I never assume that people have the same definitions of 'what things are' and 'what things mean'. Especially when it comes to coaching. I often find that people define things differently.

So let us begin by making sure we have the same meaning of Coaching. That way we are comparing Apple with Apples! In this tutorial I define what coaching means to me.

In my career I've observed over 1000 people in over 3000 coaching sessions, and from this experience, often people say they are coaching, yet actually they end up doing something else (for example, telling, instructing, training or mentoring).

Coaches do not say:

What I would do is....

"What I would do is...."

As a coach my primary aim is to ensure the person I am coaching, identifies new approaches and actions so that they move forward.

I have no compelling urge to provide the answers to the coachee, I am merely a conduit for them. Gaining this mindset can take time.

Without this mindset I see 'coaches' struggle, and as a result Coaching loses its value, not because it doesn't work, but that people cannot make it work.

Building on this, sometimes people do not understand what coaching is and what it isn't. We have high profile sports 'Coaches', who are very likely not to be coaching at all! And some who most definitely are. It confuses the matter, so let's clarify and simplify. Here's what I think coaching is:

What Coaching is

  • Drawing out ideas
  • Asking "What can you do?
  • Being patient
  • Coachee finding solution
  • Steering to the right solution
  • Understanding what coaching is

What Coaching isn't

  • Giving Answers
  • Saying "What I would do is..."
  • Diving in
  • My ideas
  • Steering to my solution
  • Saying we're coaching when we're not!

Here are some of my favourite definitions and quotes when it comes to explaining what Coaching is

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them
John Whitmore - “Coaching for Performance”
A Coach is...
A vehicle to transport very important people from where they are now to where they want to be
Coaching is a DISCUSSION between you and a member of your staff, to HELP them MAINTAIN and/or IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
Coaching is a continuous process of developing an individuals’ performance by using day to day work to provide planned opportunities for learning under guidance

And finally my own definition of what a coach is..

A coach skilfully guides and supports an individual to identify specific actions that they can deliver to meet their goals - independent of the coach, not dependent on them.
Phil LaViolette

About the author

phil laviolettephil laviolette

Hi!, I'm Phil LaViolette, Founder and Owner of evalu8d. I created resourcily to share hints, tips and resources I've collected over 20 years of training and coaching, across lots of industries and at all levels. I hope that, even in a small way, you gain from the tools I share!