What is coaching?
In this blog post Chris Sheepshanks poses the question ‘What is coaching?’, explains what it is – and isn’t – and outlines some of the key benefits coaching brings to both individuals and organisations.
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.
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.
Coaching is of particular value to individuals who:
For individuals, coaching can provide: