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What do people want from Coaching?


I am conducting research on the subject of coaching. It is currently a very topical subject and I am interested in finding out more about why people turn to coaching. I'd like to find out why people want to work with a coach and also why people seek training to develop coaching skills for themselves. Are people generally supported by employers or is it something that is seen more as a personal resource - to be obtained on an individual basis? do people want coaching skills to add to their overall management skills? Has anyone got experience and views to offer?
Nicky Ferry

13 Responses

  1. The Emperor’s Clothes
    Nick, this is my personal take on the subject. Make of it what you will.

    Most people, including most of the “gurus” don’t actually know what coaching is. That is to say, they don’t define it as anything more specific than a variety of one-on-one TRAINING to boost someone’s job performance.

    The difference between “training” and “coaching” is therefore first and foremost to do with having the right label for your services (“training” is boring, “coaching” is “sexy”) and money – a coach can charge a lot more than a trainer for what is effectively the same work. Hence the title of this reply.

    This works pretty well all round, because most coaches aren’t qualified (either by training or experience) to carry out genuine coaching, even if they knew what it was; and most coachees aren’t really interested in getting involved with anything as radical as genuine coaching, even if they knew what it was.

    I’d recommend “The Reflecting Glass” by Milan and West as a useful starting point to find out what “coaching” is really about.
    I’m not saying they’re spot on, but they’re nearer than most – MUCH nearer.

  2. Have a look at the TrainingZONE archive

    You might get some clues from the features added to this site as part of the coaching and mentoring feature earlier this summer – click here for the full archive of articles.

    Stephanie Phillips
    Editor, TrainingZONE

  3. If coaching = teaching …
    Stephanie, thanks for the reminder.

    This comment in Alistair Fenton’s contribution illustrates precisely the point I was making in my previous post:

    “While coaching is concerned primarily with teaching learners new skills on a one-to-one basis…”

    Which begs the question: If “coaching” *is* “teaching” why give it another label? Why not just call it “teaching”?

    And if that wasn’t confusing enough, another contributor outlines a “9 Step” coaching model which is totally problem-focused. Yet most of the books on coaching specifically advise against creating such a link (it sucks coaching into the organisation’s disciplinary procedure and creates highly negative implications for anyone being sent for coaching).

    My original book recommendation still stands as one way to get past this confusion.

  4. Coaching
    Hi Nicky,

    I have worked as a coach for around 5 years prior to which I was in training roles for about 10 years.

    I’ll try to respond to your questions in order.

    In my experience people engage a coach when other methods haven’t worked for them, or as a result of referral from someone who has been coached and found it useful.

    I have trained many people (mostly managers) in coaching skills. In my experience people attend coaching training under pressure from their organisations, which see coaching as being an involving style of management (and it can be). Only around 10 % of delegates on my workshops have attended out of self-interest.

    Please e-mail me if you’d like further information.

    My views in response to some of the other replies.

    I think the confusion about what coaching is comes from 2 things.

    1. Many roles include coaching as part of their content. This includes managers and teachers. In fact any people oriented role might include an unofficial coaching element.

    2. There are two distinctly different types of coaching.

    a) The traditional “sitting with Nelly” or “golf pro” type of coaching. This is where the teaching similarity occurs and is about someone learning new things.

    b) The second type involves working with someone and helping them to use the ability, skills, knowledge and experience that they already have, in more productive (and perhaps new) ways.

    Coaching is not teaching. I work as a coach and my partner is a teacher. We are both very successful and good at what we do, but we do very different things. It must be said however that sometimes I teach and sometimes my partner coaches.

    Like everything in life, there are good coaches and bad coaches, just as there are good trainers and bad trainers.

    For the record. I left a secure corporate management role to become a coach and took a considerable cut in earnings. I’ve never regretted it.

  5. coaching thoughts

    I’m not an ‘xpert’ but am currently making some transitions into coaching from training. I’m finding that coaching seems to incorporate both behavioural/cognitive motivational counselling approaches and training skills. It’s an opportunity for the ‘developer’/’learner’ to be real about issues and strengths whereby a training session may be less effective in producing congruence for personal development to the desired standard/goal.

    I’m finding that the people that I am coaching have accessed me due to their own personal choice – they have been more senior – maybe choice is due to vulnerability of going on a course on areas that they are wanting to develop (like chairing meetings).

    Interesting stuff.


  6. coaching research
    Dear Nicky,
    Another response to those you have already.
    There was a good article in the Guardian weekend “Jobs & Money” section about 3 weeks back, which possibly raises the profile of coaching as a profession. So that could be one reason why people “want to work with a coach”.
    Your second question applies to me: I am about to undertake a weekend residential course in co-active coaching with the UK College of Life Coaching. So I shall be highly enlightened at the end of this weekend!
    It has to be said that a lot of the skills used in counselling seem to be pulled into coaching, as mentioned by a previous contributor (Sarah), and this gave me some mild concerns about coaches’ skills levels.
    It is now becoming important to gain recognised “coaching” qualifications (eg MCLC) which is what I hope to achieve over a period of 12 months, because of a similar situation in the counselling field a few years back, when just about anyone could call themselves a “counsellor”, so this can only be a good thing.
    I am currently reading some material in advance of the course: “Co-Active Coaching” – Whitworth, Kimsey-House & Sandahl pulished by Davies-Black Publishers for around $40, so I guess the college get their supplies from the States. Please feel free to give me a call or send me an email if I can be of further help and good luck with your research!

    Best wishes, Mo

  7. Isn’t it natural progression.

    I wonder if coaching isn’t a natural progression on from training. Consider the following.

    First off, if an individual wants to develop a new skill then they usually need some basic grounding information, like how to do it. That is often best done through a training type approach be it self study (CBT or read a book) a formal classroom session or a mixture.

    Individuals then need to take the knowledge they’ve just gained and use it in real life situations and further develop their skills through experience. As this starts to occur then they will find that they need additional skills or the skills they thought they’d learnt need refining for the specific situation they find themselves in. Or indeed to correct some bad habits that they may have developed over time. Surely that’s when coaching comes in.

    As such coaching can therefore be carried out as an ad-hoc process whereby an individual asks a co-worker something similar to “How do we do ….” or “This doesn’t seem to work can you help me a little ….”. Alternatively it can be a more formal situation whereby an individual might review their progress since the training or last coaching session. What has gone well and perhaps investigate what could have gone better.

    As such should we be adopting the approach of everybody coach’s.

    Coaching in my experience can be very rewarding for both the coacher and coachee. The Coachee obviously gets assistance for how to further develop. But the coacher also gains. They will hear real life experiences form the coachee and should in turn be able to learn from these. So for both sides there’s a potential learning experience.

    Now the problem is in a large corporation, where there’s often a way to do things, how does the real life experience gets filtered back into the original formal training process so that it can be corrected at source. Or back to the process design phase?


  8. Coaching
    Hi Nicky

    I am a fully qualified Life & Business Coach.

    I am truly inspired by the fact that through the art of coaching people can truly change their lives for the better.

    So, what can coaching do for you?

    It can enable you to achieve personal growth and sustainable life improvements through a focused and goal orientated approach which is motivating and ultimately successful.

    I specialise in the following areas:

    Stress Management
    Time Management Relationships
    Career Progression or Change
    and Life Issues in general

    I have worked in Human Resources and “people management” for over 15 years and have always been fascinated by what makes people tick, and at times, what stops them ticking. I chose to train to be a Life Coach as the ethos of coaching fascinated me. I now use my Life Coach training every day of my life, in my professional HR capacity, within my Life Coaching Practice as well as with friends and family.

    I have trained to carry out telephone as well as face to face coaching and I am also researching the use of other modern technology to support the coaching relationship, for example, E-mail and mobile text messaging.

    I am also training to be a qualified Counsellor where my Life Coaching Skills will help me to specialise in the area of Person-Centred Counselling.

    My Qualities & Strengths

    Through my training I have honed my previous people-orientated skills to become a first class Life and Business Coach. The type of coaching which I practice means that I won’t impose my agenda on you, I will remain open-minded and completely focused on what you want from the coaching relationship. I will ensure that all sessions will be conducted in a professional, confidential, motivating and supportive manner to enable you to achieve your goal for each coaching session.

    So, what will you gain from the coaching relationship?

    The Coaching process will help you to make positive, substantial and lasting changes to your life.
    We will discuss what motivates you, and whether your life fits with your true values and beliefs.
    You will find out if you are living the life you want, or if it’s one which someone else wants you to live.
    Through regular discussion and feedback, I will ensure that you are meeting your goals and objectives.
    I will question you to ensure that your goals are meaningful, realistic and achievable.
    It will enable you to de-clutter your thought processes.

    It would be a pleasure to offer you, (or any other readers of this article), a complimentary 45 minute telephone coaching session – in that way you will experience THE POWER OF COACHING!

    I wish you every success in your research project.

    Jane Byng MCLC
    Holm Oak Life & Business Coaching
    01420 478405 (Evenings)

  9. Qualified?
    This phrase from Mo Georges’ response raises another interesting question that you might want to take into account, Nicky:

    “It is now becoming important to gain recognised “coaching”
    qualifications (eg MCLC)”

    “recognised” – by whom?
    accredited? – by whom?
    One of the best known coaching organisations makes wonderful claims about it’s standard of ethics, its training and its qualifications. Yet there isn’t a hint of any meaningful accredition in sight. The organisation, like so many others, is purely self-validated. (And most, if not all, of the rest are accredited by “organisations” which in turn have no official standing worth a baked bean.)

    It seems to me that “coaching” – for which there isn’t even a single authoritative description as yet – is very much still ruled by the maxim: caveat emptor.

    To those embarking on a study of coaching I’d be inclined to say, enjoy the training by all means, but check very carefully indeed before you assume that the “qualification” you’re getting is worth anything more than the paper it’s printed on. It almost certainly isn’t.

  10. coaching continued..
    Paul, I take on board your comments regarding my earlier response to Nicky.
    I initially approached the college where I am undertaking a course in life coaching after reading an article in the Guardian dated Saturday August 9th 2003, where Anna Tobin presents both sides of the argument: good vs bad [coaches].
    I truly believe that adding coaching skills to my toolkit will enhance it, but I do understand your concerns about recognition/accreditation which was why I contacted the college that I am now a “student coach” with. In Anna Tobin’s article, the UK College of Life Coaching runs “well-recognised courses, is accredited by the National Open College Network” and I based my initial response to this topic by quoting these words.
    I know that when I add the “coaching” tool to my bag of skills, the course will have been worth the initial outlay, as the weekend I have just spent was extremely professional as well as inspirational.
    In respect of your comment: caveat emptor – who said anything about selling coaching? I work with, amongst others prisoners, drug addicts and alcoholics on mainly Government funded schemes.
    Or maybe I am missing the point here completely!
    Please feel free to contact me if I have not made my point clear!!
    Best wishes.

  11. Coaching qualifications
    Hi Paul,

    I looked up your profile on this web site but you haven’t detailed any information about yourself so I don’t know what career background you come from or what your previous links are with coaching. However, I am very glad that you have raised the subject of coaching and accreditation as I vehemently believe that coaches must be properly trained and accredited.

    Coaching is currently at the stage that Counselling was a few years ago where anyone could set themselves up without any training whatsoever. Whilst accreditation is still in an embryonic state (everything has to start somewhere), at least one College, the UK College of Life Coaching (UKCLC) which Mo refers to, is doing its very utmost to ensure their coaches are properly trained, accredited AND once qualified, annually assessed against stringent CPD requirements. You may be surprised to know that the UKCLC is the only coaching college who has an Ethics Committee – they are truly committed to the development of nationally recognised qualifications for coaches. Those that train and qualify with the UKCLC will not have a piece of paper which is ‘worthless’ it will be worth a great deal when recognised qualifications are announced.

    The course I undertook with this College is extremely comprehensive and it takes from 6 to 12 months to graduate and includes a great deal of practical coaching and written assignments. You cannot remain a member of the College without maintaining the high levels of CPD requirements each year.

    It really saddens me that, as usual, it’s the minority of poorly trained practitioners that bring the name of a profession into disrepute.

    I am passionate about coaching, I am proud of what I have so far achieved to gain my accreditation with the UKCLC and I know that I deliver an excellent coaching service to my clients – their testimonials prove this.

    I look forward to the day when people cannot call themselves coaches if they have not been adequately trained and qualified. I don’t believe that time is too far away – watch this space!

    Mo, I’d love to know how you get on with your course. Good luck – it’s inspiring!

  12. In perspective
    Firstly, please let me say I have great admiration for anyone who goes out and takes control of their own development. My comments were in no way intended to dismiss the importance of the work Jane and Mo have done to build their skills.

    My points were these:

    1. There is NO single authoritative definition of the word “coaching”. Which means that simply saying “I am a qualified coach” is actually meaningless unless followed up with an explanation of what “coach” means in this specific situation.

    2. Whilst the UK College of Life Coaching does indeed seem to have full accreditation, through the QCA, ACCAC, etc. via the NOCN, this is unfortunately very much a rarity, and my use of the epigram “caveat emptor” was addressed to those who are paying for training, as well as those buying the services of a “coach” – most of whom, in my experience, do indeed charge for their services.

    There is also, even for the UKCLC (and the NOCN) the question of what THEY mean by “coaching”.

    3. As to whether “coach” will become a restricted title – on what basis would this be? As the Training Forum asked recently, does certification automatically ensure ability? Unfortunately not. And there are already plenty of people in training and related fields whose list of qualifications – as impressive as it may look – is much more a measure of the amount of spare time and spare cash they have at their disposal than of their abilities and skills. Not least because the only thing an exam really measures, is your skill at taking the exam and conforming to the examiner’s expectations.

    There’s also the small point that if the people concerned actually understood the significance of titles and labels, we would never have seen the enthusiastic take up of the terms “HR” and “Human Resources”. One might almost argue that any organisation that uses these labels has automatically invalidated its own credibility as far as dealing with “people” is concerned.

    4. What people often overlook, or simply do not know, in the UK, is that coaching developed in America as much as anything in order to get round the far stricter laws on any kind of service that has an overt psychological dimension.
    However, once the coaching boom was under way the hidden psychological element became the “lost” psychological element. Which is why – IMO – virtually all “coaching” on offer today is simply “training” under a different “sexier” title, and the opportunity to revolutionise the business world through the widespread introduction of what a friend of mine calls “real coaching”, is rapidly disappearing from view.

  13. Coaching comment
    Refer to your question, I just want to share my experience with you.
    Actually, we launch coaching and training system in my company, I am the coach in company.

    I think coaching is modified from training as many people thnk training is one way and boring. I agreed partly. Because we can make training in two ways (interactive) and funny, right.
    However, coaching is one way nowaday thought effective than pushing or pullling method of management.
    As we emphasis that coaching is helping the other to do better in performance basis. We won’t tell the answer to coachee, but ispire them to find solution/answer. This is a bit different with training or teaching.

    I don’t think some people will be willing to have a coach before they understand what coaching is. In my experience, we launch them and briefing/deliver this principle in comapany, staff needs at least 3 months to 6 months to understand/digest. Then we can coach.

    Definitively, coaching is a soft way to appraoch staff, and build up trust between coach and coachewe so it would make management more easier and can avoid conflict. Yet, coaching sometime would cause pressure as coach will gradually leadcoachee make action plan and follow up with regular review session. Some coachee might feel pressure and want to escape from coaching.

    In my comapny, we hpe to build up company culture and a strong team. Coaching is conduct by us from management to bottom. Senior are trained to be coach and I monitor the progress.

    Our management team such as G.M, Director also received personal coach from coaching org. I am responsible for internal staff coaching.

    Actually, coaching fee is expensive so I don’t think anyone can afford the cost except company pay for you. That’s why some org. launch coaching but train up one potential staff to be coach, it is cost saving in long term.

    Im my viewpoint, environment change, pushing, punishing staff before become less useful and motivae now so coaching is a new approach to staff and gradually accepted by more org.

    However, I agreed that coaching is still new to some org. Some managers resist this f they are result oriented. They are not willing to do such activities in a long period. Actually, to some skill base staff, training is a fast way to train them instead of coaching.

    Coaching is better use in behavior and attitude area and if staff could accept coaching and improve their behavior and attitude, good result is seen indirectly. That’s why most companies use coaching linking up with the launch of comapny value.

    Finally, I agree that coaching is useful in management because it combine empowerment, handling conflict, proactive…. it is similar to the attribute of effective manager.



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