The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “a strategic partnership in which the coach empowers the client to clarify goals, create action plans, move past obstacles, and achieve what the client chooses.” Companies are now developing a “coaching culture,” and the leaders are using a “coaching style of management” to enhance their effectiveness. On a personal level, the skills one acquires in the role of coach helps with relationships at home, in the community, and when serving as a volunteer.

The ICF recognizes 11 core coaching competencies, which are divided into the following four categories.

Setting the foundation:

1) ethical guidelines

2) coaching agreement

Co-creating the relationship:

3) trust and intimacy

4) coaching presence

Communicating effectively:

5) active listening

6) powerful questioning

7) direct communication

Facilitating learning and results:

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8) creating awareness

9) designing actions

10) planning and goal setting

11) accountability.

Here’s a quick rundown of the competencies: Coaching starts with knowing the ethical guidelines that surround a coaching relationship; specifically the ICF code of ethics. The coach then establishes a coaching agreement with his client that clarifies each other’s roles, relationship, ethics, and process. Establishing trust and intimacy requires that the coach creates a safe space in which the client can speak openly. Having a “coaching presence” requires focusing completely on the client. Effective communication includes listening, asking powerful questions, and using clear, direct language. The coach empowers the client by creating awareness through self-exploration, facilitating planning and goal setting, and serving as an accountability partner.

Coaching niche areas number in the thousands. Generally speaking, coaching is identified with one of four broad categories.

  • Career coaching serves individuals looking for a job, redefining their careers, or advancing their careers. 
  • Life coaching supports exploration and action in areas meaningful to the individual, including relationships, family, legacy, life purpose, spirituality, life management, and major transitions.
  • Business coaches often work with individual owners or managers of small to mid-sized businesses.
  • Executive coaches provide services to senior leaders in the corporate world. 

These categories serve as a general way of describing coaching. Each type of coaching can and often does overlap with the other types. A coach’s background, experience, and previous education provide the foundation for her coaching niche area or areas.

Whatever the type of coaching being provided, the question arises as to whether the coaching sessions will cover areas other than the specific purpose for which the coach is engaged. For example, some believe that in professional coaching sessions, only matters relating to the coachee’s job should be discussed. In many cases, this is because the employer is paying for the coaching. Another example is when an individual hires a coach to provide assistance with job-hunting. In this scenario, the coachee may believe that coaching should address only that goal.   

A different perspective is that if the coaching sessions are limited to one area or one goal, then the outcome is also limited. The Harvard Business Review states that 76 percent of the time when an executive coach is engaged, personal issues are also addressed. 

A good approach to any coaching relationship is to begin with a session that explores what the individual wants in all areas of her life. In the second session, the pair may discuss how the coachee will create the thinking and habits she wants to support her progress and success. Then, from the third session on, the focus is on the coachee’s job or the primary reason for the coaching. This balanced approach results in a thorough assessment of factors that may be influencing the coachee’s success in both her personal and professional lives. It also helps develop a strong rapport between the client and the coach.

The next post in this series will list some important questions to ask as you begin planning to implement your own coaching program.

Read more on coaching in Cathy’s prior blog post.