Coaching FAQ's

The following is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) based off the ICF website. Should you have any additional questions, please contact ICF Headquarters at

What is professional coaching?

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach's responsibility is to:

  1. Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve;
  2. Encourage client self-discovery;
  3. Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; and
  4. Hold the client responsible and accountable.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

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.

How is coaching distinct from other service professions?

Professional coaching is a distinct service which focuses on an individual's life as it relates to goal setting, outcome creation and personal change management. In an effort to understand what a coach is, it can be helpful to distinguish coaching from other professions that provide personal or organizational support.

  1. Therapy: Coaching can be distinguished from therapy in a number of ways. First, coaching is a profession that supports personal and professional growth and development based on individual-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. 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. 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.
  2. Mentoring: Mentoring 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.
  3. Athletic Development: Though sports metaphors are often used, professional coaching is different from the traditional sports coach. The athletic coach is often seen as an expert who guides and directs the behavior of individuals or teams based on his or her greater experience and knowledge. Professional coaches possess these qualities, but it is the experience and knowledge of the individual or team that determines the direction.

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:

  1. There is something at stake (a challenge, stretch goal or opportunity), and it is urgent, compelling or exciting or all of the above;
  2. New leadership position;
  3. Dealing with major changes at work and or personal;
  4. There is a gap in knowledge, skills, confidence, or resources;
  5. There is a desire to accelerate results;
  6. There is a lack of clarity, and there are choices to be made;
  7. The individual is extremely successful, and success has started to become problematic;
  8. Work and life are out of balance, and this is creating unwanted consequences; or
  9. One has not identified his or her core strengths and how best to leverage them.

What has caused the tremendous growth in the coaching industry?

Coaching has grown significantly for many reasons. Generally the world has changed a lot, and coaching is a useful tool to deal with many of those changes. For example, coaching is a great tool for today's challenging job market. There is more job transition, more self-employment and small business. Some of the real life factors include:

  1. Rapid changes in the external business environment;
  2. Downsizing, restructuring, mergers and other organizational changes have radically altered what has been termed the "traditional employment contract"-companies can no longer achieve results using traditional management approaches;
  3. There is a growing shortage of talented employees in certain industries-to attract and retain top talent, companies must commit to investing in individuals' development;
  4. There is a widening disparity between what managers were trained to do and what their jobs now require them to do in order to meet increasing demands for competitive results;
  5. There is unrest on the part of many employees and leaders in many companies-people are wrestling with fears around job insecurity and increased workplace pressures to perform at higher levels than ever before;
  6. Companies must develop inclusive, collaborative work environments, in order to achieve strategic business goals, and to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.

How is coaching delivered? What does the process look like?

The Coaching process 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, over the telephone, or Skype. 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.

How long does a coach work with an individual?

The length of a coaching partnership varies depending on the individuals or team's needs and preferences. For certain types of focused coaching, 3 to 6 months of working with a coach may work. For other types of coaching, people may find it beneficial to work with a coach for a longer period. 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.

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.

What does coaching ask of an individual?

To be successful, coaching asks certain things of the individual, all of which begin with intention. Additionally, clients should:

  1. Focus-on one's self
  2. Observe-the behaviors and communications of others.
  3. Listening-to one's intuition, assumptions, judgments, and to the way one sounds when one speaks.
  4. Self-discipline-to challenge existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and to develop new ones which serve one's goals in a superior way.
  5. Style-leveraging personal strengths and overcoming limitations in order to develop a winning style.
  6. Decisive actions-however uncomfortable
  7. Compassion-for one's self as he or she experiments with new behaviors, experiences setbacks
  8. Humor-committing to not take one's self so seriously
  9. Personal control-maintaining composure in the fate of disappointment and unmet expectations, avoiding emotional reactivity.
  10. Courage-to reach for more than before, to shift out of being fear based in to being in abundance

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 service and programs.  The adage..."you get what you pay for" rings true for coaching.  I highly recommend hiring certified professional coaches from top coaching schools.  Would you ask for legal guidance from someone without a law degree?  

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