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Coaching in the Military and US Government


Wed Jun 05 2024

Coaching in the Military and US Government

The term coaching is still gaining ground among industry as well as military and government organizations. Understanding what the term means however is taking longer to grow roots and spread across the enterprise. The benefits can be near-immediate, cost little, and affect everyone in the organization. So what is it? What does it benefit? How do you get involved? Read on to find out.

Defining Coaching

There is still yet to be one unified and accepted definition of coaching; however, there are three that are close and help shape what it is to be a coach, or to utilize it in your organization. The first of these is by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” The Association for Coaching (AC) describes coaching as “a collaborative solution-focused, results-oriented and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee.” A bit more direct, from two coaching experts, Jane Greene and Tony Grant, “a collaborative conversation that unlocks a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.”


As one can infer from these definitions, there is a commonality that affects collaboration, orienting toward a goal and enabling growth. The way to do that across these definitions is to develop, build, and nurture a relationship of empowerment from the coach to the coachee. This sounds a little different from the typical pedagogical or one-way communication thought of in many organizations, as well as government. Issues with retention numbers going down and recruitment numbers being abysmal perhaps led to this change to affect those who are still serving in hopes of keeping them in, motivated, and growing.

The Benefits

According to the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service (DCPAS), coaching “facilitates change and growth in both individuals, teams, and organizations.” The key word being facilitates as a goal of coaching is to give power to the coachee during the engagement process to feel that their questions, concerns, and ideas are heard in a judgment-free and guidance-free manner. Leaders should be more intent on listening to their team members instead of simply listening to respond. Coaching may assist with this.

Coaching improves leadership development by enabling leaders to unlock the potential of their teams, enhancing decision-making abilities, and creating for them a positive and empowering environment. Coaching may also improve organizational climate, particularly in managing organizational change. Turnover happens consistently in the military and government and being able to manage the changes and brace for challenges is key. Coaching may help manage these changes by building resilience, fostering adaptability, and guiding personnel through transitions. This could be a game changer in an organization such as the military where the workforce is in a constant state of transition and development. Coaching helps to cultivate open and meaningful communication, which is something the military prides itself on. Coaching allows individuals to express their thoughts clearly, listen actively, and collaborate.

How It Works

Sir John Whitmore is given credit for one of the more popular coaching models—the GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) model. The model became popular in the 1980s and helped set the stage for a coaching framework, allowing coachees to understand their situation, look at potential solutions, and commit to taking action to do so. There are other frameworks, however, that contribute to shaping coaching in organizations.

Solutions-focused coaching does not spend a lot of time identifying problems. It focuses on the action and vision of the solution. How does the coachee want to approach the solution, and how do they want to get to their desired future? This can be a motivator in organizations where change has occurred and is looking to forge ahead instead of dwelling in the past. Appreciative inquiry approaches look at the organization, its teams, and its people. This process basically looks at what is working well and uses that as a catalyst for promoting positive change.


This is a step that will have to be married with DOD Talent Management solutions and the US Government’s CHCO council across the other departments to allow organizations to truly maximize the impact of the qualities and strengths of an organization’s personnel. This has been echoed from the highest levels of leadership within the DOD, as the second priority in Secretary of Defense Austin’s Message to the Force is to “Take Care of Our People,” by building their resilience, ensuring accountable leadership, and developing our talent.

Get Involved

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) developed their program, together with the Chief Human Resources Officers, in 2018 through a memorandum from then Director Pon. The Navy, Army, and Air Force are already underway with internal programs to work toward developing coaches and coaching programs. The DOD is even working on policy in the forthcoming DoDI 1400.24 Vol. 410, Coaching Handbook. The Air Force seeks to provide coaching as a “structured partnership” between coaches and coachees to empower their Total Force. The Army’s Coaching Program is geared to assist Soldiers in the development and improvement of their knowledge, skills, and behaviors to achieve their goals. MyNavy Coaching is focused on building and sustaining a peer-to-peer coaching culture within the Navy, which will inspire others to reach their potential and achieve maximum performance outcomes. DCPAS hosts two communities of practice: the DOD Coaching Program Manager COP and the DOD Coaches COP. More information on these can be obtained by contacting DCPAS. More information about OPM’s programs and outreach opportunities across the federal government can be found through their Federal Coaching Network.

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