How coaching works

What is Coaching and How Coaching Works

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Coaching is a controversial topic nowadays with people having various interpretations and expectations around what coaching is and what happens in a coaching session. That is why it is our duty as professional coaches to clarify and create awareness about this topic.

Coaching Definition

As an ICF – accredited school we abide by ICF`s (International Coaching Federation) definition of coaching according to which coaching means partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

To go a step further in clarifying what coaching from the perspective of a client you can find below a list of elements that encompass what coaching means and what coaching does not mean.

What doesn’t happen in coaching:

  • You don’t receive advice.
  • You are not told what to do.
  • You are not bombarded with questions – indeed questions are an important element in coaching, but they are not the main part. Most of the coaching happens in listening and in the ability of the coach to be present, connected to the client and ask the right questions at the right time.
  • The coach is not responsible for your success.

What happens in coaching

  • You enjoy a safe and intimate space.
  • You are listened to beyond what you say.
  • You are seen without being judged.
  • You (re)discover that all the answers lie within you and that you are the hero of your own story!

Coaching Process

As stated in the ICF definition, professional coaching involves a partnership: this means that the client has the answers and the coach follows the client’s journey towards their goal, using the ICF core competencies, their coaching approach and coach tools.

Unlike other professions where we get the advice and help of an expert in a particular area, in coaching the client is their own expert and already possesses the capacity to reach their goals. The coach’s main task is to help the client to become more aware, increase his self-awareness and thus gain access to the inner potential the client already possesses. When needed, the coach will assist the client with tools that can eliminate the mental barriers that might be there.

Similarities and differences between coaching, mentoring, therapy and consulting.

Similarities and differences between coaching, mentoring, therapy and consulting

The scheme above is by no means and exhaustive definition of each profession but is a simple and concise description that points out how coaching is different from other disciplines.

The consultant is the one who tells you what to do or gives you advice about the future because they are an expert in a certain area.

The mentor is a senior person who shares learnings from their own past experience that helped them be successful and gives advice based on that.

The therapist explores the past in order to better understand the present and is the one who helps you overcome past trauma.

The coach explores the present and the future, with focus on the future and where the clients want to be. The coach does not share their own experience and advice and rarely goes into the past.

The history of coaching

It is said that Socrates was the first coach as he roamed the streets of Athens and asked people challenging questions in order to increase their awareness. Despite the fact that he did not practice systematic coaching like the one we teach today his art of conversation is an inspiration for how we do coaching today.
This shows that there is nothing new with having an interest in communication and development.

In the 20th century the concept of coaching has come up more and more often, primarily in sports and later on in the business world.

The word coach was used already in the 16th century and it described a carriage that transported people and goods from one place to another. The English word coach also means carriage and it originally comes from Hungarian. Outside the capital of Hungary, Budapest, there is a small town called Kocs, whose population had skills in building carriages.

Similarly, to the original meaning of the word, professional coaching is about getting from point A to point B, it is about getting from where you are right now to a desired state which inevitably involves a journey and a change.

International Coaching Federation (ICF)

ICF is the largest association in coaching, founded in 1996. It ensures that coaching as a profession respects a high standard. Today it seems that anyone can easily call themselves a coach so standards and guidelines when it comes to ethics and quality are needed in order to guarantee that coaching is conducted in a professional manner. ICF is considered the gold standard in coaching. It is the only organization that offers globally recognized coaching credentials to individuals who respect a strict set of requirements.

Coaching is a young profession that evolves fast. Today we practice third generation coaching which is focused on sustainable transformation, genuine dialogue, reflection and self-discovery. The first generation is transactional and focused on performance and the second one includes the ontological phase, “the being of things”. In CoachCompanion education we train in all generations and the focus is on transformational coaching. we sometimes speculate about fourth generation coaching – the liberating phase: when we are free from old beliefs and blockages – which we introduce in the Certification program.

Coaching has grown a lot in the last 20 years and more published research shows its benefits. You can read more on the ICF Research Portal.

Types of Coaching

Life coaching, business coaching, sales coaching, executive coaching, health coaching, career coaching, leadership coaching, weight loss coaching, weight gain coaching, fitness coaching… there are so many types of coaching services that people might be looking for or for coaches to be specialized in.

However, as long as you are a professional coach that follows the ICF core competencies you will help the client transform irrespective of the topic. It is the whole idea of coaching.

The coach only brings coaching skills to the session, no knowledge in the subject. The coach is not a trainer, nor a consultant. Therefore, it doesn’t matter in what subject the client wants to have help in. The coach coaches the person, not the subject. The professional coach is the coach the client needs them to be. Sometimes in CoachCompanion we say that the less you know about the topic the better because you are less likely to bring your own opinion and judgement about the client’s topic.

However, what can differ is the type of tools the coaches use that are applicable to a certain scenario, for example exercises destined for career coaching or team coaching. Nevertheless, the change does not happen exclusively because of the exercises themselves but from how the coaching is done and again we get back to the importance of following the core competencies of a coach.

Choosing to call themselves a “life coach” or “health coach” can be reflective of the coach`s niche or preference into a certain topic where they feel most comfortable or energized to coach in and therefore, in which they have more experience.

Also, for the client it can feel more comfortable and trustworthy to know that the coach has experience in the area. It can also be challenging for a coach to hold back advice with too much experience in the subject and spoil the effectiveness in coaching that way. It takes a real professional to manage that.

How to become a coach

ICF offers three credentials for coaching excellence: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC).

There are three application paths to choose from. CoachCompanion provides ACTP – Accredited Coach Training Program (start-to-finish training) for ACC and PCC levels. Read more about the paths to certification on ICF’s website here.

The fact that the CoachCompanion program is all-inclusive means that in order to become a coach you simply need to attend the program and not worry about counting training hours, mentoring hours and oral examination.

You cand read more about what ACTP means here: Accredited Coach Training Program

For in-depth information you can read about two steps of the program: Step 1 – Professional Coach with Diploma Program, followed by Step 2 – Self Mastery ICF Certification.

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