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What exactly is “coaching”?
June 05, 2018

So – what is “coaching”?

Everywhere I go – I hear managers using the word, “coaching.”

And when I pay close attention – I realize that they don’t even know what the “word” means.

Leaders from all ranks use the term in a way that does not show care or judgement – when in fact, it is a word, a concept and a discipline that contains an extremely rigorous and precise methodology.

So much so that, IF you want to get paid for your coaching services, you must attend school and successfully pass several exams (theoretical and practical) in order to get certified by the International Coaching Community or the International Coaching Federation (the two most recognized institutions in the world).

My intention with this brief article is NOT to train you in the science and the art of coaching.

My intention is simply to tell you about three of its most basic tools (according to my own judgement) so that you may get a better understanding about what “coaching” really means.

For starters, here is the DEFINITION of coaching:

Coaching is a conversational methodology that generates optimal emotional and mental states to improve your client’s performance, in order to help him/her reach desired results.

In simpler words – the coach helps her client achieve the goals that the client wants to attain.

But the coach does NOT tell her client HOW to achieve such goals – ever.

This is coaching.

In contrast – when I hear managers saying the word, “coaching” – I realize that what they actually mean is to tell their employees “how” to do something.

When you tell somebody how to do something – this is, “mentoring” – which is a totally different methodology.

For a quick and clear distinction between coaching and mentoring – take a look at this short article.

The three most basic coaching TOOLS are:

1) Questions:

Most of what you do as a coach is to ask questions.

Every single question – that you ask – must include these three characteristics:

  • It must open up possibilities
  • It must be goal-oriented
  • It must be action-oriented

    Every question must help your client see other options, alternatives, hidden resources, etc.

    Every question must be related to the goal that your client wants to reach.

    Every question must help the client move forward.

    I repeat: Every single question that you ask must contain all three attributes.

    2) Internal dialogue:

    As the coach, you asked your client a question.

    Now what?

    You must listen.

    But here I am NOT talking about listening as most people understand it.

    I am not even talking about active listening.

    I am talking about suspending 100 percent your “internal dialogue”

    You see … from the moment you wake up in the morning, until the moment you fall asleep at night, you have your internal dialogue turned on, going on inside your head, on and on and on …

    Your internal dialogue is your ongoing conversation with yourself – all day long: while you are showering, while you are doing nothing, while you are speaking with coworkers, while you are attending a meeting, while you are engaged in a heated conversation, while you are driving, etc., etc., etc.

    So – what exactly is the tool – you might ask?

    The tool is your ability to suspend your internal dialogue 100 percent while you are listening to your client answering your question.

    Coaching is all about your client – coaching is NOT about yourself.

    Most of the time – when your client finished answering your question – you then proceed to ask another question, and another, and another – and so on …

    All the answers come from your client – all of them.

    Through your questioning and through your listening – your job is to help your client become aware of ALL her resources, alternatives, possibilities, etc.

    The more she generates this awareness – the more she will become enabled in order to reach her goal.

    If you are not able to suspend your internal dialogue – your questions will be off target, misleading and perhaps even harmful.

    But if you are able to turn off your internal dialogue and you really listen to your client – your questions will be effective.

    I want to make this clear to you: IF you are not able to shutdown your internal dialogue – you won’t be able to do coaching.

    It’s that simple.

    3) Beliefs:

    There are two types of beliefs:

    The first type are “empowering beliefs” – the beliefs that empower you to help you live the life you really want to live.

    The second type are “limiting beliefs” – the beliefs that limit you and stop you from reaching your goals.

    “I believe I can” is an example of an empowering belief.

    “I believe I cannot” is an example of a limiting belief.

    Most of us human beings have both types of beliefs inside our heads. The problem is that most of our beliefs are unconscious (we are usually not aware of them).

    In regards to your client’s beliefs – your job as her coach is to do three things:

    First: To help your client identify both types of beliefs.

    Second: To help your client consciously use her empowering beliefs.

    Third: To help your client change her limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs.


    Coaching has many more tools of course – but this very basic overview will give you a small idea about the nature of the coaching discipline.

    Next time you want to help one of your direct reports – hopefully you’ll have a better idea about what it is you are actually doing.

    Are you trying to mentor him? Or are you trying to coach him?

    You don’t have to be a certified coach to practice asking intelligent questions and to REALLY listen.

    However, be EXTREMELY careful with your direct report’s beliefs (I wouldn’t suggest you go into this area – unless you know what you are doing).

    The spirit of coaching is about rapport, support and authentic care.

    Coaching is about accompanying your clients – side by side – always.

    If you try to do basic coaching with your direct reports – do it with THE legitimate intention of helping them – without criticizing them at all, ever (let alone punishing).

    Otherwise you won’t be able to generate their optimal emotional and mental states needed to help them expand their awareness and improve their performance.


    Coaching is a powerful tool – IF used well.

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    See you next month!
    Joseluis Romero - Publisher
    May 25, 2018. Copyright: All rights reserved
    I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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