Coaching Fundamentals


What is the Purpose of Coaching?

In our work environments and personal lives we’re always looking to make clear, thoughtful choices, speak them clearly, and execute them in effective ways. We want to optimize our time and energies to create valuable outcomes. All this can happen spontaneously and without a plan, but with foresight to think and plan before taking actions, especially for larger goals, there’s a higher probability for getting quicker and more reliable results.

What Exactly Is Coaching?

A coach helps the client (or coachee) develop clear goals, a plan for execution of those goals and helps them achieve their desired result. Due to previous experiences a coach may know how to get there, but instead they sit and listen, encourage the client, and help them to discover the answers for themselves rather than pointing out every step. This way, problem-solving for the client is repeatable in the future.

Consultants are more expert advisors, and even in coaching direct suggestions are sometimes required, but more often coaching uses insightful questions to help the client discover their own way, even when that way differs from the coach’s ideas.

As coach, you would most often work towards one specific client objective at a time. You would assist clients to have a 360o view, taking into account what they need to do to prioritize and clear the way for appropriate actions towards their objective, such as having the necessary time and finances and finishing other projects first. Together you then outline clear steps to be taken. A coach is resourceful in helping their client find out what’s necessary to prepare to launch, making any necessary adjustments along the way.

Keep in mind goals can be something external, such as starting a brand new project OR they may be internal, such as building the confidence and know-how to do what needs to be done before action begins. As coach you will assist in both inner and outer changes simultaneously.

What Makes a Good Coach?

Whether or not a coach is certified and licensed or not, if your job is coaching others, agile coaching is the important style to embrace. Simply put, this means you’re flexible in your style and able to deeply listen to a client’s needs, changing directions in your coach approach with them, as necessary. You are inspirational and hold the possibility of change for them, even when they can’t see that possibility for themselves.

A good coach will always:

  • move in the direction the client is committed to take, at a reasonable, but motivated pace
  • respect the client and session time, holding the client accountable for commitments
  • feedback client commitments, so each of you can hear it clearly before moving ahead
  • use positive, non-judgmental language, committed to clear communication at all times
  • periodically benchmark where you are and be able to make adjustments as needed

How Is Coaching Made Easy?

Coaching is made easy when the coach is working with a willing client who asks for support. If a supervisor asks you to coach a person who is stuck, you must talk with the client confidentially, discuss any possible barriers and develop their trust first. Too many of us know how it feels to be talked down to by an “expert” who thinks they are telling us what we want to know, rather than asking us if we’re interested in their view. As coach, you must have your client’s agreement to coach them and they must agree to participate fully. If anything will be reported back to the supervisor, then what that will be must be made clear to all parties upfront.

If you are coaching someone, you must remember to get out of the way more and not be the one with all the answers. You’ll find this will help your client speak to you more freely without fear of judgment. Clients expect some direct guidance, but most often they want to be listened to and have someone help them see the solution for themselves.

What Makes Coaching Difficult?

Coaching is primarily made difficult when a coach is too concerned about doing it right or not meeting the client’s expectations. It’s important to stay unattached to being perfect in that role, no matter the extent of your training.

To intentionally not assume the role of expert with all the answers, a coach should try on language like, “let’s say what we both mean on this by expressing it another way, so we can both be clearer on it…” or “I don’t feel clear here, so help me hear what you mean another way…” or “I don’t have the answer here, so let’s look together,” and “Can you help me better understand why last week you stated this as your goal and now we’re talking about X?” This type of language doesn’t blame, is open and expresses a desire for clarity.

There are many tricks of the trade, but with or without formal training, if you’re coaching others, you must stay committed to the other person and not to your own “looking good” or “doing it right.” Trust your instincts in working with others, and remember the benefits of being agile. If you know you can’t make a mistake because you can always share honestly and course correct, then you will have the confidence you need to serve another person, while you improve your coaching skills along the way.

Additional Resources

For coaches who want to receive more formal training, consider a certified coach training school and certification process as recognized through The International Coach Federation: 

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