What Is Coaching?

International Coach Federation defines coaching as partnering 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.

 

The Coaching Process

The longer you reinforce positive changes in life the more the desired outcome become part of your natural approach.  For this reason it is often suggested in the coaching field that clients commit to at least six months of regular coaching in order to keep momentum and motivation levels, and to achieve fully transformational experiences.  However, the success of coaching application remains in the clients ability to propel change, and clients may identify less extensive goals to work on in shorter periods of time, or choose to kick-start an change that they may then choose to effectuate themselves, with an option to extend the coaching experience by adding additional session packages as and when they desire.  

 

Coaching vs Therapy

Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand coaching by distinguishing it from other personal or organizational support professions.

Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual's emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in more emotionally healthy ways. Coaching, on the other hand, supports personal and professional growth based on self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is future focused. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one's work or personal life. The emphases in a coaching relationship are on action, accountability, and follow through.

 

Coaching vs Consulting

Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand coaching by distinguishing it from other personal or organizational support professions.

Individuals or organizations retain consultants for their expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, the assumption is the consultant will diagnose problems and prescribe and, sometimes, implement solutions. With coaching, the assumption is that individuals or teams are capable of generating their own solutions, with the coach supplying supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks.

 

Coaching vs Mentoring

Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand coaching by distinguishing it from other personal or organizational support professions.

A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counseling and coaching. The coaching process does not include advising or counseling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives. 

 

Coaching vs Training

Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand coaching by distinguishing it from other personal or organizational support professions.

Training programs are based on objectives set out by the trainer or instructor. Though objectives are clarified in the coaching process, they are set by the individual or team being coached, with guidance provided by the coach. Training also assumes a linear learning path that coincides with an established curriculum. Coaching is less linear without a set curriculum.

 

Measuring the Success of Coaching

Examples of internal measures include changes in the individual's self-awareness and awareness of others, shifts in thinking that create more effective actions, and shifts in one's emotional state that inspire confidence.

 

What Coaching asks of an Individual

To be successful, coaching asks certain things, all of which begin with intention. Additionally, clients should:

Focus on one's self, the tough questions, the hard truths and one's success.

Observe the behaviors and communications of others.

Listen to one's intuition, assumptions, judgments, and to the way one sounds when one speaks.

Challenge existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and develop new ones that serve one's goals in a superior way.

Leverage personal strengths and overcome limitations to develop a winning style.

Take decisive actions, however uncomfortable and in spite of personal insecurities, to reach for the extraordinary.

Show compassion for one's self while learning new behaviors and experiencing setbacks, and to show that compassion for others as they do the same.

Commit to not take one's self so seriously, using humor to lighten and brighten any situation.

Maintain composure in the face of disappointment and unmet expectations, avoiding emotional reactivity.

Have the courage to reach for more than before while engaging in continual self examination without fear.

 

The Role of the Coach

Provides objective assessment and observations that foster the individual's or team’s self-awareness and awareness of others

Listens closely to fully understand the individual's or team's 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

 

The Role of 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

 

Source: International Coach Federation