What is coaching?

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

(John Whitmore, in Coaching for Performance)

By Zohaib Butt

Coaching is the new world that many people don’t know about it, I asked many people about coaching, surprisingly only 5% people know about coaching. There are probably a thousand different definitions of coaching. To understand the meaning of coaching some coaching professional’s definition are as below:

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.                                                               (John Whitmore, in Coaching for Performance)

         Coaching is helping another person reach higher levels of effectiveness by creating a dialogue that leads to awareness and action.                                                                                                       (Brian Emerson and Anne Loehr)

       Helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams.                                                                                                                                                   (Marshal GoldSmith)

        An informed dialogue whose purpose is the facilitation of new skills, possibilities and insights in the interest of individual leading and organizational advancement.                                                                                                                                                              (Terry Bacon and Kevin Spear)

The art of facilitating the unleashing of people’s potential to reach meaningful, important objectives.                                                                                                                                                                             (Phillipe Rosinski) 

Coaching is one of the most powerful ways of communicating. When used effectively and appropriately it raises your awareness; it’s like a laser on your thinking that cuts through any procrastination and straight to the chase.

Coaching is a unique relationship where your own conversation takes place. It’s a unique way to connect with people who talk, who offer their best, a way to let them say what they did not say, dream about what they did not dream about, and get what they did not get. Coaching creates new possibilities to shift our way of being to become more resilient and resourceful.

The coach’s role is to help remove the obstacles that stand in the way of the people attaining their goals. This is achieved through careful questioning and deep listening. The coach steps into the world of the coachee while maintaining a careful distance of objectivity, whereby they can gradually help the people through whatever is in the way of achieving the objective (either mental or emotional hurdles, such as beliefs, habits or fears). Through a process of inviting introspection and self-reflection, the coach helps the coachee clear a path for success.

There are two examples to understand the coaching in depth.

Example 1:

A new start

Jim is a brand new employee in a high street retailer and is taking on the role of area manager. During his first week, he spends a lot of time with his line manager, Jeff. Jeff talks to Jim about the company, the structure and processes that the company has. He also talks to Jim about his objectives, his development plan and about the specifics of the job. Jim listens a lot of the time, takes plenty of notes and asks questions as they come to mind.

What do you think here – is Jeff coaching Jim? We believe this definitely isn’t coaching and yet many organizations talk about coaching employees in this not the only solution.

Example 2:

A problem with sales

Jessica is an Account Director for a training company and she’s looking to build on her sales figures. Her boss, Tim, the Sales Director, has a meeting with Jessica about her performance so far this year, and asks her questions about what’s happening with her clients and how she feels everything is going. Jessica explains she’s concerned as one of her major customers has cut its training budget and so she is below target. Tim listens carefully to what Jessica says and encourages her to explore what is working well, and how she can use this to develop her sales figures further. He asks some great questions that Jessica hasn’t thought of before, questions like, ‘If you look back at the end of the year having achieved your targets, what will have made this happen for you?’, ‘If you knew you could only succeed what would you do?’, ‘What support do you need from your colleagues or me?’ By the end of the meeting, Jessica goes away with an action plan she’s developed and some great ideas about expanding business with her existing clients. She feels much better about herself and confident about getting the business.

What do you think now? Is this coaching? We’d say a resounding yes. So what’s the difference between these two scenarios? Jim was brand new to the organization and he needed information and knowledge that he had no way of knowing. He needed Jeff to tell him, which was much more of an information giving/mentoring session. If Jeff had asked Jim about the processes and objectives, it wouldn’t have worked as he simply wouldn’t have known. Coaching isn’t the best intervention in this situation; training, telling and mentoring are more appropriate.

Coaches don’t solve problems for the coachees, as the coachees are the experts in their own lives. Rather, the coach helps clarify and crystalize the goal, and aids the individual in finding their solution and committing to the action that will move the goal forward. The coach also follows up to see that it is achieved, and if not, invites more discourse and learning on this issue.

Coaching is . . .

  • About drawing out, not putting in
  • Helping others to learn as opposed to teaching them things
  • Motivational and enjoyable
  • Performance focused but people centered
  • About releasing potential
  • Helping people move out of their comfort zones

Coaching is not . . .

  • Telling people what to do and how to do it
  • The same as instructing, training or counselling
  • Offering uninvited feedback
  • Rescuing people and having all the answers
  • Only for poor performers
  • A disciplinary measure

Based on a three-year study of over 3,000 executives, Daniel Goleman identified six different leadership styles:

  •          Coaching
  •          Coercive (or Commanding)
  •          Pace-setting
  •          Authoritative
  •          Affiliative
  •          Democratic

Coaching enables people to discover their strengths, focus on development and learn from their mistakes. It motivates them to move forward in their role, and take responsibility for their goals and actions. It discourages control and command methods of management, and brings out the hidden talents and skills of each individual.

The Coaching Difference:

  • coach would ask you questions about what end result you want and solutions.
  • A mentor would tell his or her recipe with you and his or her experience of how he or she does it.
  • counselor would explore any anxieties you had about baking the cake.
  • manager would tell the problems.  He would show planning, organizing and controlling. 
  • Trainer would teach structured process to provide knowledge and skills.

Coaching Model:

There are more than 100 coaching techniques available. The most impressive and valuable technique is DARE coaching model created by Qaisar Abbas. This unique approach allows for the achievement of breakthrough goals in personal and professional while developing new leadership skills, and resolving situational roadblocks that may emerge along the way.

D – Direction: The coaching program starts with a goal-setting process. The coachee will gain clarity and direction as they envision where they want to be.

A – Analysis: In this coaching stage, coachee and coach brainstorm ideas, and best practices, and discuss techniques.

R – Roadmap: In a third stage, coachee and coach work together to map out a customized step-by-step plan of milestones necessary to achieve the program goals.

E – Empowerment: At the conclusion of every session, the best ideas become measurable action accountabilities. The coachee will be supported to build these skills until they become second nature.


  • Terry Bacon and Karen Spear, Adaptive Coaching (Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing, 2003), xvi.
  • John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance (London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2002), 8.
  •  Phillipe Rosinski, Coaching Across Cultures (London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2003), 4.
  • Stephen Neale, Lisa Spencer-Arnell, and Liz Wilson, Emotional intelligence coaching : improving performance for leaders, coaches, and the individual (First published in Great Britain and the United States in 2009 by Kogan Page Limited)
  • Matt Somers, Coaching at work: powering your team with awareness, responsibility, and trust (British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data)

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