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This article refers to the act of coaching people. For other uses of the word, see Coach (disambiguation).

As defined by Cummings and Worley (2009), coaching is a development process whereby an individual meets on a regular basis to clarify goals, deal with potential stumbling blocks and improve their performance. It is an intervention that is highly personal and generally involves a one-on-one relationship between coach and client (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 451).[1] The individual receiving coaching may be referred to as coachee or is more commonly referred to as a client.

"Similar to coaching, mentoring involves establishing a relationship between a manager or someone more experienced and another organization member who is less experienced. Unlike coaching, mentoring is often more directive, with the mentor intentionally transferring specific knowledge and skill and guiding the client's activities, perhaps as part of a career development process (i.e., career planning)" (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 451)

A coach employs methods such as asking questions so that the client may gain insight into their assumptions, clarify a meaningful vision or outcome, and identify action steps to achieve a specific end result. A coach facilitates by introspective methods so that a client can discover his or her own answers based on personal values, preferences and unique perspectives. As such, coaches do not offer advice or therapize their client. "While both coaching and therapy focus on personal development, coaching assumes that the client is healthy rather than suffering from some pathology. Coaching is also primarily future and action oriented rather than focused on the past, as are many therapeutic models. Coaching involves helping clients understand how their behaviors are contributing to the current situation. Many coaching failures have been attributed to working too far from the practical application of behavioral principles, or too close to the boundaries of therapy, and to the failure of the coach to understand the difference" (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p.452).[2]


Etymologically, the English term “coach” is derived from a medium of transport that traces its origins to the Hungarian word kocsi meaning “carriage” that was named after the village where it was first made.[3] The first use of the term coaching to mean an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who "carries" a student through an exam.[4] Coaching thus has been used in language to describe the process used to transport people from where they are, to where they want to be. The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1861.[4]

Historically the evolution of coaching has been influenced by many other fields of study including those of personal development, adult education, psychology (sports, clinical, developmental, organizational, social and industrial) and other organizational or leadership theories and practices. Since the mid-1990s, coaching has developed into a more independent discipline and professional associations such as the Association for Coaching, The International Coach Federation, and the European Coaching and Mentoring Council have helped develop a set of training standards although no federal regulation or recognition of the field is in place.[5][6] Janet Harvey, president of the International Coach Federation, was quoted in a New York Times article about the growing practice of Life Coaching, in which she traces the development of coaching to the early 1970s Human Potential Movement and credited the teachings of Werner Erhard's "EST Training," the popular self-motivation workshops he designed and led in the '70s and early '80s.[7] Thomas Leonard[8] who founded "Coach U", "International Coach Federation", "Coachville" and "International Association of Coaches" was an EST employee in the 1980 's.[9]

The facilitative approach to coaching in sports was pioneered by Timothy Gallwey;[10] before this, sports coaching was (and often remains) solely a skills-based learning experience from a master in the sport. Other contexts for coaching include executive coaching, life coaching, emotional intelligence coaching and financial coaching.


There are many definitions of coaching, mentoring and various styles of management and training.[11]

What follows are more succinct definitions of the various forms of helping. However, there may be overlap between many of these types of coaching activities.[12]

Managing is making sure people do what they know how to do. Training is teaching people to do what they don’t know how to do. Mentoring is showing people how the people who are really skilled do it. Counseling is helping people come to terms with past issues from which they are healing. Coaching is none of these. Coaching creates awareness so you see why you get the results you do and helps you change your thinking so you get the results you want.

Professional coaching uses a range of communication skills (such as targeted restatements, listening, questioning, clarifying etc.) to help clients shift their perspectives and thereby discover different solutions to achieve their goals.[13] These skills are used when coaching clients in any field. In this sense, coaching is a form of 'meta-profession' that can apply to supporting clients in any human endeavor, ranging from their concerns in personal, professional, sport, social, family, political, spiritual, financial, dating, etc.

Life coaching[edit]

Life coaching draws upon a variety of tools and techniques from other disciplines aimed at self-development such as sociology, behavioral science, psychology, and organizational theory with an aim towards supporting people to develop self-awareness of habits and identify and achieve personal goals. Coaches do not deal in psychological counseling, hypnosis, dream analysis, psychic phenomenon (intuitives, tarot, psychic readings) or other avenues of providing guidance. Coaches are not 'guides' who reveal how one should live their life, but rather professionals trained to facilitate methods of personal development (i.e., partner with a client to uncover limiting habits of thinking and acting, clarify what is meaningful, frame goals, and design action steps) in the creation of a meaningful life.

The field of life coaching, in and of itself, does not include training specific to therapy, consulting (whether business, health, or of any other variety) or mentoring. Many professionals use coaching in conjunction with another trained skill. Therefore, any professional using life coaching in conjunction with another professional skill, health care providers or business analysis for example, should possess the additional training and license appropriate to their trade.


Critics see life coaching as akin to psychotherapy but without restrictions, oversight, regulation, or established ethical policies.[14] Regulators have addressed some of these concerns on a state-by-state basis. In 2009, the State of Tennessee issued a memorandum emphasizing that life coaches may be subject to discipline if they perform activities construable as personal, marital, or family counseling.[15] Some other states have made no formal statement but have legal statutes that broadly define mental-health practice. Hawaii, for example, defines the practice of psychology as any effort aimed at behavior change or to improve "interpersonal relationships, work and life adjustment, personal effectiveness, behavioral health, [or] mental health."[16] Although such states usually provide some exclusions to licensure requirements (such as for ordained clergy), life coaches do not usually qualify for the exclusion. More favorably to life coaches, in 2004 the Colorado General Assembly specifically exempted trained life-coaches from licensure requirements that apply to other mental and behavioral health professionals in that state.[17]

ADHD coaching[edit]

ADHD coaching is a specialized type of life coaching that uses specific techniques designed for working with the unique brain wiring of individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Coaches work with clients to help them better manage time, organize, set goals and complete projects. In addition to helping clients understand the impact ADHD has had on their lives, coaches can help clients develop "work-around" strategies to deal with specific challenges, and determine and use individual strengths. Coaches also help clients get a better grasp of what reasonable expectations are for them as individuals, since people with ADHD "brain wiring" often seem to need external mirrors for accurate self-awareness about their potential despite their impairment.[18]

Business coaching[edit]

Business coaching is a type of personal or human resource development and may by known as Organizational Development (OD) coaching. See Executive coaching.

The Professional Business Coach Alliance, The International Coach Federation, the International Coaching Council and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches provide a membership-based association for business coaching professionals. These and other organizations train professionals to offer business coaching to business owners. However, there is no certification required to be a business or executive coach, and membership in such self-designed organizations is entirely optional. Further, standards and methods of training coaches can vary widely from organization to organization, reiterating the open-ended nature of business coaching. Many business coaches refer to themselves as consultants, a broader business relationship than one which exclusively involves coaching.[19] According to a MarketData Report in 2007, an estimated 40,000 people in the US, work as business or life coaches, and the $2.4 billion industry is growing at rate of 18% per year.[20] According to the National Post, business coaching is one of the fastest growing service industries in the world.[21]

There are almost as many different ways of delivering business coaching as there are business coaches. Some offer personal support and feedback, others combine a coaching approach with practical and structured business planning and bring a disciplined accountability to the relationship. Particularly in the small business market, business coaching is as much about driving profit as it is about developing the person.

Coaching is not a practice restricted to external experts or providers. Many organizations expect their senior leaders and middle managers to coach their team members to reach higher levels of performance, increased job satisfaction, personal growth, and career development. Business coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring involves a developmental relationship between a more experienced "mentor" and a less experienced partner, and typically involves sharing of advice. A business coach can act as a mentor given that he or she has adequate expertise and experience. However, mentorship is not a form of business coaching.[22]

Executive coaching[edit]

According to Cummings and Worley in Organizational Development & Change(2009), Executive style coaching, "involves working with organizational members, typically managers and executives, on a regular basis to help them clarify their goals, deal with potential stumbling blocks, and improves their performance. [This] intervention...helps managers to gain perspective on their dilemmas and transfer their learning into organizational results; it increases their leadership skill and effectiveness" (p.451).

Cummings and Worley (2009) further assert, "Coaching is itself a skill that any [Organizational Development] practitioner or manager can develop. It involves using guided inquiry, active listening, reframing, and other techniques to help individuals see new or different possibilities and to direct their efforts toward what matters most to them. When done well, coaching improves personal productivity and builds capacity in individuals to lead more effectively. Unfortunately, despite growing professionalism in the field of coaching field, the process can be technique driven, especially when formulas, tools, and advice are substituted for experience, good judgement, facilitation, and compassion" (pp. 451-452). And lastly, "Coaching typically addresses one or more of the following goals: assisting an executive to more effectively execute some transition, such as a merger integration or downsizing; addressing a performance problem; or developing new behavioral skills as part of a leadership development program" (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 452).[23]

Executive coaches support their clients towards specific professional goals. These include career transition, interpersonal and professional communication, performance management, organizational effectiveness, managing career and personal changes, developing executive presence, enhancing strategic thinking, dealing effectively with conflict, and building an effective team within an organization. An industrial organizational psychologist is one example of executive coaching.[24]

Self-Determination Theory[edit]

"Self-Determination Theory (SDT) represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation and personality. SDT articulates a meta-theory for framing motivational studies, a formal theory that defines intrinsic and varied extrinsic sources of motivation, and a description of the respective roles of intrinsic and types of extrinsic motivation in cognitive and social development and in individual differences... Conditions supporting the individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are argued to foster the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. [25]

Expat and global executive coaching[edit]

Expat and global Executive coaching deals specifically with the unique set of challenges created from crossing cultures following an international or domestic relocation. This niche of coaching tends to center around adapting to a new culture, identity issues created within relocating families, difficulties attaining professional goals amidst a changing political and social structure, and other social and personal hurdles unique to each individual. This method of coaching is either individual, or group-based and helps the client gain fulfillment, success and a sense of identity in the areas that are coached.[citation needed]

Career coaching[edit]

Career coaching focuses on work and career or issues around careers. It may employ similar tools and ideas as associated with career counseling. Career coaching still employs similar processes as associated with life coaching, but concentrates specifically on career development. Another common term for a career coach is career guide, although career guides typically use techniques drawn not only from coaching, but also mentoring, advising and consulting. For instance, skills coaching and holistic counseling are increasingly of equal importance to careers guidance in the UK.[26]

Financial coaching[edit]

Financial coaching is an emerging form of coaching that focuses on helping clients overcome their struggle to attain specific financial goals and aspirations they have set for themselves. At its most basic, financial coaching is a one-on-one relationship in which the coach works to provide encouragement and support aimed at facilitating attainment of the client's financial plans. Recognizing the array of challenges inherent in behavior change, including all too human tendencies to procrastinate and overemphasize short-term gains over long-term wellbeing, they monitor their clients’ progress over time and hold the client accountable. This monitoring function is hypothesized to boost clients’ self-control and willpower. Previous studies in psychology indicate that individuals are much more likely to follow through on tasks when they are monitored by others, rather than when they attempt to ‘self-monitor’. Although early research links financial coaching to improvements in client outcomes, much more rigorous analysis is necessary before any causal linkages can be established.[27] In contrast to financial counselors and educators, financial coaches do not need to be experts in personal finance because they do not focus on providing financial advice or information to clients.

Personal coaching[edit]

Personal coaching is a process which is designed and defined in a relationship agreement between a client and a coach. It is based on the client's expressed interests, goals and objectives. See Life coach

A professional coach may use inquiry, reflection, and discussion to help clients identify personal and/or business and/or relationship goals, and develop action plans intended to achieve those goals. The client takes action, and the coach may assist, but never leads or does more than the client. Professional coaching is not counseling, therapy or consulting.[28] These different skill sets and approaches to change may be adjunct skills and professions.

Systemic coaching[edit]

Systemic coaching is a form of counseling that employs constructivistic conversation, aimed at human problem resolution. Systemic coaching recognizes that in order for two or more persons to interact effectively in a social system, any one individual or group of individuals within that system, each as an element of the whole, may require or benefit from coaching aimed at restoring equilibrium or creating a new alignments.

Health coaching[edit]

Main article: Health coaching

In the world of health and wellness, a health coach is an emerging new role. Health coaching is becoming recognized as a new way to help individuals "manage" their illnesses and conditions, especially those of a chronic nature.[citation needed] The coach will use special techniques, personal experience, expertise and encouragement to assist the coachee in bringing his/her behavioral changes about.

Sports coaching[edit]

Main article: Coach (sport)

In sports, a coach is an individual that teaches and supervises, which involves giving directions, instruction and training of the on-field operations of an athletic team or of individual athletes. This type of coach gets involved in all the aspects of the sport, including physical and mental player development. Sports coaches train their athletes to become better at the physical components of the game, while others train athletes to become better at the mental components of the game. The coach is assumed to know more about the sport, and have more previous experience and knowledge. The coach’s job is to transfer as much of this knowledge and experience to the players to develop the most skilled athletes. When coaching its entail to the application of sport tactics and strategies during the game or contests itself, and usually entails substitution of players and other such actions as needed. Many coaches work at setting their own rules and regulations. They are expected to provide and maintain a drug free environment, act as a role model both on and off of the fields and courts. Coaches must ensure that their players are safe and protected during games as well as during practices.[29][30][31]

Dating coaching[edit]

Main article: Dating coach

Dating coaches are coaches whose job is to direct and train people to improve their success in dating and relationships. A dating coach directs and trains his/her clients on various aspects of meeting and attracting long-term partners and meeting more compatible prospects. The focus of most programs is on confident and congruent communication. Dating coaches may focus on topics important to the art of dating: interpersonal skills, flirting, psychology, sociology, compatibility, fashion and recreational activities. Neil Strauss in The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists also focuses on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), theories of persuasion, history and evolutionary biology, body language, humor and street smarts.

Conflict coaching[edit]

Conflict coaching may be used in an organizational context or in matrimonial and other relationship matters. Like many other techniques of this nature, it is premised on the view that conflict provides an opportunity to improve relationships, to create mutually satisfactory solutions and attain other positive outcomes when differences arise between and among people.[citation needed]

Christian coaching[edit]

Christian coaching is becoming more common among religious organizations and churches. A Christian coach is not a pastor or counselor (although he may also be qualified in those disciplines), but rather someone who has been professionally trained to address specific coaching goals from a distinctively Christian or biblical perspective.

Although training courses exist, there is no single regulatory body for Christian coaching. Some of these training programs feature best-selling Christian authors, leaders, speakers or pastors. Several of these authors have developed their own coach training programs, such as Dr. Lance Wallnau, Henry Cloud and John Townsend or John C. Maxwell.

Coaching ethics and standards[edit]

One of the challenges in the field of coaching is upholding levels of professionalism, standards and ethics. To this end, many of the coaching bodies and organizations have codes of ethics and member standards and criteria according to which they hold their members accountable in order to protect coaching clients' interests.[citation needed] To date, coaching is not a federally regulated industry where professional conduct is overseen and quality control enforced. There are over 40 different organizing bodies of various forms of coaching and as such, over 40 different assigned 'certifications' or 'credentialing' given by the respective organizing body.

Viability as a career[edit]

Coaching as a career has become increasing popular over the past 15 years, fueled in part by the work of Thomas J. Leonard. However, the competitive marketplace has posed problems for some. Suzanne Falter-Barnes and David Wood demonstrated in a 2007 survey of 3,000 coaches that more than 50% are earning less than $10,000 a year.[32] However, the survey canvassed a mixture of full-time and part-time coaches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Worley, Chris (2009). Organization Development & Change (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. p. 451. ISBN 978-0-324-42138-5. 
  2. ^ Worley, Chris (2009). Organization Development & Change (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. p. 452. ISBN 978-0-324-42138-5. 
  3. ^ Flores, Fernando, Philosophical roots of coaching, CL .
  4. ^ a b "coach", Online Etymology Dictionary .
  5. ^ Passmore, Jonathan (2010), Excellence in Coaching: The Industry Guide 
  6. ^ Davidson & Gasiorowski 2006.
  7. ^ Morgan, Spencer (27 January 2012), "Should a Life Coach Have a Life First", The New York Times .
  8. ^ Thomas J. Leonard: Bio
  9. ^ Jane Renton, "Coaching and Mentoring: What They Are and How to Make the Most of Them",The Economist Newspaper, Ltd.,2009, pgs 8 & 27
  10. ^ The Inner Game of Tennis, Random House, 1974 .
  11. ^ Greif, S (2007), "Advances in Research on Coaching Outcomes", International Coaching Psychology Review 2 (3): 222–49 .
  12. ^ Cox, E; Bachkirova, T; Clutterbuck, D, eds. (2010), The Complete Handbook of Coaching, London .
  13. ^ Cox, E (2013), Coaching Understood, London: Sage .
  14. ^ Sherman, Lynne, FAQ, retrieved 31 December 2012 .
  15. ^ Board of Professional Counselors, Marital and Family Therapists, and Clinical Pastoral Therapists Policy Statement Regarding Unlicensed Practice by Life Coaches (PDF), retrieved 31 December 2012 .
  16. ^ "Psychologists", Statutes, Hawaii State, retrieved 31 December 2012 
  17. ^ "Colorado Mental Health Practice Act; Title 12, Professions and Occupations, Article 43, Mental Health", Colorado Revised Statutes, Denver: UC, retrieved 2 December 2013 .
  18. ^ "Accuracy of Self-Evaluation in Adults with ADHD". Journal of Attention Disorder. 2005. 
  19. ^ Lorber, Laura (10 April 2008). "Executive Coaching – Worth the Money?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  20. ^ "Statistics". Business coaching. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  21. ^ "Why getting a business coach is a good investment" (World Wide Web log). Finding answers. Vongehr consulting. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  22. ^ "The Coaching Conundrum Report". Blessing White. 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  23. ^ Worley, Chris (2009). Organizational Development & Change (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. p. 452 Extra |pages= or |at= (help). ISBN 978-0-324-42138-5. 
  24. ^ "Siop". Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "Self-Determination Theory". 
  26. ^ Bimrose, Jenny (2006), The Changing Context of Career Practice: Guidance, Counselling or Coaching? (PDF), UK: Derby .
  27. ^ "Financial Coaching's Potential for Enhancing Family Financial Security". Journal of Extension. Journal of Extension. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  28. ^ Rogers, Jenny (2008), Coaching skills – a Handbook (2nd ed.), Open University Press .
  29. ^ Turman, PD (2001), Situational Coaching Styles, Iowa: University of Northern Iowa 
  30. ^ Coach Career Survey, 2007 .
  31. ^ RESPINI, B (21 April 2005), "Helping athletes define goals", in Mackenzie, Brian, Successful Coaching, pp. 8–9, ISSN 1745-7513 .
  32. ^ "Coach Career Survey". SolutionBox. 2007. 

External links[edit]