What is coaching? 10 definitions

I’m on a quest to understand the nature of coaching.  This week I’m going to bring you an array of coaching definitions that I discovered along the way.   

But before I do, I wanted to highlight that my research has uncovered a huge number of different definitions;  and they vary between “regular” coaching, coaching psychology, co-active coaching (an a-theoretical model!); and executive coaching.   I believe the following is symptomatic of an unregulated industry.  What is heart-warming is that there is some commonalities between the definitions – and perhaps suggests that at some point in the future, the profession can attempt to bring some uniformity and standardisation to the “wild west” of coaching.

 10 Definitions of Coaching

  1. “Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.  It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them” (Whitmore 2003)
  2. “A collaborative, solution focused, result-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and person growth of the coachee”  (Grant 1999, basic definition also referred to by the Association for Coaching, 2005).
  3. “A professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that support the achievement of extra-ordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team “(ICF, 2005)
  4.  “The art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another” (Downey, 2003)
  5.  “Coaching is directly concenred with the immediate improvement of performance and development of skills by a form of tutoring or instruction”  (Parsloe, 1995).
  6. “Coaching psychology is for enhancing well-being and performance in personal life and work domains underpinned by models of coaching grounded in established adult and child learning or psychological approaches” (Special Group of Coaching Psychologists, part of the British Psychological Society)
  7. “Coaching is about developing a person’s skills and knowledge so that their job performance improves, hopefully leading to the achievement of organisational objectives. It targets high performance and improvement at work, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s private life. It usually lasts for a short period and focuses on specific skills and goals.” (CIPD 2009)
  8. “Psychological skills and methods are employed in a one-on-one relationship to help someone become a more effective manager or leader.  These skills are typically applied to a specific present-moment work-related issues….in a way that enable this client to incorporate them into his or her permanent management or leadership repertoire” (Peltier 2010)
  9. [Co-active] coaching is “a powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance a life-long process of human learning, effectiveness and fulfilment”  Whitworth et al (2007)
  10. “Coaching is about enabling individuals to make conscious decisions and empowering them to become leaders in their own lives” (Wise 2010 – sorry couldn’t help sneaking one in myself!).

 Interestingly, whilst searching for defintions I came across the following from Bruce Peltier

“A coach must be able to provide a good working definition of coaching and articulate the difference between coaching and psychotherapy”. 

Whilst this sentence might appear on the surface to be self-explanatory, the vast range of definitions can only be a challenge to a coach wishing to provide “a good working definition”.   If only it was that simple……


2 comments on “What is coaching? 10 definitions

  1. sreenivasa Reddy says:

    good definitions for coaching and my definition is also that Coaching is asking appropriate questions to make other person to think for develop and application, Common Example is Make him to learn How to Fish than giving Fish every time.

  2. Thank-you, I am just planning a training session for a group of managers and your definitions were perfect!

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