Center for Coaching Certification

Coaching and a Coaching Culture Differentiated

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.”  The ICF publishes a table that explains how coaching competencies are evaluated including reasons credentialing may be denied.  Here is one notable measurement: “For example, if a coach almost exclusively gives advice or indicates that a particular answer chosen by the coach is what the client should do, trust and intimacy, coaching presence, powerful questioning, creating awareness, and client generated actions and accountability will not be present and a credential at any level would be denied.”

Bottom line, if someone is telling, directing, or advising, they are NOTcoaching.  Instead coaching involves listening and asking questions.  Coaching and a Coaching Culture Differentiated

Developing a coaching culture and using a coaching style of management with listening and asking questions is increasingly a tool used in organizational development.  On a personal level, coaching skills help with relationships at home, with friends, and in the community.

Pros of a Coaching Culture:

  • Perceived as positive and appropriate at all levels
  • Proven impact on skill development and results
  • Increases engagement and motivates productivity

Coach training and coaching certification covers both ethics and the competencies which means professional coaches are trained to empower clients with a positive, proactive process that recognizes them as their own best expert and the owner of their outcomes.

Coaching empowers people to find and apply their own answers.  It is positive.  It is proactive.  It works.


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Coaching Compared with Other Roles

As of this writing, coaching remains widely misunderstood.  Some think of sports coaching where the coach is telling the athletes what to do and driving them forward.  Additionally, the terms mentor and consultant are often mistakenly used interchangeably with the term coach.  In the workplace, Human Resource and training professionals are often seen as coaches – sometimes they are also trained as coaches and sometimes they themselves misunderstand the differences.  Coaching Compared with Other Roles

Coaching is completely different than the other professional roles.  A professional coach has completed coaching certification approved by the International Coach Federation to develop specific competencies and adheres to the ICF Code of Ethics.

What is the difference between other professional roles and coaching?

  • Other professionals do the talking and a coach listens.
  • Other professionals give advice and a coach asks questions.
  • Other professionals focus the conversation based on their own expertise and a coach focuses the conversation based on the choice of the client.
  • Other professionals serve to share expertise and are essentially teachers while coaches serve to develop and elicit the expertise of the client.
  • Other professional roles are the expert with the answers and a coach is the expert at eliciting the answers from the person doing the work.

Each of the approaches provides value.  Other professionals add value by sharing experiences, expertise, and advice. Coaching adds value by engaging people to explore their options, expand their thinking, develop their action plans, and follow through.

For example, responses to this statement will vary: “A co-worker lied to my boss about what happened and made me look like an idiot!”

  • Friend: “Wow, you must be so mad at them!”
  • Consultant: “Let me analyze what is happening and give you a plan.”
  • Mentor: “You should confront the co-worker and explain it to your boss.”
  • Coach: “What outcome do you want to work towards now?”

The value of the friend is having someone understand and support.  The value of the consultant is their experience and expertise.  The value of the mentor is their wisdom.  The value of the coach is they empower you to think it through and make intentional choices about your actions.


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In the examples shared in this blog series, the client in the story moved through many phases and worked in many areas of their life.  While each client is different in terms of how many things are covered during a coaching relationship, coach training teaches us to be open to what serves the client. Additionally, for a client, taking time to reflect on what they accomplished as well as their coaching experience adds value.  Here are examples of questions to ask: Reflection

  • How are you feeling about your coaching experience?
  • What have you accomplished?
  • What is the meaning of your progress and successes?
  • What have you learned?
  • What are your insights?
  • How did coaching help?
  • How will you continue to build on what you have achieved?
  • How can you use the coaching process after coaching?
  • How will you decide when to engage a coach in the future?

As those who have graduated from coaching certification realize, coaching is a privilege because of the trust clients have in our care of them and their information.  Being a coach is a privilege because as coaches we get to be partners for part of a client’s journey.  It is a privilege because we invite their self-acknowledgement of their progress and success.  It is a privilege because we empower them to learn and we learn in the process too.


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Coaching to Build a Life

During coach training we discuss the importance of a client choosing what to focus on and also empowering the client in terms of how to have the conversation.  Based on this, for the client in the story of this blog series, as the focus shifts the conversation shifts based on what serves the client. Coaching to Build a Life

For the session Katrina wanted to focus on relationships, she separated her relationships into the categories of workplace, neighborhood, friends, and family.  She listed people in each category.  I asked her about time, activities, and how she wanted to be in each of the relationships.

  • What types of relationships are you focused on?
  • Who are the people in your life now?
  • Who else do you want in your life?
  • How much time do you want with them?
  • What do you want to do with them?
  • How do you want to treat them?
  • How do you want to feel when you are with them?

Wellness and self-care came up for Katrina.  We talked about ways to approach the topics. Katrina wanted to identify what she did currently for herself, what she wanted to start doing again, how to be aware of her self-care, and how to ensure she kept it a priority.

  • What do you do now that is taking care of you?
  • What feels good for you?
  • What amount of time is right for you to dedicate to yourself?
  • What activities are helpful to you?
  • What are your thoughts about time for reflection?
  • What is important about self-care?
  • What might get in the way?
  • How will you ensure you do manage your self-care?
  • What support will help you?
  • What resources will help you?
  • How will you plan your self-care?

Then I asked Katrina if she was ready to talk about wellness and she said yes.

  • What is wellness for you?
  • What do you want to include for your wellness?
  • What is your knowledge base?
  • What are your sources of information?
  • What helps you stay on track?
  • What level of activity or exercise do you want?
  • How detailed do you want your eating plan to be?
  • What motivates you?

As learned through coaching certification, one of the great things about coaching is that the process works with or without subject matter expertise, because the client is empowered to choose the focus and approach, and to find their answer.  The coach asks questions

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Coaching for Practical Situations

In following the story of a coaching client, we moved through transitions after leaving a job, building confidence, prioritizing, finding a job, negotiating, starting a new job, and developing a career path. Now we move into coaching for other areas of the client’s life.

After six months on the job, Katrina chose to focus on budgeting, finding a new home, building relationships, wellness, and self-care.  This blog addresses the first two areas and the next blog covers the remaining three. Coaching for Practical Situations

For the session on budgeting, Katrina wanted to write a budget and explore technologies for managing it.  For writing her budget, she wanted to work through amounts for everything.  We talked options and Katrina chose to start simple and use the Excel tool I had available (it is on the coach login page provided to all coaching certification graduates).  In the spirit of our competency for designing actions and doing it now, I asked Katrina her amounts for each budget item.   As we went through what she spent, I asked her questions to expand her thinking.

  • Share your thinking on the amount.
  • What level of flexibility do you want with your budget?
  • What irregular spending do you want to plan for?
  • How will you budget for the future?

When Katrina chose to talk about finding a home, I asked questions to help her explore considerations and then choose her priorities.

  • What are your considerations in choosing a home?
  • What is important to you in a home?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What features do you want?
  • What are deal breakers?
  • What are your deciding factors?
  • What is your timeline?

During coach training, one of the big paradigm shifts is that instead of telling, a coach asks the questions.  Because most of us want to help, it is a significant awareness that telling can be harming and asking is helping.


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Coaching to design a Career Path

After working with Katrina to develop strategies for starting her new job as outlined in the previous blog, I also asked questions about personal significance, awareness, and acknowledgement as taught during coaching certification.  Here are examples: Coaching to design a Career Path

  • How do you feel about your strategies?
  • What are your new insights?
  • How do you want to be perceived in your new job?
  • How will you know when you achieve this?
  • What will you say and do to create that?
  • How will you think and feel to create that?
  • How do you want to acknowledge yourself for your work and awareness?

After Katrina had been working for 4 months, she was ready to start thinking through her career path with the company.  During the coaching session, we explored the elements for planning her career path and how she defined each:

  • Value – what unique value I bring to the company
  • Strengths and Weaknesses – my strengths and how to maximize them; my weaknesses and how to manage them
  • Goals – what I want to accomplish at work
  • Timeline – put goals on a timeline that encompasses the short term and on out using a big picture approach for the long term
  • Network – who is in my network, how I help them, what I can ask them to help on
  • Strategies – what my approach will be to achieve goals and advance to the next level on the job

The exploration highlighted who Katrina is and what she offers.  Next, I asked Katrina about her action plan for each of the elements.  She defined action steps that involved doing as well as actions that focused on thinking, reflecting, and being aware.  This is an example of incorporating both who the client is and what they do as discussed in coach training.


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Coaching to Develop Workplace Strategies

This blog series continues with the client in the story preparing for her new job.  In preparation for this, I reflected on the balance between being a subject matter expert and a process expert as discussed in the very first coach training class.  This meant I was ready to use subject matter expertise to inform questions while truly empowering the client to explore and decide. Coaching to Develop Workplace Strategies

In talking through how to work on this together, Katrina decided that identifying the stages for starting and engaging was the first step.  Next was to think through what each stage meant to her and what she wanted to be aware of as she was in that stage.  Finally, Katrina wanted to define specific actions for each stage.  The stages and points of awareness she developed during the coaching included:

  • Preparation – in preparing for work, Katrina wanted to identify who she was going to interact with and plan her logistics such as office and schedule.
  • Clarity about Role and Expectations – Katrina wanted to review her job description, make notes on anything that was unclear to plan to learn more, and get the specifics on expectations.
  • Designing Impact – once she knew the expectations, Katrina wanted to figure out how to meet and exceed them. She wanted to identify where she was going to make the greatest impact.
  • Reflecting – Katrina wanted to plan time to intentionally reflect on the people, culture, and work to identify what was going well and where she wanted to adjust.
  • Understanding the Company – Katrina wanted to take the time to talk to colleagues about the company history, the culture, the vision for the future, company values, and how everyone fit in the big picture.
  • Questions – Katrina planned to make a list of questions to ask her boss, her colleagues, and her direct reports.
  • Priorities – Katrina wanted to plan time after a month on the job to evaluate her priorities.
  • Leadership Style – Katrina wanted to plan a review of her leadership style plus strategize how she wanted to enhance her effectiveness.
  • Building the Team – Katrina wanted to chart her team including their personalities, strengths, goals, and how to most effectively empower each of them.
  • Getting Results – Katrina wanted to plan regular reviews of her work, evaluate her results, and to set goals plus design strategies moving forward.

Applying what is taught during coaching certification meant using my knowledge to ask open questions that helped Katrina consider various factors and develop strategies for herself.


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Coaching to Prepare for Negotiating

After working through the possibilities of her job offers and making her decision, Katrina wanted to work on negotiating her best deal.  Per our initial agreement, we discussed coaching versus training versus consulting. Katrina felt she had the book knowledge on negotiating and opted to stay engaged with coaching.  Applying the powerful questioning techniques from coach training, I asked Katrina: Coaching to Prepare for Negotiating

  • What does your research tell you about this offer?
  • What are all the points of negotiation?
  • How do you prioritize salary, benefits, future opportunities, time off, and time working remotely?
  • What is your ideal offer?
  • What is their ideal offer?
  • How will you create a win/win?
  • When asking for more, how will you make your case?

Next on Katrina’s list was planning how to turn the second offer down gracefully.  Asking questions helped Katrina organize the information and write several responses to consider.

  • What do you appreciate most about the offer you are turning down?
  • What do you appreciate most about the people you interacted with?
  • What do you appreciate about the company?
  • What is your level of interest in reconnecting in the future?
  • What will they notice in a letter?
  • What is important for you to express?

During the coaching session we co-created a letter and several alternatives. Katrina opted to sit with what was developed and then mail the letter within one day.

A note: Competency 9, as taught during coaching certification, is Designing Actions and includes nine sub-competencies with #8 being: “Helps the client “Do It Now” during the coaching session, providing immediate support”.  The above is an example.


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Coaching During Decision Time

Continuing discussion on the use of various coaching techniques from coach training with coaching client Katrina, this blog series now moves into supporting a coaching client making a big decision. Coaching During Decision Time

Within three weeks of her dedicated efforts to find a job, Katrina received two offers.  She wanted to talk through both offers and decide which to accept.  There are multiple ways to approach the decision – be ready with options for a client to choose.

Examples of coaching questions to help Katrina decide:

  • What are the pros of offer A?
  • What are the cons of offer A?
  • What are the pros of offer B?
  • What are the cons of offer B?
  • How significant is each pro and con?
  • What are the short-term considerations?
  • What are the long-term considerations?
  • How does offer A fit with your priorities?
  • How does offer B fit with your priorities?
  • What do you like least about each option?
  • What do you like most about each option?
  • Describe your process with option A.
  • Describe your process with option B.
  • Describe your life with option A.
  • Describe your life with option B.
  • What are the implications others in your life with each offer?
  • What are the implications for your self-care with each offer?
  • Five years from now, what do you want to look back on?
  • How do you want to decide?

Thinking about and answering the questions out loud helped Katrina consider her options and identify which was the best fit. When she said which she was going to accept, she sounded happy and confident.  It was important to explore that observation with Katrina and doing so further clarified and reinforced her decision.


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Job Search Coaching

Continuing from the previous blogs: when Katrina felt good about her resume and social media profiles, she was ready to begin her job search.  During coach training we learn to brainstorm, and this became a great next technique to support Katrina. Job Search

During the coaching session, we brainstormed so Katrina had a list of options for her job search:

  • Job Boards
  • Identifying companies of interest and inquiring
  • Informational interviews
  • Networking
  • Unsolicited applications
  • Respond to job postings

Katrina next worked on her action plan.  Her steps included:

  • Post resume on selected job boards
  • Invest an hour each day researching companies online
  • Submit one inquiry each day to a company of interest
  • Ask for one informational interview each week
  • List people in her network and sort as referrals or contacts within a company of interest
  • Call or email two people in her network each week
  • Submit one unsolicited resume each week
  • Respond to two job postings each week

A significant insight to this process learned in coaching certification is that while planning actions it is important to ask about value and meaning for the client.  When the client’s enthusiasm or energy shifts, ask about that too.  When the client becomes aware of significance for them in addition to planning actions, their follow-through increases.


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