Defining Coaching


I meet plenty of people who describe themselves as business coaches but in reality they are more consultants or business advisors as opposed to coaches. I believe that such people struggle to adequately define coaching because they are confused about the exact meaning of the term. There are lots of other professions and individuals that use the term coaching somewhere in their title such as voice coach, tennis coach, football coach, life coach and so on. In this way coaching has become shorthand for helping someone. 

There are also many different techniques being promoted by different coaches – some of which vary widely in their approach. Many coaches also have backgrounds in other disciplines such as therapy, counselling, or forms of organisational development and they may bring in tools and models from these areas into their coaching practice. 

A quick search throws up a myriad of different and sometimes confusing definitions of coaching:

·  Coaching is the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another. (Myles Downey, The School of Coaching, 2003).

·  A collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee. (Anthony Grant, University of Sydney, 2000)

·  Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.  It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. (John Whitmore, 2003)

I know when I went through my coaching course it forced me to consider the distinction between coaching, mentoring and other related or associated words. The clarity this provided, helped me to see that many times articles and books sometimes used words such as coaching and mentoring interchangeably thus misrepresenting their distinct meanings. 

Perhaps the best analogy I came across was explaining the differences between coaching and other professions using the metaphor of driving a car:

•  A therapist will explore what is stopping you from driving the car

•  A counsellor will listen to your anxieties about driving the car

•  A mentor will share tips from the experience of driving cars

•  A consultant will advise you how to drive the car

•  A coach will encourage and support you in driving the car

This description also helps to show how coaching can be recognised as part of a spectrum of support that can be accessed by an individual.

I like the observation that Julie Starr makes in her great book The Coaching Manual where she states ‘One thing all forms of coaching seem to have in common is that people are using it to help move them forward or create change.’ Coaching is therefore about changing from a current state and moving towards a desired future state. This requires understanding each of the states and linking the individual’s potential and performance to these.

For me personally, the core aspect of coaching is based on the premise that the person being coached (coachee) has the answers. The initial job of the coach is therefore to pose questions about the issue under consideration and help the coachee build a plan to action. Coaching can be formal or informal; both can achieve excellent results. Like with most areas of professional support the right skills, knowledge and understanding are required to get the best out of the coaching process.

There are three principle instruments of a good coach – silence; questions; and challenge[1] Yet mastering these instruments takes time and practice. Coaching is not the art of dabbling and looking for quick fixes. Successful sports stars who maintain a high level of consistency all work with the best coaches throughout their careers. 

Managers are expected to coach but are not given the skills, time and resource to do this effectively. An ICF Global coaching study at the height of the global recession in 2009 highlighted the 4 key benefits from organisations who engaged professional coaches were:

1.     Increased Productivity – across multiple elements of productivity elements

2.     Positive People – across different markers for individual and team performance

3.     Return on Investment – coaching offered demonstrable impact and high returns

4.     Satisfied Clients – very high levels of satisfaction were recorded when using professional coaches.

If you want to change the direction of your business or create a better desired future state then coaching will help. Speak to us to book a FREE meeting to see how we can help you and your business prosper. We use professional qualified coaches who deliver results.

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[1] Angus McLeod. (2004) Performance Coaching. Crown House Publishing.