Coaching Explained

Updated: Apr 18


I am sure you have heard the saying “the shoemaker’s son has no shoes”. That is because shoemakers dedicate their time to repair their customer’s shoes and neglect their own children’s. I have the feeling that the same saying can be applied to the coaching industry: we spend so much time providing clarity to our clients that we forget to clarify what we do. This situation can lead to misunderstandings about what coaching stands for.  

A Definition of Coaching

The best definition of coaching I know comes from Timothy W. Gallwey, the author of The Inner Game: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” Coaching, regardless of the specialty, focuses on the individuals. It assumes that people already have the answers in them, but sometimes need external help to dig them out. Coaches recognize that the internal obstacles are stronger than the external ones, facilitate the removal of such internal obstacles, and provide guidance to implement remedial actions.

3 Skills Great Coaches Must Hone

Coaching requires a set of specific skills.  Below are what I consider the 3 most important ones. 

  1. Coaches do not tell their clients what to do. Instead, they help them find their own path using questioning techniques. Questions help people reach an awareness of current behaviors they are using, results they are getting, and changes they need to make. The ability to ask the right questions, those that force their clients to explore new areas and think outside their comfort zones, is therefore one key skill that great coaches must possess.

  2. The ability to ask the right questions coupled with the ability to listen to the answers, without judgment, will create the environment of trust needed to encourage people to speak without fear. In general, when I enter a coaching session with a client, I am not sure what we are going to talk about. Of course, my client and I have agreed upon coaching objectives, which I use to guide our conversation, but I cannot anticipate my client’s answers. And those answers may trigger more questions from me. The quality of these questions hence depends on the quality of my listening. Great coaches are great listeners. 

  3. The underlying purpose of coaching is to build confidence and show that the goal can be reached. It is all about achieving success. A coaching session with no results or success can do more damage as it may undermine the coachee’s self-confidence. People’s limiting beliefs are big blocks towards success. Beliefs – like emotions - can create endless stories in people’s heads, and get them stuck. Great coaches find ways for their clients to recognize such beliefs and show them that they have more capability than they are expressing.  

The 4 Phases of Coaching

The coaching process can be divided into 4 stages:

  • Stage 1. The objectives: focusing on the main activity. Examples of questions asked: What would you like to talk about? What’s in your mind? What’s your current challenge?

  • Stage 2. The overview: getting the coachee to see the whole picture. Examples of questions asked: What makes this issue important for you? What is the current situation? What are the potential consequences (good or bad)? What may happen if you do not do anything about it? 

  • Stage 3. The options: making the coachee feel there are many options available, putting him/her in control. Examples of questions asked: What can you do about it? What are your options? What can you change? What are the risks and benefits?

  • Stage 4. The Action: Getting the coachee to come up with a plan of actions. Examples of questions asked: What happens now? What are you going to do to move forward? What’s next? When will you start? What is your deadline?

What can you expect from being coached?


Coaches are not advisors, lecturers, teachers or consultants. They act as mirrors, sounding boards or facilitators. If you are hesitating whether you should hire a coach or not, consider the following benefits coaching can provide you with:

  • Clarity: helping you focus on the right issues, and set priorities

  • Efficiency: reducing your stress level, and getting things done

  • Empowerment: taking control of your own performance to get the results you want, and giving yourself accountability to do so

  • External view: thinking outside your company’s environment and your own assumptions

  • Innovation: providing new methodologies and tools to tackle your issues

  • Inspiration: leveraging on your passion and enthusiasm

We are always better than what we think we are. Coaches help find the way.   



Ready to try coaching and see the results by yourself? Then book a free Coaching Discovery Session with me. 


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