Coaching literally means ‘to transport someone from one place to another’.
It is a form of learning, where a person (the coach) supports someone else (the client) to create self-development and to learn in a way that is suited to them. The coach supports the individual to improve performance and get better results – the goals that the client wants to achieve. Note that the person setting the goals is the client, not the coach, nor the sponsor, although the sponsor is obviously a key stakeholder.
The client experiences a focus and attention that enables them to develop greater awareness and appreciation of their own position, thought processes and reactions. From this, they are able to create new ways of thinking and behaving to produce better results and to achieve their goals more easily.
Coaching is usually a series of conversations between the coach and client. The coach navigates the client through the conversation in a way that relates to the client’s learning style and stimulates progress. The coach may also observe the client in action, e.g. chairing a meeting and then discuss it with them.
A skilled coach uses a combination of observation, questioning, listening and feedback to create a conversation that is rich in insight and learning for the client. With the client’s permission, the coach can provide feedback based on observations, discussions with people the client works with, and/or diagnostic tools.
Common benefits people experience from coaching include:
- Clarity about their goals
- Strengths and potential blocks to achieving goals identified
- Improved sense of direction and focus
- Increased self-awareness
- Improved ability to relate to and influence others
- Increased motivation
- Improved personal effectiveness e.g. focused effort
- Increased resourcefulness and resilience e.g. the ability to respond well to change
Coaching is different to structured training, therapy, psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. If you think of a spectrum with instruction at one end and therapy at the other, coaching falls in between, as does mentoring.
Coaching differs from instruction in that the coach helps the client to find their own solutions, rather than providing solutions. It differs from therapy in that whilst it promotes greater self-awareness and appreciation of the client’s situation and circumstances, it is not counselling. Mentoring falls between Instruction and Coaching as its focus is on the mentor transferring their skills and knowledge to the mentee along with ongoing support, whereas coaching endeavours to help the client find the answers from within themselves and their own experiences.
Coaching requires significant investment from the client, their organisation and the coach. It should therefore be used to positively develop the individual from a position of existing strength and not be seen as a last resort option in dealing with issues of poor performance.