What is coaching?
Coaching is a collaborative process between a coach and client where the coach helps the client in his or her life and work to achieve goals and maximise their potential. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) outlines four responsibilities of the coach as:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
- Encourage client self-discovery
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
- Hold the client responsible and accountable
The goal of coaching is to empower individuals to be resourceful and responsible for their own change process in a safe and supportive environment. The coach helps facilitate this process by listening carefully, asking questions to provoke deep thinking, and contributing observations which assist clients in building new insight and self awareness. Coaching isn’t about the coach giving clients the answers but rather about helping clients discover the answers for themselves. A good coach knows that you are the expert in your own life!
How do I know if I need coaching?
Coaching can be used for a variety of reasons from professional development, life transitions, to personal goals such as quitting smoking or reducing stress. Everyone can benefit from coaching — the question is what would you like to change or improve? To understand whether coaching can help you, it might be useful to know how coaching is distinct from professional services:
- Therapy – deals primarily with clinical populations, specifically those suffering from pervasive and on-going anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol abuse, personality disorders, and other mental health issues. Practitioners help clients maintain or reach a normal level of mental and emotions functioning; coaches support people in their self-initiated personal and career growth. Coaching is future focused; therapy is past focused. Coaches can supplement therapy treatment if the client is able to identify, set and work towards goals, and as long as the client’s therapeutic needs to not interfere with the coaching process.
- Consulting – consultants function as a third party advisor and are hired for their expertise. They help identify issues, strategise solutions, and sometimes take a part in the implementation process. In contrast, a coach helps the client find their own solutions; a coach operates on the premise that the client is the expert in his/her own life.
- Mentoring – mentors are wise advisors who use personal experience and knowledge to guide their clients in personal or career development. Mentoring is similar to coaching, however coaches try to separate the client’s desires or needs from the coach’s bias or opinion, and place emphasis on the client designing their own solutions to reach their own objectives.
- Training – primarily takes a linear path with pre-determined outcomes and learning objectives. In contrast, coaching takes a more meandering path and does not have a time limit or a curriculum. The agenda and learning outcomes are fluid and are constantly evolving as the client changes, discovers and grows from the coaching relationship.
- Sports Coaching – relies on the expertise of the coach to determine goals and focuses on the advancement of individuals or teams by developing clients in an athletic context.
What happens during a coaching session?
Coaching sessions last anywhere from one to two hours. The first session is mostly about laying the groundwork: getting to know each other, identifying what the client would like to change, and figuring out where the road blocks are. Conversations are generally led by the client with the coach asking questions that help lead to more discovery and insight. After the first session, the coach and client will delve deeper into the thought cycles that prevent or support goal attainment and create small tasks or homework to do outside of the session that will bring the client closer to their desired goal.
What will we talk about?
Usually coaching sessions are led by the client. The client sets the agenda by telling the coach what they would like to work on or or develop and the coach helps guide the session and frame the discussion in helpful ways for the client. Coaches often help guide the conversation by asking lots of questions to help the client make meaning and discover new avenues of understanding. Sessions are more like a conversation and less like an interview. However, if your employer has engaged a coach for your development, there may be specific topics or development goals your employer would like you to work on with the coach. Coaching does not have to be limited to these topics though and it might be that the desired development comes through the exploration of something seemingly unconnected.
How long do I need to do coaching to see results?
Some people will see results after just one session. Others may take three months, or eight months, or years. It all depends on the client’s goals, accountability, and ability to follow through on their development plans. Most clients will attend coaching for three to eight months. Some may reach their desired goal, cease coaching, and then return to coaching months or years later when they have a new development objective in mind.
Where will we meet?
Coaching can take place at your workplace, in a meeting room at my co-working space, or over video conference call. Your coach will help you find a suitable place that is convenient for your coaching sessions.
What if I live overseas or out of state?
Coaching doesn’t have to be face to face. Many coaches today are taking advantage of technology and conducting sessions over video conference call. This kind of coaching can be very useful for the busy executive, people who live in remote areas, those in the process of moving overseas, or people living in countries where their native language isn’t spoken. The benefit of this kind of coaching is that it can be done anywhere and at anytime. If you are interested in distance coaching, please email for special rates and to discuss how distance coaching will work for you and your goals.
What will the coach do for me?
Outside of coaching sessions, the coach will still be working for you! Your coach will be thinking about the advances you’ve made in coaching, reviewing the work you’ve done together in session (and the homework you’ve done outside of session), and thinking about how to support you as you continue to work towards your goals.
What do I need to do for coaching?
For coaching to work, you need to be dedicated to your own development. That means coming to sessions prepared, having done your homework or having done some self reflection. You need to be open to self-discovery — even if it’s uncomfortable — and willing to challenge yourself in new ways.
Is coaching confidential? What if my employer pays for my coaching, will they know what is discussed in our sessions?
Coaching is always confidential. Coaches are bound to a code of professional practice by their accrediting bodies as well as by a contract that they agree to with you, the client. This is irregardless of whether you have sought out a coach of your own accord or whether an employer has engaged a coach on your behalf. A coach may need to discuss with your employer the value of your coaching engagements, but the coach will never share the details of conversations you’ve shared in session. Your coach will always be honest and open with you, the client, about what is discussed in meetings with the organization. These terms are set out in a separate coaching contract that an employer will have to make with a coach before coaching commences.