…” So in spite of a widely held belief that the term started in sports and later became applied to personal growth and training, the opposite is in fact true.