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What is Coaching?

Blog Series: De-mystifying Coaching

Blog #1: What Is Coaching?


By Cindy Turner, Master Coach

This is the first article in a new 7-part blog series called ‘De-mystifying Coaching’. I am writing in response to the many questions we receive about coaching with the purpose of clarifying and de-mystifying a complex and ever-expanding field of work. 

The most frequent questions we receive are “what is coaching exactly?” or “what kind of coaching do you do?” or “how does coaching work?” 

Responses are based on what people see around them (career coaching, executive coaching, wellness coaching etc.) and frequently when asked for their definition of coaching the response is often that a coach provides advice, solutions and answers. 

However, this is not actually true. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects about this work. Coaching is designed to help the client (coachee) generate their own solutions, from their own resources. The coach honours the client as the expert in his/her life and work. It is NOT about giving advice or a conversation that offers solutions.

As Master Coach and CEO of Australia’s largest network of certified coaches, I’d like to share our understanding of the term ‘coaching’ based on our knowledge, experience and research.

At Coach Central we are passionate about coaching. Coaching forms the fabric of everything we do. We have a large and highly skilled network of expert coaches that have each passed our rigorous standards and vetting process. Our coach experts bring rich and diverse experience to our work. They have developed certified coaching programs, created cutting-edge educational programs and curricula, held leadership roles and coached thousands of people for a myriad of purposes (leadership, career management, wellbeing).


A great video: What is coaching?

At times, professional coaching gets confused with other approaches such as therapy, consulting and mentoring. Therapy, consulting and mentoring are disciplines that have a different focus and purpose to coaching. Stay tuned for the third blog in this series to learn more.

The term ‘coaching’ involves a range of unique approaches depending on the background and experience of the individual coach. In essence, all approaches help to move people through transitions.Coaching is a partnership between coach and coachee in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the coachee to move towards their goals and thus, maximise their own potential. 

Professional Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organisations. Coaching conversations are typically future-focussed rather than dwelling on past events. All forms of coaching aim to identify blocks and limiting patterns and assist people form new insights or perspectives about their current situation and take actionable steps towards their desired goals.

In each coaching conversation, the coachee chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach actively listens and contributes observations and questions. Expert coaches help to create clarity and move the coachee into action. Coaching fast tracks the coachee’s progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. Coaching looks at where the coachee is now and what they are willing to do to get where they want to be in the future. The coach recognises that results are a matter of the coachee’s intentions, choices and actions and the role of the coach is to support.           

Coaching uses various methods of communication such as questioning, re-formulating and re-framing. Face to face coaching also provides opportunity for the coach to observe body language during conversations. 

Coaching can be done face to face, over the phone, and virtually using various digital methods. Face to face coaching naturally improves the coach’s ability to receive more complete information due to the ease of observing a person while listening to what is said. 

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance…helping them to learn rather than teaching them. John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance

Coaching, at its best, inspires new ways of thinking and new ways of approaching the challenges an individual may face. An expert coach has the ability to bring out the client’s unique strengths, skills and wisdom. Coaching creates accountability to make progress and fulfil goals. Coaching avoids advice-giving, diagnosing, making assumptions or offering solutions. 

So, what does a coach do? 

  • A coach helps to clarify and align with what the coachee wants to achieve
  • A coach uses powerful questions to generate self-discovery and new perspectives and learnings
  • An expert coach elicits coachee-generated solutions and action steps
  • A coach encourages action, supports change, and facilitates personal learning and growth
  • A coach holds the coachee accountable and responsible for their own change

Based on our studies and experiences, we define a coach as a person who has a general way of being that consists of sound listening skills, attentiveness to others needs and holds the belief that every coachee is creative, resourceful and whole.

The coaching relationship is unique to the parties that it consists of. The coach’s desired goal is to help you achieve what you want. To that aim, it’s imperative that the coach establishes a relationship with the client (or coachee), based on mutual trust, confidentiality, true and honest information and feedback. This relationship should give you as a client, a feeling of openness and comfort to share your personal story, thoughts or feelings. Your coach endeavours to provide support, feedback, and new skills that will move you toward your goals. 

As part of this process, a coach asks good questions that stimulate conversation and thinking, and helps an individual to see things from a different point of view. As a coachee, you always maintain control of the process and remain an active participant in identifying your own solutions.

Expert coaches are highly skilled at building rapport and establishing high levels of trust to create an optimal learning environment for the coachee. In our experience, there is no one perfect coach for every leader. Different coaches are required at different times in a leader’s journey. So, a coach who has produced spectacular results with one coachee, may be a poor fit for another coachee. Good chemistry is a key contributor to getting great results. With a highly attuned coach on your support team, coaching is a wonderful journey of self-discovery and the fastest way to achieve success.

Stay tuned for our second blog on De-mystifying Coaching: What Different Types of Coaching Are There?