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What is Personal and Professional Coaching?

Leveraging the Power of Peers(sm)

"Sometime in the late 1980s, the professional field of coaching was born -- a field promoting continuous resilience and performance in persons and organizations."
-- Frederic Hudson, in "The Handbook of Coaching"

Our peer learning programs are customized to suit the nature and needs of our client's organization. The programs can include a variety of approaches to learning. Often, peer coaching is at the heart of the learning process.

Why Is Personal and Professional Coaching in Such High Demand?

Before we define coaching, let's first look at why it's so very popular today. In the midst of continual change and development, people rarely get stuck merely because they lack some key piece of information or some precise procedure from a course or a book. Rather, they often get stuck in how they think and feel about themselves or their situations in life and work. People are getting stuck a lot lately. Let's look at some of a major reasons why:

  • An explosion in the use of global telecommunications has opened up new markets around the globe and this has dramatically increased competition among businesses.
  • To be more competitive, businesses are becoming more responsive to customer needs, including by reorganizing and decentralizing around flatter organizational structures.
  • In addition, organizations are becoming much more sensitive to the different values, opinions and perspectives in the new marketplace and work environments.
  • Consequently, to work effectively, organizations and employees must be continually open and adapting to feedback from their markets and other environments. (This is called continuous learning.)
  • Results of this rapid change include more highly complex challenges and problems in our lives and work.
  • Traditional means to addressing these challenges and problems aren't working as well as needed.
  • For example, the traditional top-down and autocratic style of leadership isn't compatible with remaining open to feedback and learning.
  • Complex problems can't be solved by experts and gurus who lead followers through highly analytic and rational approaches.
  • One-shot training sessions, such as seminars and workshops, aren't as effective in helping learners to continually learn from their experiences.
  • Consequently, businesses are demanding that training and development services be much more effective in helping people to "learn how to learn" (continuous learning) and apply that learning to the workplace.
  • All of these issues are occurring at the same time that many of us are seeking more meaning in our lives.

"[Coaching is] a powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness, and fulfillment."
-- Coaches Training Institute

Various Views and Beliefs About Coaching

Perhaps a definition of coaching will also explain how coaching addresses the major issues that many of us face in our lives and work. We have studied a variety of coaching models, including during masters- and doctoral-level studies and research. We've learned that there are many coaching models, and that this number is increasing rapidly (even though many of the coaching models seem to have a lot in common). We've also been trained in a variety of coaching models, and have read many coaching books and other publications about coaching. We've learned that there are as many definitions of coaching as there are practitioners and writers. There is no one standardized and widely accepted approach to coaching.

For example, some coaches view the coach as an expert who helps the client, in part, by conveying expert knowledge to the client, while other coaches assert that the coach need not have any expertise about the client's goal at all. Some coaches assert that the coach leads the coaching experience, while other coaches strongly assert that the coaching relationship is one of equals where the direction of the coaching is completely determined by the nature and needs of the client. Some coaches assert that the role of coach includes the role of mentor, while other coaches strongly assert that there's a huge difference between the roles of coach and mentor. Some coaches assert that the coach empowers the client, while other coaches assert that only the client can empower themselves. Some coaches assert strong differences between the practices of coaching, counseling, mentoring and therapy. These differences between views of coaches depend on a great deal on their personal values, the models of coaching from which they work and the particular focus of their coaching, for example, being or performance coaching, personal or business coaching, performance coaching, executive coaching, leadership coaching, etc.

There are various types of coaching conversations. One type might be used to address a short, specific matter. Other types include ongoing sessions to guide and support long-lasting change among clients. Coaching is traditionally carried out in pairs, that is, the coach works in a one-on-one with the client. Coaching also can be carried out in groups, including where one coach coaches multiple clients in the group or where peer members of the group coach each other.

"[Coaching is an] ongoing relationship which focuses on clients taking action toward the realization of their
visions, goals or desires."
-- Personal and Professional Coaching Association

Our Definition of Personal and Professional Coaching

We define personal and professional coaching as working in partnership between coach and clients to provide structure, guidance and support for clients to:

  • Take a complete look at their current state, including their assumptions and perceptions about their work, themselves and others;
  • Set relevant and realistic goals for themselves, based on their own nature and needs;
  • Take relevant and realistic actions toward reaching their goals; and
  • Learn by continuing to reflect on their actions and sharing feedback with others along the way.

"Coaching involves holding out a possibility in front of others while coaching them to move to the next level of relentless compassion."
-- Robert Hargrove, in "Mastering Coaching Fieldbook"

Core Benefits of Coaching

Coaching can benefit almost anyone in almost any situation. The benefits that client achieve from their coaching experiences depend very much on what they choose to work on in their coaching. However, there are some core benefits that clients can achieve not matter what goals they work. Regardless of the goals of the clients, coaching can help clients to:

  • Learn more effectively by helping them to take ongoing actions on current, real-world goals and sharing feedback with others along the way (this is really the way that adults learn best).
  • Solve complex problems by helping clients to continually reinterpret, or reframe, their problems and to continue to take actions toward resolving their problems, as well.
  • Find more meaning by helping them to participate more wholeheartedly and realistically in the here-and now, thereby helping them to live more authentic lives.

"Effective coaching challenges limiting assumptions embedded in our viewpoints about self and others in a way different than teaching or training. Good teaching and training also challenge the limits of learners, but in a different way -- by adding new knowledge and skills ... coaching is a unique form of dialogue that expands an individual's capacity to transform his or her limiting beliefs."
-- William Stockton, in "Mobius Model Coaching Workshop"

Principles Common to Various Schools of Coaching

Despite the many perspectives on coaching, there seems to be some principles that are common to many approaches to coaching, including that:

  • People have great or even unlimited potential.
  • People develop first from within themselves -- learning starts with themselves.
  • Development includes the whole person, their thoughts and feelings, heads and heart.
  • People can develop a great deal by closely examining their assumptions and perspectives about themselves and their world around them.
  • Goals and direction of coaching should come mostly, or completely, from the nature and needs of the client.
  • Questioning is very effective in helping clients to examine their assumptions and perspectives.
  • The role of actions and experience are critical to learning and development. Without practice there is no knowledge.

"To sum up and simplify what I'm saying, coaching is a way of working with people that leaves them more competent and more fulfilled so that they are more able to contribute to their organizations and find meaning in what they are doing."
-- James Flaherty, in "Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others"

Typical Methods and Tools of Coaching

Coaches use a variety of methods, tools, forms and exercises in their practice. Use of these methods and tools depends very much on the values and focus of the coach and the unique needs and nature of the client. They include, for example:

  • Clear set of standards and ethics that guide the nature and scope of the coaching relationship.
  • Agreements and contracts to establish clear understanding and commitments between coach and client
  • Various forms and checklists to quickly collect information about the client regarding contact information, history, etc.
  • Inventories and exercises to help clients to clarify their values and vision for themselves.
  • Deep listening to really understand the nature and needs of the client.
  • Probing questions to help the client understand their own assumptions and perspectives about themselves and their world.
  • Tactful challenges to move the client forward.
  • Reflecting and summarizing to capture conclusions and learning for coach and client.
  • Goal setting done mutually with the client to ensure ongoing clear direction, problem solving, successes and development for clients.
  • Strong affirmation and validation to champion the client's initiative, commitment and actions.

"Only when coaching principles govern or underlie all management behavior and interactions, as they certainly will do in time, will the full force of people's performance potential be released."
-- John Whitmore, in "Coaching for Performance"

"Those unable to change themselves cannot change what goes on around them. ... Without power to discard beliefs shown to be wrong, one cannot introduce actions known to be right."
-- Reginald Revans, original author of Action Learning

"Through constant questioning, we see more clearly just who we really are, and what remarkable resources we have access to. We will also see more clearly what is really facing us, and we will become more capable of accepting and responding to change."-- John Morris, Action Learning writer, in "Action Learning in Practice"


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