Executive Coaching, Business Coaching, Life Coaching, Edinburgh, Scotland.             Aeona Coaching and Training: Dr Sue Mitchell MAC AMInstLM
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Evolution through Coaching
Strategy. Adapting. Change. Performance.

Coaching definitions - what coaching is and is not


Coaching shares many attributes and is often confused with several other valuable processes that are also ‘helping professions ’ but which have a different approach and are suitable in different situations.

Coaching is goal-driven, looking to the changes you want to make and aligning these with your core values. Coaching is client led regarding content, where the coach is responsible for maintaining the structure and process of the conversation. It is often backed up with selected exercises to help you develop your action plan and achieve your goals.

Executive coaching is defined by Sherpa as "regular meetings between a business leader and a trained facilitator, designed to produce positive changes in business behaviour in a limited time frame".

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) lists the following, generally agreed characteristics of coaching in organisations:

  • It is essentially a non-directive form of development.
  • It focuses on improving performance and developing individuals’ skills.
  • Personal issues may be discussed but the emphasis is on performance at work.
  • Coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals.
  • It assumes that the individual is psychologically well and does not require a clinical intervention.
  • It provides people with feedback on both their strengths and their weaknesses.
  • It is a skilled activity which should be delivered by trained people.
  • Counselling usually works remedially on a client's problems, where they feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with life, and focuses on past events. Clients seek therapy for relief from psychological and/or physical symptoms and for emotional healing. In both Counselling and therapy, clients want to move away from pain or discomfort rather than towards goals, as they would in coaching. Counselling and therapy tend to focus on understanding the past rather than developing action plans to improve the present and future.

    Teaching and training both involve acquiring knowledge and skills by study and experience. The teacher or trainer is the expert and has (at least in theory!) the answers to the students' questions. Both involve a structured agenda to pass on specific amounts of information. Coaching is much more flexible and non-directed, where primarily the client, or coachee, influences the direction and content of the session. The coach asks the questions to let the client develop their own answers, with the benefit that the client is responsible for their own learning and is encouraged to continue learning for themselves so results are sustainable in the long-term.

    A Consultant has the expertise to solve business problems and usually deals with specific issues or the whole business process rather than developing individual people. A consultant may recommend coaching as part of the business improvement package. A coach does not necessarily have expertise in the client's specific business, although a business coach will have an understanding in general. A coach works with individuals to improve their performance and thus the overall performance of the business.

    A mentor could be a senior colleague or role-model who gives advice and passes on their knowledge, skills and experience based on their (usually extensive) experience in the client's business and similar situation. Mentoring in the workplace usually involves a more experienced colleague using their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. Mentoring is not so goal-focused as coaching.


    "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." Henry Ford

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    Evolution: (noun) A gradual development. An exercise carried out in accordance with a procedure or plan.
    Evolution through Coaching: Improved performance and desired changes achieved using a strategy to adapt people's attitudes, behaviours and actions.


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