The purpose of coaching

Coaching is not merely a technique to be wheeled out and rigidly applied in certain prescribed situations. It is a way of leading, a way of treating people, a way of thinking, a way of being. The underlying and ever-present purpose of coaching is building the self-belief of others, regardless of the content of the task or issue. If leaders and managers bear this in mind and act on it persistently and authentically, they will be staggered by the improvements in relationships and in performance that result.

Whether we coach, manage or lead, the effectiveness of what we do depends in large measure on our beliefs about human potential. The expressions “to get the best out of someone” and “your hidden potential” imply that more lies within the person, waiting to be released. If the leader or coach does not believe that people possess more capability than they are currently expressing, he or she will not be able to help them. They must think of people in terms of their potential, not their performance. The majority of appraisal systems are seriously flawed for this reason. People are put in performance boxes from which it is hard for them to escape, either in their own eyes or their manager’s.

To get the best out of people, we have to believe the best is there – but how do we know it is, how much is there and how do we get it out?

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

Sir John Whitmore

Building self-belief

We build self-belief when we make decisions, take successful actions, and recognize our full responsibility for both our successes and failures.

For people to build self-belief, in addition to accumulating successes they need to know that their success is due to their own efforts. They must also know that other people believe in them, which means being trusted, allowed, encouraged and supported to make their own choices and decisions. It means to be treated as an equal, even if the job has a lesser label. It means not being patronized, instructed, blamed, threatened or denigrated by word or deed.

To use coaching successfully we have to adopt a far more optimistic view of the dormant capability of all people than usual. Pretending we are optimistic is insufficient because our genuine beliefs are conveyed in many subtle ways that we are not always aware of.

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Unlocking people’s potential

Our beliefs about the capability of others have a direct impact on their performance. The purpose of coaching is to unlock people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching or telling them. Take learning to walk as an example – most people don’t learn how to walk by instruction. We all have a built-in, natural learning capability that is far more amazing than we realize and one that is actually disrupted by instruction.

Potential is the engine of coaching and of performance. When leaders focus on potential, and observe the coaching fundamentals of curiosity, non-judgement and partnering, they no longer measure people by their past performance or blame them for mistakes. Fear and other inner interferences decrease, and self-belief, awareness and responsibility increase. By adopting a coaching frame of mind, leaders can release rich reserves of talent and motivation and a strong sense of purpose in their people.

Successful business leaders and managers use coaching in their day-to-day leadership and the good news is that we can all learn to do this.

Develop your coaching leadership style

If coaching has not been your style in the past, or if you would like to take what you already do to greater heights, you can learn about the principles, practice and purpose of coaching by attending Coaching Training for Managers & Leaders or Coaching for Performance | Transformational Leadership Pathway.

Booking and enquiries

To order an in-house programme or to discuss how we can support the specific training needs of your managers, leaders and organization, please email [email protected] or call +44 (0)20 3903 0011.

Please see our Global Training Diary for details of our public coaching workshops.

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How can you bring a coaching leadership style into your organization?

Sir John and his colleagues at Performance Consultants were the first to take coaching into the workplace and coined the term “performance coaching” in the early 1980s. We continue to lead the field in performance improvement through coaching leadership training.

Select one of the options shown. Or get in touch and one of our world-class leadership development consultants will work with you to create a tailored programme that meets your specific needs.

  • Attend a Coaching Course – experience the benefits of coaching first hand. See our Global Training Calendar to find the right course for you
  • Transformational Leadership Pathway – learn how to be a leader–coach with a coaching leadership style that creates a culture of high performance for you, your team and entire organization
  • Performance Coach Certification – become a coach or take your coaching skills to the next level so that you can practise transformational leadership coaching
  • Individual Coaching (1:1) – take your leadership to the next level with a tailored, fast-track professional development coaching programme
  • Team Development – unlock the next level of potential in your team with team coaching