What is Coaching?

When I started coaching in 2005, coaching was still a nascent “industry” that required detailed explanation. Since that time, coaching has literally boomed and there are many coaches offering their services. Though the concept of coaching is much better established, and many people understand what coaching is, I find it often requires some further unpacking. There are several reasons for this:

  • Many people offer coaching services, and there are different ways to coach. Some people tend to give more advice or serve almost as consultants rather than coaches. That’s not coaching by most definitions.
  • In the pursuit of “results,” which is often the primary focus of coaching, I think we often forget what makes life meaningful — for us and others.
  • It is better to approach coaching with a full understanding of the process, how it works, and what to expect. 

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Researcher Anthony Grant defines coaching as a ‘‘collaborative solution-focused, results-oriented process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of life experience and goal attainment in the personal and/or professional life of normal, non-clinical clients’’ (Grant, 2003a, p. 253). Grant and Spence explain that coaching facilitates the attainment of goals by helping clients to:

  1. identify desired outcomes,
  2. establish specific goals,
  3. enhance motivation by identifying strengths and building self-efficacy,
  4. identify resources and formulate action plans,
  5. monitor and evaluate progress, and
  6. modify action plans (where necessary). (Grant & Spence, 2014, p. 1010)

Goals are good and most people who pursue coaching seek to achieve more in their lives. But coaching can be much more than just achieving one’s goals. Good coaching can help us with:


At it’s core, coaching is about change — and the ability to sustain that change. As Ovid writes in Metamorphoses, “…nothing is permanent in all the world. All things are fluent; every image forms, wandering through change.” When it is important to change, recognize change, or lead change, coaching is a great way to put things into context and work on that change. Change is rarely easy. Change is also directly related to leadership which arguably is all about the capacity to change as a group or organization.


In the inimitable words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Because life moves so fast, we often get caught in the superficial. At a certain point in life we all seem to ask, “Is this all there is?” Coaching helps us to explore the depths while keeping an eye towards what is important. In a culture that primarily values “doing,” we often forget who we are. Coaching conversations allow us to go deep so that we can balance doing with being.

“To be is to do” — Socrates
“To do is to be” — Jean-Paul Sartre
“Do be do be do” — Frank Sinatra

(from the novel Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, 1982, p. 224) 


Inscribed over the entrance of the Oracle of Delphi were the words “Know Thyself.” I believe that the best way to grow and develop, and to improve as a person and as a leader, is to take the time for reflection and seriously delve into knowing oneself. When you know who you are authentically and what makes you tick, you are better prepared to tackle the complexities of life and career and find enjoyment in the experience. The ultimate goal is in leading a good, full and purposeful life. 

What Coaching Clients Can Expect

I take what coaching stands for very seriously.  Coaching is a process in which the coach helps the client discover their own best way to achieve their goals or objectives. This makes coaching particularly powerful, because it is based on the client’s own innate wisdom and knowledge.  Coaching is about really listening and seeking to understand the client.  My job is not to tell you what to do or how to do it, though I am there to offer advice or input when appropriate. What I will do is help you explore and discover what is the best way for YOU to achieve what you have set out to achieve. Our sessions are meant to be challenging. It takes intrinsic motivation and active engagement and is in many ways the modern equivalent of the “Hero’s Journey,” a conscious quest of self-discovery with the intent to live authentically and make a difference in the world.