What is Coaching?

This is a question that is often asked and the answer is very simple:

Coaching is a method that enables a person or group to improve performance in a given area of concern. It primarily focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on what has happened in the past or being planned for the future.

Although there are many models of coaching, the purpose of this blog is to simply describe the process of coaching. In our experience Coaching is often confused with teaching, mentoring or instructing someone. In coaching, the coach is the facilitating an individual or group towards better performance or providing support and help in a given learning experience.

Good coaching is about empowering people to make the choices that are right for them. Acting as that impartial mediator to help steer critical decision making and intervening when the narrative of the conversation is not aligned to the agreed goals or objectives. 

A simple analogy for coaching is when a child first learns to walk; what initiates those first steps? Encouragement from a parent, motivating the child by rewarding, making the process enjoyable for the child etc. All these factors are essentially amplified during the coaching process.

The critical part of coaching is to help people to learn to silence their inner doubts, thereby allowing instincts, or subconscious, to take charge. This could often mean to distract or exploring the ‘worst case scenario’ and removing the fear.

A Coaching Spectrum
Many ‘coaches’ will recognise significant overlap between their role and that of a teacher. This may be particularly true of sports coaches, who are often highly skilled in their particular sport and looking to hone the technique and skills of their athletes.

It may therefore be useful to look at both coaching and teaching as on a spectrum.

Coaching Spectrum
As a coach, there will be times that you are very much led by the person being coached. These times are likely to be in the majority, especially for coaching at work.

However, there may also be times when you are the expert, and imparting information. Examples might include on the meaning of a psychometric test, or best practice in a particular area where you have some knowledge. For sports coaches, it might also include making a decision about when a particular activity is safe and why.

You can think of this as a bit like the nine levels of delegation (and for more about this, see our page in Delegation Skills). It does not actually matter to anyone else what level of delegation of coach leadership you use—as long as it works for you and the person being coached.