What coaching is…

Coaching has been described as ‘the art of facilitating the development, learning and performance of another’. It is a means of enabling individuals or teams to develop their own capabilities – and in doing so to maximise their potential. It draws from a range of disciplines, including education science, business science, philosophy, sports psychology, positive psychology and neuroscience.

At an individual level, coaching work is undertaken in service of the coachee’s own learning, performance and enjoyment – and systemically, in service of the learning, performance and enjoyment of those that an individual leads, manages and works with and the organisations and communities they serve.

The coaching process itself is framed around a ‘conversation’ with your coach. Your coach, through strong listening skill, effective questions and the appropriate deployment of a range of concepts or techniques, will aim to raise your awareness, widen your perspective and increase your understanding about how you are engaging with your objectives.  They will use their skill to provide a safe and trusting environment for you to freely explore the topic that you wish to discuss, providing supporting challenge, feedback and stimulation to your thinking process.

Effective coaching is strongly associated with the identification of clear objectives, the building of greater awareness of self and of others. It is often aimed at enabling individuals to become more authentic leaders of themselves and others and create greater choice and flexibility in the leadership style they wish to deploy. Good coaching also focuses on increasing personal responsibility and as a result, requires ultimate authority for action, transformation and change to remain with the person being coached – or the ‘coachee’.

The content of each coaching session is strictly confidential – but if appropriate, includes transparent and mutually agreed contracting and review mechanisms with the organisational representative who has commissioned the programme – otherwise known as the ‘sponsor’. The view of this ‘sponsor’ is often important, in that it clarifies the organisational objectives for the coaching and provides the coachee with clarity of the organisational or a line manager’s expectations. These are often framed in what are described as ‘public goals’ for the coaching programme. When openly discussed, explored and understood as part of a ‘contracting session’ these can inform the development of the coachee’s own objectives for the coaching, framed in ‘private goals’, which remain confidential between the coach and the coachee.

What coaching is not…

  • Coaching should not be confused with mentoring, which usually involves the transfer of relevant knowledge, experience information from an ‘experienced’ to a ‘less experienced’ person. As a result your coach will not ‘tell’ what you to do and will resist responding to requests for ‘advice’!
  • Coaching is not a form of counsellingwhich can have clinical overtones. While the coaching process can be ‘therapeutic’ it is not a form of therapy. As a result – while you may explore some very personal issues with your coach, this will only be done in service of your self-awareness and understanding so that you can more effectively achieve your working objectives. You coach will not act as a therapist.
  • Coaching is not a form of assessment or appraisal of the coachee’s skills. While 360 feedback mechanisms are often used within coaching, these are always mutually agreed between all parties in the coaching relationship. You coach is not there to judge or test you – but to provide you with a safe environment in which to explore how you wish to be even more effective in what you do.
  • Coaching assignments are not remedial in tone. Your coach is there to support your development – and however clichéd the expression, to support the development of your potential. In doing so however – and as appropriate – they may provide you with a high level of supportive challenge in service of you reaching that potential.

Finally – it should be made clear that executive coaching is not a substitute for the complementary skills of good and effective management and leadership – though it can support and enhance both of these qualities.

Who is coaching for?

Coaching is of particular value to individuals who:

  • have moved into a new role or are facing a specific challenge
  • recognise they need to perform or work more effectively
  • are trying to generate a change in their organization
  • are working towards becoming a more complete leader
  • are currently challenged by audacious or stretching objective.

What are the key benefits of coaching?

For organisations:

  • Coaching gives highly tailored and individual support within the boundaries of a supportive environment. This develops and supports individuals during times of stress or challenge, allowing them to generate the ‘space’ with which to gain a deeper understanding, wider perspective and greater clarity of the issues which face them.
  • Coaching asks individuals to set stretching and personally challenging goals, and then think creatively about ways to achieve them – in service of their own learning and performance, and of those whom they lead and manage.
  • Coaching can lead to the alignment of individual and organisational needs. All too often developmental interventions can cater to the individual need at the expense of the business or organisation objective. Coaching programmes explore the recognition of the need to align a coaching intervention to an organisational need, while ensuring that it also relevant, focussed and of practical importance to the individual.

For individuals, coaching can provide:

  • new solutions to existing problems, generated by challenging thinking and encouraging creative responses
  • greater self-awareness both of how they personally operate and the impact of this on others – together with a greater awareness about specific work- related issues and the factors which surround them.
  • clarity about job roles and objectives and the creation a personal learning and development plan to help achieve them
  • success and enjoyment, which develop as the coachee understands themselves and their challenges in greater depth – and grows in confidence in their ability to shape and influence their work environment.


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