Management via coaching

What is coaching?

The CIPD (Chartered Instiute of Personnel and Development) describes coaching as: "developing a person's skills and knowledge so that their job performance improves, hopefully leading to the achievement of organisational objectives. It targets high performance and improvement at work, although it may also have an impact on an individual's private life. It usually lasts for a short period and focuses on specific skills and goals."

Coaching is a management tool that aims to improve performance and encourage lifelong learning. It focuses on learning "on the job" and is designed to help staff develop their skills in a focused, structured, measurable, achievable and supported way.

Coaching can be seen as a conversation or a series of conversations between two people with the aim of creating change. A coach doesn't try to fix someone, solve their problems or assume a position of superiority. A coach is an expert in the process of promoting high performance - by helping the person they are coaching to create ideas to move themselves forward. Coaching is often described as "holding the mirror" so that their client can increase their own self-awareness. It is the person being coached who will determine which isssue they would like to explore, and the coach's task is to challenge, stretch and support them.

There is often confusion between coaching and other "helping techniques" such as mentoring or counselling. This is because there is a lack of agreement on precise definitions, and because in practice the techniques share many similarities. There are however, some generally agreed characteristics of coaching which differentiate it from the others:

  • it is essentially a non-directive form of development
  • it focuses on improving performance and developing individuals' skills
  • personal issues may be discussed but the emphasis is on performance at work
  • coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals
  • it assumes that the individual is psychologically well and does not require a clinical intervention
  • it provides people with feedback on both their strengths and their weaknesses
  • it is a skilled activity which can be delivered by our experts

The six levels of a coaching model

1. At the first level, the coach simply observes the individual's actions to see the person as they are

2. At the second level, the coach uses their own experiences to tell the individual how to solve a problem or approach a task. Many line managers will be quite comfortable with this style of coaching. It is an important skill to have, but one that has clear limits - it can be demotivating and disempowering, and a coach can never help someone who knows more than they do

3. To overcome this problem, the third level requires the coach to help the coachee use their own resources to improve performance, by following the coachee's explicit stated interests

4. When a coach has mastered the ability to use the coachee's experience to inform the coaching, the coach can really start to use their own experience effectively - using what they are observing and thinking to give feedback and to challenge

5. This ability will help the coach to understand interests that the coachee has which they are not expressing and which they may be unaware of. Following this implicit interest requires a higher level of skill and sensitivity since it is easy to get it wrong.

6. The ability to discern the coachee's implicit intent provides the basis for the final, most complex level of intervention, where there is scope for powerfully sharing wisdom and insight.


Have you ever been coached at work? If so, are you able to identify the level (from the above model) at which your coach was operating?

Would you like to discuss a coaching programme with one of our experts? If so, do contact us

The GROW model

GROW is an acronym standing for Goal - Reality at present - Options - Will to act. The model is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring a coaching session, or coaching process as a whole.

First, there must be a goal or outcome to be achieved. It should be specific, measurable and realistic. Questions like "How will you know that you have achieved the goal?" are useful at this stage.

As well as knowing where you are trying to get to, you need to know where you are starting from - the current reality.

Once you know where you are and where you want to go, the next step is to explore what Options you have for getting there.

Finally, the coachee must also have the motivation or will to take action. Useful questions at this stage will be things like: "So what will you do now, and when?"; "What could stop you moving forward?"; "And how will you overcome it?"