What is Coaching? Everything You Need to Know in 2023!

CoachHub · 28 May 2021 · 11 min read

Some believe that the concept of coaching is outdated. You may have heard this a few times, but is it really true ? Let it be said once and for all : the practice of coaching is neither outdated nor nebulous, quite the opposite.

This personalized support is aimed at making coachees better and at continuing to drive change has even experienced a strong explosion in recent years.

What is the definition of coaching ? Who can coach and why ? What happens during a session ? Read our guide to find out the answers to many of the most commonly asked questions.

Coaching definition, what exactly is it?

The term “coaching” encompasses so many organizations and areas of work that it can sometimes be confusing. So let’s start this guide with a clear and complete definition.

The definition of coaching

This is a practice of targeted and personalized support between a coachee and a certified professional coach. This professional support is designed to respond to a need identified and defined upstream, which must be met by the specialist coach. A personalized coach can help, for example, in :

  • improving sports performance (sports coaching),
  • the optimization of personal development (life coaching or leadership coaching),
  • the development of soft skills as part of professional activity (business coaching, also called professional coaching or corporate coaching).

The maximization of personal or professional potential then translates into regular discussion sessions between the client(s) and the coach. Yes, coaching support is based on communication and interaction. Thus, we are moving away from the classic hierarchization scheme (teacher/student, parents/children, boss/employees, etc.), to move to a horizontal and equal support relationship.

Let’s take an example to make it all clearer ! Dave was recently promoted to an internal line manager position. This new status involved a lot of responsibilities. To help him develop his leadership, crisis management and conflict management skills and gain self-confidence, he called on a professional business coach. Via regular telephone and face-to-face exchanges, Dave was able to outline his professional goals. At the same time, the coach supported him throughout the coaching process and the achievement of these same goals. Since then, the manager has managed to take a step back from his professional life and increase his productivity tenfold.

Professional coaching techniques fall into three categories :

  • individual coaching : this type of personal coaching is done between the coach and the client alone. It then allows the coachee to become aware of their potential and their flaws to achieve the objectives set.
  • collective coaching : team coaching is done, as its name suggests, in larger or smaller groups and sometimes takes the form of seminars or masterclasses. It allows several people to be trained on common issues while benefiting from group synergy and collective intelligence.
  • organizational coaching : specific to business coaching, the latter consists of coaching all the company members to develop the skills of the company and bring teams together.

Likewise, other factors differ from one coaching to another. While some coaching skills sessions are one-off, the majority are indeed long-term. Face-to-face or remote coaching ? Both are possible, but in this time of coronavirus, the second option seems more suitable.

The differences between teaching, coaching, mentoring and counseling

Although teaching, mentoring, coaching, and counseling all have some elements in common, they are actually quite distinct. It’s essential to understand the differences.


Teaching or training generally involves an expert or professional teacher who shares their knowledge with students. Although most effective teachers tend to use participatory and interactive methods, similarly to coaching, there is an imbalance of knowledge ; the teacher is the expert who knows the ‘right answer’.


Coaching focuses on the belief that the individual already has the answers to the issues and problems affecting their performance.

In this context, the coach is not an academic expert but is a facilitator who assists the individual in achieving their potential. They do not have to be a paid individual – anyone who can take on a coaching role with others, whether they are a peer, is superior over even in a subordinate position.

The critical coaching technique is knowing how to ask the right questions to enable the individual to work through their issues.


What are mentoring and coaching ? This is one of the questions we hear the most. Mentoring has much in common with coaching. There is a general consensus that a mentor is a guide who supports someone to learn more quickly than they would do alone.

In the workplace environment, mentors are frequently formally designated as such by common consent and outside of an employee’s line management chain. A mentor usually has a wealth of experience in the relevant line of business.

A successful mentoring relationship focuses on the future and career development, unlike coaching, which is more focused on the present and resolving immediate problems.


Counseling is more like a therapeutic treatment. It concentrates on the past, allowing the counsellee to gain insight into issues and barriers from their past and develop coping strategies. There are many types of counseling therapies, such as CBT.

Who benefits from coaching?

Still not convinced of the value of a coaching program ? Know that you can stand to benefit, regardless of your personality and your issues.

Coaching for all

“Everyone needs a coach !” This is how Bill Gates’ TED talk famously started a few years ago. In theory, this practice can indeed be applied to everyone, as long as you have a problem to solve. And for good reason, benefiting from coaching can help to explore all the possible options to achieve a goal that you cannot achieve alone. After all, no man is an island.

As we have seen previously, certified coaches have a specialization in almost all areas. In professional development, specialists support executives, managers and employees to develop their skills and help them take a step back from their profession. In specialized fields, such as sport, health, beauty, or human relations, coaches provide sound advice to improve their clients’ initial situation. In short, certified professional coaches are aimed at all those interested in their own development and the realization of their personal, family, professional, social plans. You will inevitably find something that meets your requirements.

Three reasons to request coaching

As you can see, there are many reasons to take coaching. First of all, you are no longer alone – many people find that simply talking helps. It might be a cliché, but a problem shared really is a problem half solved. Your individual coach supports you unconditionally while giving you genuine listening. Which, we won’t hide it from you, is quite pleasant. Then, your pro coach helps you find solutions to a given problem by asking you targeted questions, questions that you have probably never asked yourself. Thanks to this questioning, everything becomes clearer. Finally, having a coach is simply stimulating. They support you in your projects with personalized follow-up. In other words, you take time for yourself, and you unconsciously seek results to make them proud. There is a reason why all the greats in the world (politicians, showbiz celebrities, top athletes, business leaders) have their own coach.

The ‘Inner Game’

No discussion of coaching skills would be complete without mentioning Timothy Gallwey and his thoughts about what he terms as the ‘inner game’.

Gallwey’s oeuvre, ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’, overturned people’s attitudes towards the coaching sector. He claimed that the most significant barriers to success and achieving one’s potential were internal rather than external. He believes that coaches could allow individuals to boost their game by encouraging them to stop listening to their inner dialogue, especially the critical voice that said: “Not like that! Concentrate on your hands! Hold it at a different angle!”

By distracting that irritating little inner voice, the body could take control. It seems that often the body has a very clear idea of what to do when internal dialogues are suppressed. Gallwey used an example of asking a tennis player to concentrate on the height they struck the tennis ball. This simple exercise worked by enabling the mind to unclench, allowing the body to take over. The player quickly relaxed, and their tennis immediately improved.

Gallwey’s genuine insight was that this principle could be applied to many circumstances, not just tennis. Individuals have the power to resolve their own issues with just a little help.

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What is the role of a coach?

The mission of a professional and personal coach is to support one or more person(s) during a given time frame.

Their role is then to help them achieve their objectives following discussions leading to personalized solutions. But they do not personally give these solutions. Instead, they appear as a facilitator. They ask the right questions in order to lead the coachee to a reflection that guides him or her towards the desired results.

In other words, the coach holds up a mirror, a mirror that is tilted to reveal new perspectives to the coachee.

However, the role of a personal trainer is also similar to that of a coach. A trainer acts to motivate clients and strengthen their potential. As the sessions progress, they reveal the skills of their protegee and bring out all the necessary means to achieve a goal that seemed unattainable at first glance.

This is why calling on a coach effectively speeds up taking up a job, improving a relationship situation, unblocking a conflict situation or even developing personally.

What is business coaching?

Corporate coaching is defined as personalized support that aims to help directors, managers, or teams identify and put in place the means necessary to achieve their objectives, such as business transformation. Coaching is a behavioral approach ; it is not about training, counseling or psychological help. This type of support is suitable for private and public companies, as well as for self-employed workers.

Organizations use business coaching for many reasons. For example, a leader may enlist the help of a coach to develop a clear strategic vision, or in a time of crisis, when they feel overwhelmed by a situation that only they can resolve. A professional coach can also intervene when an organization is faced with a new environment, unusual or intercultural, for example. This is particularly the case when it comes to dealing with a digital transition.

How does coaching work?

The conduct of a coaching service depends a lot on the way the coach works. But overall, we still find this common thread.

The exploratory session

The so-called exploratory session is the first step in supporting change. It allows a link to be established between the coach and the coachee in order to lay the foundations for a relationship of mutual trust.

The client then defines and formalizes his objectives by answering the question, “What results do you want to achieve at the end of the work ? “. For his part, the coach assesses the procedures to be followed to achieve them (type of coaching, number of hours of coaching, frequency, location, budget, etc.).

Following coaching sessions

A session usually takes place in four stages, using the GROW method.

1- G for “Goal”: each session begins with an assessment of the previous one with an analysis of the evolution of the situation. This is also the time to take stock of the objectives, the “goals” for today’s session.

2- R for “Reality”: the session continues with the opening to new perspectives. The coach then asks questions to help the coachee to see more clearly about his situation. Obviously, this interview is based on exchange and interaction.

3- O for “Options”: as the session progresses, the coach advises the client. He then suggests exercises or avenues for reflection to explore using coaching tools. They also discuss the strategies to put in place and the options to integrate thereafter.

4- W for “Will”: at the end of the session, the two people take stock of what has been done. An action plan and a timetable for putting it into practice are also drawn up. The coach finally re-motivates his student so that they can continue their efforts until the next session.

Skills assessment session

Coaching is coming to an end, and it is time to take stock. The coach assesses the progress of his client from the first to the last day of support. It’s the opportunity to take stock of the results and the achievement of the objectives set during the exploratory session.

Coaching is not …

Be careful to understand what it is and what Coaching is not:

Mentoring! During mentoring, the mentor transmits his knowledge and know-how to a student (vertical relationship). The goal ? Help the latter to progress in a field. During coaching, the coach supports his client (horizontal relationship) in order to help him find his own answers. They move forward together through exchanges and discussions. In other words, the certified coach is a facilitator, an accompanist, while the mentor is a master thinker.

Consulting! A consultant is called in to give his opinion on a given situation. In other words, it brings judgment and preconceived solutions. The coach is not judgmental and has no prejudices towards you. In addition, they do not impose their solutions but help you find them on your own change management.

Certifying training! Coaching vs training is a common misconception. The trainer gives training through a learning process established from a training program common to all students. Conversely, the coach offers tailor-made support, the coaching program of which depends on each individual’s objectives.

As you could understand, coaching is targeted and personalized support to help you achieve your goals. Individual or collective coaching, remotely or face-to-face, you will inevitably find the formula and the certified coach that suits your needs. And to help you in this choice, CoachHub has built the best community of certified, supervised and experienced professional coaches, at the service of your transformation. Want to discover them and how they could benefit you or your company ? Professional coaching is this way forward !

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CoachHub is a leading global talent development platform that enables organisations to create personalised, measurable and scalable coaching programmes for the entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. By doing so, organisations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention. CoachHub’s global pool of coaches is comprised of over 3,500 certified business coaches in 90 countries across six continents with coaching sessions available in over 80 languages. Serving more than 1,000 clients worldwide, CoachHub’s innovative coaching programs are based on proprietary scientific research and development from its Innovation Lab. CoachHub is backed by leading tech investors, including Sofina, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Molten Ventures, Speedinvest, HV Capital, Partech and Silicon Valley Bank/SVB CapitalCoachHub is committed to creating a greener future.

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