Frequently Asked Question – What is Coaching?

16th October by Elizabeth Adlington

Reading time 3 minutes

Share this article:

Twitter LinkedIn
FAQ - What is coaching?

I am a Coach, and I get asked this question a lot.  I experienced the first line of confusion early on during a meeting with my bank manager. 

“Coaching? – Have you thought about capital for the purchase of your vehicles?”

Instantly the image flashed through my head of sitting at the large wheel of a sleek coach heading off with 50 odd noisy passengers seated behind me!  I laughed out loud and tried to explain, but it was a clear marker that my new venture was not obvious and clearly understood.

Coaching involves asking lots of questions, but before all that, I will ask and answer the first one – “What is Coaching?”

There are lots of definitions around, but for this purpose, here is mine.  It is a process that focusses on the development of specific skills to achieve defined goals, by using our inherent ability to find answers through our own experience and knowledge.  In a professional context it enables individuals to improve their performance in a role, leading to higher achievement of individual, team and organisational objectives.

Coaching has its origins in the sporting arena, and where we might be more familiar with the term “coach”.  Great sports men and women achieve their “PB’s” (Personal Best) with the significant input of a coach.  A world-class athlete is unlikely to set about achieving a world championship performance without a coach at their side, so the same applies to the world of work.  Or as one colleague reflected recently, “ ….hmm, I see, so it means you will try to avoid injury.”  Well, yes.  That’s a good point, coaching is about high achievement and reaching out to master challenging goals but no-one is saying it will be without its difficulties.  It is a pathway to success and celebration. 

If you are still unsure, it is more than OK to have a coach working alongside you.  Think of it as a personal trainer helping you to be “match-fit” for work.

Over several months I have been privileged to meet other coaches.  The conversation often starting with, “So, where are you on your coaching journey?” (back at the wheel again!).  Some coaches are (like me) at an early stage of their coaching practice, others highly experienced and others highly regarded.  They all have the same things in common, generous with their time, their support and so far, all share the same passion, a genuine desire to make a difference through their coaching relationships.  I have come to coaching following an established career in the arts and cultural sector.  “What made you change direction?” I get asked.  I haven’t.  The arts is a potent environment and has the power to transform the lives of those who engage with it.  For all those years I was motivated by a desire to make a difference (through the arts), now I can achieve that in the very rewarding practice of coaching.

So, what else?  Coaching has at its heart the idea that we are all resourceful and creative individuals with the ability to identify the solutions to our own challenges.  With a coach working alongside you, asking the right questions, those answers and insights become much clearer and become the stepping stones to your success.

And what else?  Coaching is a collaboration, and like great art, requires focus, skill and commitment from all those involved in the creative process.  If there are goals you want to achieve and coaching is yours means to making that happen, then it is important to understand what will happen.  In order to achieve your “PB” and get the most from the experience then commitment is needed at every stage.  This means attending agreed sessions, following through on agreed actions and when necessary making changes.  If you do, and you have the right coach for you asking the right questions, then progress will happen and what you want to achieve will become reality. 

Professional coaches invest in developing their skills, and continue to do so as their practice develops.  The field is regulated so that coaches maintain the highest standards and best practice can be developed and reviewed.  Something to look out for and ask about when you choose a coach.

Hopefully that clears up the question – “What is Coaching?”

So, if you are in a period of transition at work (or returning to work) or you wish to improve your performance, influence or effectiveness at work, or address specific work-related challenges, then coaching can help.  There are a number of organisations giving information about coaching, and others who can link you to a coach.  Of course, if you think I could be the right coach for you, please get in touch!

Article written by AoEC Graduate Elizabeth Adlington. Published with kind permission.

Email Elizabeth at