Many of the following FAQ relating to credentialed professional life and executive coaching can be found on the “Overview & FAQ” page of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) Coaching FAQ

1. What is coaching?


Professional Coaching is defined by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

The individual or team chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach listens and contributes observations and questions to expand possibilities and actions that will put them into play. Through the coaching process, clarity generates awareness of possibilities leading to more effective choices. Coaching concentrates on the present and where individuals want to be in the future.

2. What are the benefits of coaching?


Individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, expanded thinking and decision making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in their lives. Consistent with a commitment to enhancing their personal effectiveness, they can also expect to see appreciable results in the areas of productivity, personal satisfaction with life and work, and the achievement of personally relevant goals.

3. How can you determine if coaching is right for you?

3. How can you determine if coaching is right for you?

To determine if you could benefit from coaching, start by summarizing what you would expect to accomplish in coaching. When someone has a fairly clear idea of the desired outcome, a coaching partnership can be a useful tool for developing a strategy for how to achieve that outcome with greater ease.

Since coaching is a partnership, also ask yourself if you find it valuable to collaborate, to have another viewpoint and to be asked to consider new perspectives. Also, ask yourself if you are ready to devote the time and the energy to making real changes in your work or life. If the answer to these questions is yes, then coaching may be a beneficial way for you to grow and develop.

4. Are you ready to be coached?


If you answer yes to the following, then you are ready to take your quantum leap into living a more fulfilling and powerful life.

  • I am ready to take responsibility for my life and to take an active role in creating the life I want to live.
  • I am willing to recognize my issues and beliefs that may prevent me from living a fulfilling life.
  • I am ready to try new ways of thinking, believing and acting in order for me to live a more fulfilling life.
  • I am willing to invest whatever time, funds and energy are needed in order to manifest myself fully and powerfully.
5. What are some typical reasons someone might work with a coach?


There are many reasons that an individual or team might choose to work with a coach, including but not limited to the following:

There is something at stake (a challenge, stretch goal or opportunity)  and it is urgent, compelling or exciting or all of the above

  • There is a gap in knowledge, skills, confidence, or resources
  •  A big stretch is being asked or required, and it is time sensitive
  •  There is a desire to accelerate results
  •  There is a need for a course correction in work or life due to a setback
  •  An individual has a style of relating that is ineffective or is not supporting the achievement of one’s personally relevant goals
  • There is a lack of clarity, and there are choices to be made
  • The individual is extremely successful, and success has started to become  problematic
  • Work and life are out of balance, and this is creating unwanted consequences
  • One has not identified his or her core strengths and how best to leverage them
  • The individual desires work and life to be simpler, less complicated
  • There is a need and a desire to better organized and more self-managing
6. How is coaching delivered? What does the process look like?


The Coaching Process-Coaching typically begins with a personal interview (either face-to-face or by teleconference call) to assess the individual’s current opportunities and challenges, define the scope of the relationship, identify priorities for action, and establish specific desired outcomes. Subsequent coaching sessions may be conducted in person or over the telephone, with each session lasting a previously established length of time. Between scheduled coaching sessions, the individual may be asked to complete specific actions that support the achievement of one’s personally prioritized goals. The coach may provide additional resources in the form of relevant articles, checklists, assessments, or models, to support the individual’s thinking and actions. The duration of the coaching relationship varies depending on the individual’s personal needs and preferences.

7. What should someone look for when selecting a coach?


The most important thing to look for in selecting a coach is someone with whom you feel you can easily relate create and the most powerful partnership. Here are some questions you may want to ask prospective coaches:

What is your coaching experience?  (number of individuals coaches, years of experience, types of situations)
What is your coach specific training? Do you hold an ICF Credential, or are you enrolled in an ICF Accredited Training Program?
What is your coaching specialty or client areas you most often work in?
What specialized skills or experience do you bring to your coaching?
What is your philosophy about coaching?
What is your specific process for coaching? (how sessions are conducted, frequency,etc.)
What are some coaching success stories? (specific examples of individuals who have done well and examples of how you have added value)

8. How long does a coach work with an individual?


The length of a coaching partnership varies depending on the individual’s or team’s needs and preferences. Sometimes clients come to a coach when they are in crisis and it might take 3 to 6 months to normalize. Coaching is about living optimally, not simply functioning. Some people may find it beneficial to work with a coach for years. Factors that may impact the length of time include: the types of goals, the ways individuals or teams like to work, the frequency of coaching meetings, and financial resources available to support coaching.

9. How do you ensure a compatible partnership?


Overall, be prepared to design the coaching partnership with the coach. For example, think of a strong partnership that you currently have in your work or life. Look at how you built that relationship and what is important to you about partnership. You will want to build those same things into a coaching relationship. Here are a few other tips:

  • Have a personal interview with one or more coaches to determine “what feels right” in terms of the chemistry. Coaches are accustomed to being interviewed.
  • Look for stylistic similarities and differences between the coach and you and how these might support or the growth of your team.
  • Discuss your goals for coaching within the context of the coach’s specialty or the coach’s preferred way of working with an individual or team.
  • Talk with the coach about what to do if you ever feel things are not going well; make some agreements up front on how to handle questions or problems.
  • Remember that coaching is a partnership, so be assertive about talking with the coach about anything that is of concern at any time.
10. How can the success of the coaching process be measured?


Measurement may be thought of in two distinct ways. First, there are the external indicators of performance: measures which can be seen and measured in the individual’s or team’s environment. Second, there are internal indicators of success: measures which are inherent within the individual or team members being coached and can be measured by the individual or team being coached with the support of the coach. Ideally, both external and internal metrics are incorporated.

Examples of external measures include achievement of coaching goals established at the outset of the coaching relationship, increased income/revenue, obtaining a promotion, performance feedback which is obtained from a sample of the individual’s constituents (e.g., direct reports, colleagues, customers, boss, the manager him/herself), personal and/or business performance data (e.g., productivity, efficiency measures). The external measures selected should ideally be things the individual is already measuring and are things the individual has some ability to directly influence.

Examples of internal measures include self-scoring/self-validating assessments that can be administered initially and at regular intervals in the coaching process, changes in the individual’s self-awareness and awareness of others, shifts in thinking which inform more effective actions, and shifts in one’s emotional state which inspire confidence.

11. What are the factors that should be considered when looking at the financial investment in coaching?


Working with a coach requires both a personal commitment of time and energy as well as a financial commitment. Fees charged vary by specialty and by the level of experience of the coach. Individuals should consider both the desired benefits as well as the anticipated length of time to be spent in coaching. Since the coaching relationship is predicated on clear communication, any financial concerns or questions should be voiced in initial conversations before the agreement is made. The ICF Coach Referral Service allows you to search for a coach based on a number of qualifications including fee range.

12. How is coaching distinct from other service professions?


Coaching versus Therapy:

Coaching is forward moving and future focused. Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or a relationship between two or more individuals. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability and follow through.

“A good way to view the foundational differences between therapy and coaching is to think of two cars driving along a sandy, wave washed shoreline. One car hits a log and breaks an axle, sinking deep into the sand. The other car swerves to keep from hitting the log, but in doing so also sinks in the sand. For the first car, the only hope is a tow truck and a week in the shop. It is broken and cannot go further. This is a therapy patient. The second car merely needs a push, a little traction under its wheels, and it continues its race across the sand. This is the coaching client.”
~ Patrick Williams, excerpt from “Coaching Vs. Psychotherapy”, Choice Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 1, p. 39

Coaching versus Consulting:

Consultants may be retained by individuals or organizations for the purpose of accessing specialized expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, there is often an assumption that the consultant diagnoses problems and prescribes and sometimes implements solutions. In general, the assumption with coaching is that individuals or teams are capable of generating their own solutions, with the coach supplying supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks.

Coaching versus Mentoring:

Mentoring, which can be thought of as guiding from one’s own experience or sharing of experience in a specific area of industry or career development, is sometimes confused with coaching. Although some coaches provide mentoring as part of their coach ing, such as in mentor coaching new coaches, coaches are not typically mentors to those they coach.

Coaching versus Training:

Training programs are based on the acquisition of certain learning objectives as set out by the trainer or instructor. Though objectives are clarified in the coaching process, they are set by the individual or team being coached with guidance provided by the coach. Training also assumes a linear learning path, which coincides with an established curriculum . Coaching is less linear without a set curriculum plan.

All material and coaching references on this page are from the “Coaching FAQ” page of the International Coaching Federation website.

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