Definitions of coaching

First let’s start with some widely used definitions of coaching. These come from professional bodies and leading coaches. According to them, coaching is:

…unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

John Whitmore

…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

International Coach Federation

…a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve.

Eric Parsloe

What do they all have in common? They:

  • are focused on the development of the person being coached
  • talk about maximising potential or performance
  • hint at the collaborative relationship between coach and client

That’s a good start, but there’s something missing for me; they don’t address how coaching helps people to achieve these aims. Here’s how I would expand on these definitions to describe coaching.

Coaching promotes personal development through increased self-awareness. The coach’s role is to create the conditions to help you reflect and find your own solutions to problems.

Coaching is a conversation, directed by you. A coach’s questions will give the conversation structure to help you identify and move towards your goals.

Coaching encourages you to take responsibility for your decisions and actions. A coach will gain your commitment to act and hold you to account.

Admittedly, not as snappy or succinct as the earlier definitions but I feel there’s a greater level of detail needed to really get across what coaching is.

Does this fit with your own views of what coaching is, or am I still missing something? Let me know in the comments.

Featured image by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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about emma

I am a coach and facilitator helping people to pause, reflect and make conscious choices about what comes next. In my writing I explore themes of personal development, reflective practice and what it means to live well.