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ATD Blog

Coaching: A Pathway for Gaining a Deeper Understanding


Tue Jul 09 2024

5 Ways Coaching Can Supercharge Your Professional Development

During the recent Forum Lab, participants were asked to select a personal learning project and to use it to explore the self-directed learning processes from Catherine Lombardozzi's workbook Charting Your Course (CYC). I decided to focus on coaching as a way to improve in my current role as a learning and development business partner and open doors for future possibilities.

I initiated the project by doing the self-assessment available with the Talent Development Capability Model™. This process provides an explanation and assessment on current skill sets and identifies gaps. The Capability Model identifies practical steps for talent leaders to develop essential skills, including coaching. It also provides tips for mapping our experiences and suggestions for training, certifications, and practical applications to close those gaps.


My Forum Lab experience provided an insightful look into my personal learning journey and the strategies I can employ to become an effective coach within my organization. I wanted to highlight my goal to influence and empower others through meaningful leadership, even without a formal position. My learning during the lab outlined essential skills for development, such as emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, and adaptability. I will make these skills stick through daily reflections, active listening practices, peer coaching circles, and continuous learning through various resources like books, podcasts, and other online courses. The emphasis on creating an environment of mutual respect and trust, along with a commitment to professional and ethical standards, underscores my dedication to fostering growth and achieving long-term success in developing coaching skills.

As part of the project, I also volunteered to put my learning experience story together and share it with the other members of the Forum during a virtual webinar. Walking through the steps using the framework and the model, while building out the story, helped both consolidate and expand my learning.

Because coaching was a high-interest topic, the Forum benchmarked all the members on the topic of coaching using a survey. Based on the survey results, 80 percent of the respondents reported having coaching as part of their talent strategy, and 65 percent indicated the need for coaching was stable or growing. This clearly shows a demand for coaching. The results indicated the most prevalent method was a one-to-one approach with engagements typically spanning one to six months.

As the interest in the topic grew, the next step for all Forum members was a virtual discussion with executive coach and experienced talent leader Maria Garrett of MG Leadership. Maria started with the formal definition of coaching from the International Coaching Federation:

“…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”


“…using the process of active inquiry in supporting clients to design their own actionable and sustainable strategies for success.” She then shared information about the core competencies of the profession, her personal pathway with an emphasis on pivotal talent experiences that prepared her, her lessons learned along the way, and multiple resources. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Maria also used the Capability Model.

Lessons Learned

Hearing Maria’s story was informative and inspirational. While there were key ideas to follow up on as an aspiring coach, my major takeaways include the following:

It is important to have a client-focused approach. This means understanding that while coaching is a profession, serving as a coach is also a business. This implies legal and financial aspects and using a sales process.

Coaching also requires a strategic approach. This means starting with a personal unique selling proposition (USP)—ensuring you are clearly defining your target audience and leveraging your personal strengths. This also might mean saying “no” to a request.

Understanding the significance of networking. As Maria stated, “Your network is your net worth.”


“Start with one piece of work!” was sound advice Maria received from a wise and experienced coach. If you are launching your own business, it is easy to become both enamored and bogged down with the planning of the business, such as building a website, opening the accounts, and developing marketing assets. Start with at least one client and continually learn more about the science and art of personal coaching as you build the business side.

As someone that is an aspiring or potential coach, I found the practical advice to use coaching techniques in everyday interactions important. Intentionally find ways to serve as a catalyst for colleagues to discover their own strategies for success.

Call to Action

Maria’s experience has sparked energy in my own learning journey to coaching and enhanced my motivation to continue with my plan.

I recommend all talent leaders focus on their own learning journey. Depending on what you are interested in pursuing, the journey may lead you to a new passion or skill. For me, it is embracing the coaching role. And while I have built out a personal plan to include credentialing, I also will start immediately by integrating various coaching techniques, especially the skill of inquiry, in my daily practices.

Use various opportunities to gain experience because coaching is a profession and requires credentialing. However, whatever your learning focus is, there are ways to learn and build your capabilities. This includes listening to thought leaders and those with experience like Maria, reading case studies, being part of a peer learning community, and reflecting on what you are learning every day in a journal.

I give a call to action to my talent and development peers to find ways to leverage the resources and support from the professional community, especially ATD. If you have not taken the Capability Model assessment, start there. Participate in webinars and thought leader discussions. Lastly, continuously seek opportunities for learning and growth in everyday experiences. You never know where it will lead you. It just may be your own pathway to being a professional coach.

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