July 1

What is Coaching? A Frequently Googled Question


Four Points to understand what is coaching.

First, let’s consider an overview of what is coaching.

Coaching is a confidential, energetic relationship, of exploring a client’s personal, professional goals and values to an agreed upon outcome.

What is Coaching, Coaching Definition, Effective Coaching

CC 2016 (Joe Houghton)

While most people have an idea of what coaching is, the art of professional coaching is a much more strategic, influential and challenging process. I say most people because almost everyone has experience helping friends, family members and co-workers with various challenges. However rarely, is there an understanding of this helping process. These are often “seat of the pants, intuitive” coaching sessions, which often turn into advice-giving sessions. i.e. Have you ever tried such and such? What about if you did ...? You need to do this!

The problem with advice is, without understanding the larger picture, suggestions are resisted and in many cases dismissed with a simple “tried that, it does not work” attitude or “you just don’t understand."

To comprehend what is coaching, from a professional level we need to look at coaching as a self-leadership process. So this might be a surprise, but in coaching, it is the client that is the leader, not the coach. We support clients in exploring their goals and values and then prompt them for their ideas around solutions and an appropriate process.

What is Coaching, Coaching Definition, Effective Coaching

Professional coaches also have no vested or personal pressure on the outcome. If we compare this to other relationships we have with friends, family members and even co-workers there are often other forces involved. These pressures often cause conflict as professional coaching needs to be done with a clean slate in the absence of manipulation implied/not implied subtle pressure.

Second; what is coaching i.e. The Process of Coaching

• Clarity in your goals: the first step of a professional coach is to explore your goals to achieve a clear understanding of how they match your personal values, family values and other obligations and goals.

• Discovering new ideas: a good coach will listen to and challenge your thoughts, question your plans, and challenge those ideas. Is your goal compelling? Are their blind spots you have not considered?

• Rid yourself of barriers: In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) we have a phrase first mentioned by Alfred Korzybski, “the map is not the territory."

A map, like a restaurant menu, is only a representation (re-presenting) of the real thing, i.e. no one eats a menu which is a visual presentation of food, not the food. Our beliefs and understandings are often clouded from the truth as we are interpreting them through our map (beliefs) of how things are. A professional coach will question and explore a client’s barriers to expose the truth about them.

• Make a plan: Understand to get what is coaching, the coach, with the client must move to the next step in achieving a goal, which is developing a realistic plan of action. Having a goal and motivation is wonderful, but without a realistic plan of achievement, the goal is close to worthless.

• Accountability: Now you have a great goal and a solid action plan but how do you implement the plan? How do you keep yourself on track and get to the finish? This is an important component in understanding, what is coaching. A professional coach works with their client to put benchmarks in place as a way to stay on track.

Third; what is coaching for improvement

What is Coaching, Coaching Definition, Effective Coaching

Coaching has been around for hundreds of years. You probably know the word coach in regards to sports. Coaches help athletes develop their skills in their sport of choice. Most often in sports coaching, especially in the past, coaching has concentrated on form. How do you swing the golf club? Best placement of your feet in the tennis backhand.

However coaching has certainly moved way beyond this. This elevated form of coaching started in the mid-seventies when Timothy Gallway wrote his first book “The Inner Game of Tennis." This book went beyond the physical structure of excelling in sports and started the exploration of the mental game. Many people have correct swings and natural abilities but what is it that makes one individual a superstar and another just a talented person?

What Mr. Gallway’s books also presented was that understanding the inner game did not just apply to sports, but to all human achievements whether that is writing a book, building a business or being a CEO. What is the "inner game" that is required to excel in these areas, in the clients area?

Forth point, what is coaching in regards to self-actualization?

Abraham Maslow while developing his hierarchy of needs principles in the 1950’s termed the phrase self-actualization. At the higher end of the human experience is the need to learn and grow. Those needs we have to contribute to society and to reach our highest potential. Humans are not stagnant creatures but ones that have an inner drive to improve themselves.

The problem is we all have this inner drive to self-actualization but how do we do it? What environment is needed to nurture ourselves and how do we deal with all the endless roadblocks that seem to come at every turn. This is what professional coaching provides.

coaching challenge

Some interesting studies and research were compiled by the ICF (International Coach Federation) showing that training increases one’s ability to perform well in the workplace by 28%, whereas coaching increases this ability by 88%. Big difference, right? Why is this?

It is not because training is not required, or necessary, but it points out that more is needed. Such as how do individuals use the training? How do they implement the training in their particular environment? Coaching is often the missing element in training.

Some say, “knowledge is power” however, what is really true is, “knowledge without correct implementation is worthless."

What is coaching; an overview

So coaching is a confidential, energetic relationship, of exploring a client’s personal, professional goals and values to an agreed upon outcome.

Coaching sessions will focus on issues such as; resolving problems, creating a strategic plan, process to build skills, adapting to change, creating change, attaining peak performance, current goals, future goals, getting past roadblocks.

The important thing to remember when defining what is coaching is to remember, coaches are not advise givers, consultants, or therapist.  Their challenge is to use tools, process and creativity to help the client come up with their best solutions.

Coaching improves both professional and individual performance, plus often leads to higher career satisfaction. Coaching has a long-term positive effect on one’s environment both personally, in relationships and in an organization’s culture.

Coaching is a challenging relationship between the coach and client. Clients must be ready to welcome challenge for coaching to be effective.

As the coaching relationship progresses, there is a strong correlation between the client being coached, this client coaching others in the future, and how the client coaches themselves.

In this way, coaching is a “pay it forward” process with benefits that can ultimately affect generations into the future.


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