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What is coaching?

Coaching is a process where a coach supports a coachee to make a change, learn something new or achieve goals. This process happens through conversation, and can take place face-to-face, over the phone, or online

The ultimate aim is to help the coachee make progress in a certain area of their life, at work or to overcome a problem they’re struggling with. Here we’ll dive into the way coaching works, what makes it different from other approaches and your next steps if you’re feeling ready to start your coaching journey. 

How coaching works

A key belief that underpins coaching is that we already have the answers we need within us. A coach's role is to help the coachee find these answers. This is done through a number of conversational techniques including questioning, active listening, observation and reflecting back.

When these techniques are used, the coachee gains greater self-awareness and often an insight they hadn’t seen previously. Having a non-biased, non-judgmental person available to provide focused attention gives the coachee space to understand how to move forward. 

Some coaches will use NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques in their work and some will use tools such as journaling and meditation to support the conversational work. There are various models that can be used within coaching, such as the GROW model, and some coaches will take a more fluid/intuitive approach. 

To ensure progress is being made, coaching often focuses on goal-setting. Coachees will typically be encouraged to create a list of action points following a session so they know what steps are needed to keep moving forward.  

Interested in how it all began? Learn more about the history of coaching

The benefits of coaching

Working with a coach offers a number of benefits. Regardless of your aims, dedicating time and space to personal/professional development helps to improve confidence and a sense of self-worth. 

If you’re feeling lost or unsure about something, coaching can provide clarity, direction and focus. If you’re struggling to make a change, coaching can help raise your self-awareness and both understand and change certain behaviours. 

If you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself and make things happen in your life or work, coaching can offer accountability and help you define your purpose. And finally if you simply need to learn a new skill (from sports to building emotional resilience) coaching can help accelerate your learning. 

Coaching relies on the coachee’s commitment to the process and an open, honest relationship with the coach.

With a focus of forward progression, unlocking potential and achieving goals, it’s no surprise that many people call coaching ‘life changing’.

 Man in suit

How coaching differs from teaching

Teachers generally work from a prepared syllabus/agenda. Whether in a classroom or through online learning, there will be a planned approach and a specific time frame used. While coaches will prepare before a session, the approach is much more fluid and revolves around the needs and wants of the coachee. 

The coachee and the coach will work together to outline the content of each session, adjusting where needed. It is not up to the coach to tell the coachee what to do or how to solve their problems, instead they work with the coachee to guide them to their own solutions.

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

- Sir John Whitmore, 2004.


In the coaching industry you may have noticed the term mentor being used. A mentor is usually someone who has experience in a certain area and is therefore able to support someone with less experience. You may notice this happening in the workplace, when a new starter is paired up with someone who’s been in the role for longer. 

Some people prefer to call themselves mentors instead of coaches. Sharing their knowledge, mentors tend to hone in on a specific area of expertise. Mentors will often use coaching techniques in their work however, questioning their mentees and encouraging them to make their own decisions to increase confidence. 

Coaching vs counselling

While of course we are big champions of coaching, it’s important to understand that there are some scenarios where counselling is more suitable. If you are struggling with a mental health condition, an addiction or unresolved trauma, working with someone who is trained in those areas (such as a psychotherapist) is key. 

In some cases, coaching can work well alongside or after therapy, especially if you’re looking to set goals for yourself. 

In this article, ‘Do I need a counsellor or a coach?’, the writer explains the difference clearly to help you understand which would be more helpful for you.

Your next steps

If, after reading this, you’re feeling ready to start your coaching journey, here are some next steps we advise:

If you have any other questions about coaching, visit our FAQs section or get in touch

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