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Coaching: What exactly is it and why would I want it?

Updated: May 7, 2019

It’s 2019 and the word “coaching” has inundated our professional lives. As an executive coach, many people I talk to may have heard of coaching, but readily admit they don’t have a clue what a coach can do for them or why they would want one. So, let’s clear up that question today.

Coaching is about performance improvement and it’s for anyone who wants to move forward.

Many adults played sports as they grew up and they all had a coach. Some were good coaches, some were…less good. Regardless of their skill, every coach’s job was to help the players improve their performance.

Professional coaching is similar. Just like sports coaching, professional coaching is about performance improvement, and we consider “performance” a broad term. The performance you’d like to improve may be reaching a goal, improving the way you show up in your interactions with co-workers, your self-awareness, your sales numbers, your leadership abilities, improving your chances for promotion, improving your satisfaction in your work, or any number of other things.

Your coach’s job is to facilitate the process of you moving forward. Your job is to do the work. At its heart, coaching is focused on forward movement. An ideal coaching client is one that is ready to do the work to move forward on their goals, whatever they may be.

And what is “the work”? Your work in a coaching relationship is showing up to the session with an open, honest and reflective mindset. Your job is to take ownership and responsibility for the changes you’d like to see in your situation. This includes choosing what action items you’d like to be held accountable for and making progress on or completing the action items you chose.

Your coach also has work to do. Your coach is responsible to bring an expertise in coaching tools and techniques. They aren’t a friend you’re venting to, or someone who likes to offer advice. Certified coaches are exhaustively trained in the process of helping you be your own best resource and expert. It can be a challenging process to work through and you’ll notice the difference when you work with a certified coach. Your coach’s work includes facilitating your identification of your goals and the action items that will help you get there, pushing and/or supporting you as needed, offering tools and insight as appropriate, and helping you push yourself to improve your performance.

While there are similarities between sports coaches and professional coaches, there are a few differences as well. Unlike a sports coach, professional coaches do not tell their clients what to do. They do not give advice or identify “areas of opportunity” for the clients to address. Professional coaches are not the only authority in the relationship. While they do bring an authority and expertise in the process of coaching, you as the client are also expected to bring your expertise of yourself and your situation to the table. Coaching sessions are collaborative experiences.

People hire coaches because they are ready to move forward. They’re ready to reach their goal, get better in the work they do, and become aware of (and use!) their talents and skills to be who they want to be. So, what do you think? Are you ready to hire a coach? What other questions can I answer for you?


You can sample coaching - free of charge - and come to your own conclusions if coaching would be helpful for you. Email me at and include "Free Session" as the subject.

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