What is Coaching?

The Aim of Coaching

The primary aim of coaching is the enhancement of performance. So when the process is truly engaging, it can prove to be a powerful catalyst for personal and professional growth.

Regardless of the type of coaching, at its core, it's about raising awareness, increasing self-leadership, and encouraging autonomy. This can result in the unlocking of potential and performance.

The Inner Game

A tenet of coaching is the importance of the ‘inner’ state, credited to Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis first published in 1972.

It refers to what he described as, 'the opponent within one’s own head’, which has the potential to impede performance. Moreover, it's the idea that winning or losing begins as a state of mind before becoming a tangible reality.

Gallwey observed that athletes made mistakes because of their own 'mental blocks'. However, he further proposed that the ‘inner’ state could be self-regulated.

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

Furthermore, he noted that coaching played a role in helping athletes be less affected by the impact of their inner states. And that with minimal interference, it was possible to tap into ‘an unexpected natural ability’. One that led to increases in performance.

What derived from this idea was the Inner Game Equation. The notion that people are capable of growth and improvement without much interference from an outside source.

Unquestionably, coaching follows this principal, which is helpfully summarised by the formula:

Performance (P) = potential (p) - interference (i)

This emphasis points to the idea of coaching being primarily focused on maximising performance through self-discovery.

The transformational nature of coaching follows this model. More specifically, working to reduce the internal obstacles which can delay any growth in confidence, skill and potential.

The Coaching Relationship

Typically, coaching is a relationship between two or more individuals. Moreover, it's one where acceptance of responsibility is fostered through exploration, choice, and accountability.

This is achieved through various techniques, tools, and activities that are used by a coach to help elicit self-discovery and growth.

Some common techniques and tools used in coaching include active listeningmotivational interviewing, socratic questioning, and giving and soliciting feedback.

Furthermore, other tools might include meditation or journal writing. Generally, these can be helpful for supporting conversational work and monitoring progress towards goals.

Underpinning these and more specific techniques is a coach’s commitment to reserve judgment, displace bias, and offer focused attention. Significantly, this allows for greater self-awareness and change.

The Benefits of Coaching

There are a number of benefits to coaching and there are several reasons why you might consider working with a coach. Whether you're a leader, business owner, or busy professional, coaching can support you in making improvements in life.

Firstly, coaching provides a dedicated space to explore personal and professional decisions. Subsequently, it can help you get clarity about the health and direction of your relationships, business, or other areas.

Secondly, though different from counselling, coaching can raise your awareness to both understand and make changes to problematic patterns of thinking and behaviour.

Similarly, it can help you feel more aware of your strengths and develop a healthier view of yourself and your potential. Consequently, this can lead to you growing more confident in your ability to perform.

There are a number of other benefits relating to skills and wellbeing. Indeed, the acceleration of learning, improvements to your way of thinking, and the building of emotional resilience are just some examples.

Notably, coaching can also help you discover purpose and the steps needed to make the changes you want to see. Concurrently, coaching also offers accountability and support to greatly increase your chances of success.

As Gallwey said, “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”


Coaching is designed to help you gain clarity, direction, and focus. Moreover, it serves to unlock your ability to improve performance and get better results when working towards your goals.

Where other professions, such as teaching, mentoring, or consulting, may provide structured guidance or advice, coaching doesn't. Contrastingly, it's a more fluid approach that sees the coach using creative techniques to help you discover your own answers.

By asking questions to understand your context, a coach will help you explore your options. They'll also have an expectation that you'll be committed to taking the actions you've identified as necessary for achieving your goals.

Effective coaching will also challenge your thinking and the mindsets that may be holding you back. And, by using research-based techniques, you can change those that prove unhelpful in your efforts to realise your ambitions.

Importantly, a good coach understands the value of helping you grow in self-awareness and personal responsibility. And furthermore, he or she is willing to offer ongoing support and accountability to see you succeed.

Coaching can be a transformational and life changing experience that results in greater confidence, performance, and happiness.

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Arnold, J. (2009) Coaching Skills for Leaders in the Workplace: How to Develop, Motivate and Get the Best from Your Staff. Oxford: How To Books Ltd

Clough, P. and Strycharczyk, D. (2012) Developing Mental Toughness: Improving Performance, Wellbeing and Positive Behaviour in Others. London: Kogan Page Limited

Owen, J. (2017) The Leadership Skills Handbook: 90 Essential Skills You Need to Be a Leader. (4th Edn.) London: Kogan Page Limited

Whitmore, J. (2004) Coaching for Performance: Growing People, Performance and Purpose. (3rd Edn.) London: Nicholas Bealey Publishing