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What is Coaching?

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation

Coaching emerged as a way to provide support and guidance for individuals moving through a change process toward greater effectiveness and fulfillment. Coaching is part of the cultural shift from a pathology worldview to a resourceful worldview. In the pathology worldview, problems are identified, evaluated, and solutions are implemented, usually by outside experts. In contrast, coaches work with people from a resourceful point of view—collaborating to explore opportunities and identify resources to create an exciting future based on awareness, choice and action. Coaching is world-changing, as well as life-changing work.

Although coaching is a fast-growing profession, many people confuse coaching with giving people advice. In practice, coaching is an empowering process where the coach asks rigorous questions and provides sacred space so people can discover their own creative solutions.

Coaching is a partnership that maximizes human potential. We define coaching as a skillset and a mindset that taps into the resourcefulness of people to initiate creative solutions. We can create coaching partnerships with individuals, groups, organizations or communities.

As coaches, we are trained to listen, observe and ask empowering questions. We reflect what we see and hear to help people clarify their feelings and values, leading to insight and action. We customize our approach based on the individual’s, organization’s or community’s challenges, experiences, cultural norms, values and knowledge. We trust that our partners are resourceful and that they have the inner wisdom to overcome obstacles and generate compelling strategies and action plans. Our job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources and creativity they already have. In addition, Coaching for Transformation is a holistic coaching process that combines awareness of body, mind, soul and spirit. We delve into the impact of cultural identity, power and privilege, and institutionalized inequities to support deep, lasting and real transformation.

Coaching helps people articulate their vision, identify their needs and core values, bring their inner and outer worlds into alignment, set goals they feel passionate about and create a plan for their own development. Coaching provides a structure to continuously reflect and capture learning, and take that new learning directly into action. Through the coaching partnership, people can build capacity, expand possibilities and achieve greater fulfillment and success while staying on track with their objectives.

How does coaching differ from other helping professions?

Coaching is not mentoring, consulting, training, psychotherapy or counseling. While coaching shares the end goals of learning and growth with these professions, the focus and process of coaching differ in significant ways.

Therapy (psychotherapy or counseling) frequently focuses on the past and healing—assisting clients in healing psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, phobia, trauma, destructive behaviors and addiction. Coaches are not trained to heal psychological problems and make referrals to therapists when warranted. Instead of analyzing the past, coaching looks forward to create a deeper engagement with the present and a more desirable future. Coaching is primarily for expanding awareness and designing actions that move people toward the fulfillment of their life purpose, dreams and goals. Although coaching is not therapy, coaching can be a very healing process.

Consulting typically focuses on developing the whole organization systemically. Consultants work with senior leaders providing expertise and interventions to develop leadership skills, strategies, structures, policies and procedures to improve the effectiveness of the organization. Consultants are usually hired to address specific problems, design interventions and offer solutions. In contrast, coaches support staff in discovering and creating their own solutions. Many consultants offer coaching as part of their services or integrate a ‘coach approach’ into their consulting.

Training and teaching are professions in which knowledge is imparted to support learning. Rather than teaching how to do something, coaches support and challenge people to access their own inner and outer learning resources.


Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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