What Is Coaching?

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

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. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

How can you determine if coaching is right for you?

To determine if you could benefit from coaching, start by summarizing what you would expect to accomplish in coaching. When someone has a fairly clear idea of the desired outcome, a coaching partnership can be a useful tool for developing a strategy for how to achieve that outcome with greater ease.

Since coaching is a partnership, also ask yourself if you find it valuable to collaborate, to have another viewpoint and to be asked to consider new perspectives. Also, ask yourself if you are ready to devote the time and the energy to making real changes in your work or life. If the answer to these questions is yes, then coaching may be a beneficial way for you to grow and develop.

What are some typical reasons someone might work with a coach?

There are many reasons that an individual or team might choose to work with a coach, including but not limited to the following:

  • There is something at stake (a challenge, a goal, or an opportunity), and it is urgent, compelling or exciting, or all of the those
  • There is a gap in knowledge, skills, confidence, or resources
  • There is a desire to accelerate results
  • There is a lack of clarity, and there are choices to be made
  • The individual is extremely successful, and success has started to become problematic
  • Work and life are out of balance, and this is creating unwanted consequences
  • One has not identified his or her core strengths and how best to leverage them.

How is coaching delivered? What does the process look like?

Coaching typically begins with a personal interview (either face-to-face or by telephone) to assess the individual’s current opportunities and challenges, define the scope of the relationship, identify priorities for action, and establish specific desired outcomes. Subsequent coaching sessions may be conducted in person or over the telephone, with each session lasting a previously established length of time. Between scheduled coaching sessions, the individual may be asked to complete specific actions that support the achievement of one’s personally prioritized goals. The coach may provide additional resources in the form of relevant articles, checklists, assessments, or models, to support the individual’s thinking and actions. The duration of the coaching relationship varies depending on the individual’s personal needs and preferences.

Within the partnership, what does the coach do?

The role of the coach is to:

  • Provide objective assessment and observations that foster the individual’s or team members’ enhanced self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Practice astute listening in order to garner a full understanding of the individual’s or team’s circumstances
  • Be a sounding board in support of possibility thinking and thoughtful planning and decision making
  • Champion opportunities and potential
  • Encourage stretch and challenge commensurate with personal strengths and aspirations
  • Foster the shifts in thinking that reveal fresh perspectives
  • Challenge blind spots in order to illuminate new possibilities, and support the creation of alternative scenarios.
  • Finally, the coach maintains professional boundaries in the coaching relationship, including confidentiality, and adheres to the coaching profession’s code of ethics.

What does the individual do?

The role of the individual or team member is to

  • Create the coaching agenda based on personally meaningful coaching goals
  • Utilize assessment and observations to enhance self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Envision personal and/or organizational success
  • Assume full responsibility for personal decisions and actions
  • Utilize the coaching process to promote possibility thinking and fresh perspectives
  • Take courageous action in alignment with personal goals and aspirations
  • Engage big picture thinking and problem solving skills
  • Utilize the tools, concepts, models and principles provided by the coach to engage effective forward actions.

What does coaching ask of an individual?

  • 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.
  • Self-discipline – to challenge existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, and to develop new ones which serve one’s goals in a superior way.
  • Style – leveraging personal strengths and overcoming limitations in order to develop a winning style.
  • Decisive actions – however uncomfortable, and in spite of personal insecurities, in order to reach for the extraordinary.
  • Compassion – for one’s self as he or she experiments with new behaviors, experiences setbacks – and for others as they do the same.
  • Humor – committing to not take one’s self so seriously, using humor to lighten and brighten any situation.
  • Personal control – maintaining composure in the face of disappointment and unmet expectations, avoiding emotional reactivity.
  • Courage – to reach for more than before, to shift out of being fear-based into being in abundance as a core strategy for success – to engage in continual self-examination in order to overcome internal and external obstacles.

How long does a coach work with an individual?

The length of a coaching partnership varies depending on the individual’s or team’s needs and preferences. For certain types of focused coaching, 3 to 6 months of working with a coach may work. For other types of coaching, people may find it beneficial to work with a coach for a longer period. Factors that may impact the length of time include: the types of goals, the ways individuals or teams like to work, the frequency of coaching meetings, and financial resources available to support coaching.

Benefits of Using a Coach

Professional coaching brings many wonderful benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence. And, the list does not end there. Those who undertake coaching also can expect appreciable improvement in productivity, satisfaction with life and work, and the attainment of relevant goals.

 Increased Productivity

Professional coaching maximizes potential and, therefore, unlocks latent sources of productivity.

Increased Productivity graph


Positive People

Building the self-confidence of employees to face challenges is critical in meeting organizational demands.

Positive People graph


Return on Investment

Coaching generates learning and clarity for forward action with a commitment to measurable outcomes.The vast majority of companies (86%) say they at least made their investment back.

86 percent ROI graph


Satisfied Clients

Virtually all companies and individuals who hire a coach are satisfied.

Satisfied clients graph


Source: International Coach Federation