What is Coaching?
There are numerous explications about the roots of the term coaching in the perspective of personal growth. Etymologically, the English term coach
is derived from a medium of transport that traces its origins to the Hungarian word “kocsi” meaning “carriage” that was named after the village where it was first made.
Coaches work as outer catalyst to the capacities that exist within other people. A combination of caring, perseverance, insight and patience supports the coachee find the external and internal resources to increase performance.
However, apart from this broad definition, there is a wide range of different interpretations about the appropriate role, characteristics and behaviors of an excellent coach. It depends on many factors, coaches might need to adopt quite different aspects to be close to the requirements of their clients. A wide spectrum of circumstances affect the approach of coaching , including the difficulty of the job, the jeopardies related to the task, the coachee’s disposition, the confidence and competence in relation to the task, and the coachee’s level of learning capabilities.
A lot of the expert literature written recently tries to give different labels to different views towards the tasks of a coach and then aim to introduce their approach as the only real one. This is quite confusing to both coachees and coaches and is often misleading. The only truth is that the practice of coaching is multilayered, multifaceted and extremely variable depending on the comlexity of goals and situations. This might be the main reason why we can find so many definitions of coaching.
Coaching in the mirror of its definitions
- This the coaching meaning the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in UK holds:
Developing a person’s skills and knowledge so that their job performance improves, hopefully leading to the achievement of organizational objectives. It targets high performance and improvement at work, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s private life. It usually lasts for a short period and focuses on specific skills and goals.
- Sir John Whitmore paraphrasing Timothy Gallwey defines it as:
Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance… helping them to learn rather than to teach them.and somewhere else:
the process of empowering others“
- Robert Hargrove simply defines it this way:
Coaching involves expanding people’s capacity to take effective action.
- The answer to what is coaching by Marian Their:
Working with individuals and small groups to improve their social skills and effectiveness in the workplace.
- Dr Jon Warner give the following meaning:
Coaching is an open-ended process in which an individual obtains expert input so as to achieve better long-term performance and results than may have been possible by operating alone.
- Max Landsberg give the following coaching definition in The Tao of Coaching:
Coaching aims to enhance the performance and learning ability of others. It involves providing feedback, but it also uses other techniques such as motivation, effective questioning and matching your management style to the coachee’s readiness to undertake a particular task. It is based on helping the coachee to help her/himself through dynamic interaction – it does not rely on a one-way flow of telling and instructing.
- US National Optical Astronomy Observatory has its own definition:
Coaching is an ongoing relationship, which focuses on clients taking action towards the realization of their visions, goals or desires.
- The concept for coaching accoring de Corporate Coach University is:
the process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to fully develop themselves to be effective in their commitment to themselves, the company, and their work. It is a collaborative relationship focused on enabling an individual to become his or her “best self”. The Coach’s role is to facilitate discovery as well as the professional development of the individual.
- Here another concept of Coaching by the International Coaching Federation:
A professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that support the achievement of extra-ordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team
- Here one of the coaching concepts of University of Sydney (Coaching Psychology Unit):
Coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused, results orientated systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of performance, well-being, self-directed learning and personal development of individuals, groups and organizations, who do not have clinically significant mental health issues or abnormal levels of distress.
- Laura Whitworth claims this definition:
Coaching is a method for helping others to improve, develop, learn new skills, find personal success, achieve aims and manage life change and personal challenges
- The meaning of Coaching defined by Gary Collin:
Coaching is the art and practice of guiding a person or group from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment that they desire.
- The NASA about Coaching:
It provides a safe place for clients to identify what is and what is not working, try new behaviors, and learn from their new experiences
Definitions referring to the coaching process
And another array of definitions we found explaining what is the coaching process:
Coaching is a one-on-one development process formally contracted between a professional coach and a management-level client to increase the client’s managerial and/or leadership performance, often using action learning.(Robert J. Lee)
Coaching creates a space of unconditional acceptance where learning, growth and transformation occur naturally as participants (a) find clarity, (b) align with their core values, and (c) take effective action toward meaningful goals. Coaching takes a holistic approach to learning and affirms each participant as whole, capable and resourceful. Spiritual growth is a natural and significant part of the process.
Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life. In each meeting or call, the Coach listens and contributes observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the client into effective action.(Marcia Wieder)
Coaching is not telling people what to do; it’s giving them a chance to examine what they are doing in light of their intensions.(James Flaherty)
A process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful coach requires a knowledge and understanding of the process as well as the variety, skills and techniques appropriate to the context in which coaching takes place.(Parsloe and Wray)
Coaches assist people to identify specific goals and then reach those goals faster and with ease. Provide client with the tools, perspective and structure to accomplish more through a process of accountability. Reframe beliefs and create a point of focus for clients to reflect upon.
Coaching is about performing at your best through the individual and private assistance of someone who will challenge, stimulate and guide you to keep growing.(Gerard O Donovan)
Coaching is essentially a conversation – it is a dialogue between you and I within a productive, results-oriented context. A conversation where, by asking relevant questions at critical junctures, I can encourage and support you to look at different angles and strategies.
A collaborative relationship which forwards action or deepens understanding, based on trust and integrity.In this sense, coaching
focuses on the goals, development and dreams of the congregation being coached, with specific expectations for growth.Successful coaching, therefore, is
a mutual conversation that follows a predictable process and leads to superior performance, commitment to sustained improvement, and positive relationships.(Denis Kinlaw)
A relationship between client and coach, in which they collaborate to meet the client’s needs. The agenda comes from the client, who is guided and supported in making desirable changes in one or more parts of his or her life, leading to a life that is more fulfilling and more balanced.
A person who teaches and directs another person via encouragement and advice.
A strategy used to help a client reach her fullest potential and achieve her goals. The coach first helps to define the goals and then supports the client in executing them by mapping out a strategy and helping her stay on track. Coaching helps to balance work, family and social demands as well as leisure and spiritual activities.
Providing guidance, feedback and direction to ensure successful performance.
Coaches provide support, encouragement and help in daily living skills.
The process of providing instruction, direction, feedback and support – in order to improve performance and results.
The essence of executive coaching is helping leaders get unstuck from their dilemmas and assisting them to transfer their learning into results for the organization.
A form of training where the supervisor/manager models or demonstrates a behavior or task and uses feedback to guide the employee while she or he practices the behavior or task.
Coaching as a metaphor not an intangible concept
It is not surprising that the quoted definitions give us a multiple viewpoints. Some are rather narrow and specific. Some are rather more universal, conceptualizing coaching as co-acting process able to take place in any and all areas of a person’s life. Some even highlight what coaching is not (sometimes even express the concern in psychology about the limits of coaching passing to what is un-appropriate to a no clinician).
Some definitions talk about feedback by the coach; others do not speak of feedback at all. What all useful definitions have in common, however, is that coaching is a somewhat formal relationship that concerns:
- Encouragement and support
- The use of effective questioning skills
- Performaning for archivable goals
- Developing insight
An essential foundations of coaching what is somehow reflected in most of the definitions is the idea of a passage (remember what the dictionary says about the Hungarian word kocsi meaning “carriage”) – coaching as the metaphor for a transport taking the coachee in the direction he or she wants to go. This is probably where the concept of coaching originates.
One important reason for the wide range of variation in interpretation of what a coach is and what a coach does is probably that there are two divergent and conflicting ideas of coaching embedded. One, most common and dominating in sports and managerial behavior, can be called classic coaching. And on the other hand side a model more recently derived from a mix of European development coaching and behavioral disciplines.
More about this difference and the history of coaching soon.