Coaching Frequently Asked Questions

In the most straightforward terms, coaching means building someone’s competence to face his or her life situation. Coaching involves a conversation or series of conversations that have the potential to build understanding and awareness in order for an individual to take action.

Practically speaking, successful coaching leaves people with the following outcomes:

  1. Long-term excellence
  2. The ability to self-reflect and self-correct
  3. The ability to self-generate

In action, this means coaches understand their clients with great depth and scope, converse with them in a way that opens up insights and possibilities, and offer a path forward that includes activities custom-designed for them.

Addressing the inner and outer world ‘map’ of the individual and the inner and outer world of the group opens up a huge template in which coaching can occur. Working this broadly requires coaches who can understand how each of these human domains operates, both singularly and in their combinations.

Integral Coaching is an ongoing, evolving methodology intended to be the most comprehensive response to human life. Its practitioners reach deeply into the past, gathering wisdom from East and West, while simultaneously staying current with the frontiers of new discovery in cognitive science, psychology, genetics, and other disciplines.

We call our work integral because we include everything about the client and the client’s world in our coaching. The inclusion contains what the client is aware of but also his / her potential—what could be brought about through focused, skillful methods. Integral Coaches bring a view of the client that includes how the client represents her/himself but also investigates her / his social world, habits, relationship with body, the quality of self-care, the amount of attention and energy available to take on change, and much more.


The method, first proposed by Ken Wilber, attends to the individuality of the person as well as the social context in which he / she is always embedded. Our individuality includes our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and intentions and everything that is happening to us physiologically. Our social context includes the language(s) we speak, the culturally specific practices we engage in, the relationships we are a part of and the history of the groups we belong to. Additionally, we are always in a shared physical environment that includes nature and human artifacts, and our background sense of possibility and our mood are shaped by the physical space we’re in.


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.

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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 coaching, such as in mentor coaching new coaches, coaches are not typically mentors to those they coach.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Additionally, professional coaching, unlike athletic development, does not focus on behaviors that are being executed poorly or incorrectly. Instead, the focus is on identifying opportunity for development based on individual strengths and capabilities.

Since every conversation is dynamic, live in the moment and somewhat fluid a base structure and ‘agenda’ might cover the items below:

  • Check in since last session
  • Update/review on fieldwork/reading
  • Topic/thing the individual would like to bring into coaching today
  • Discussion and exploration and link to overall program and objectives
  • Update, continue, set new field work
  • The individual’s core themes/take-outs from the session
  • One-word/short sentence check out
  • Scheduling of next session

In some sessions, the coach may offer fieldwork in between sessions which would encourage the individual to notice, practice or do various activities in between sessions for report back eg: read article, watch a YouTube clip, do a body practice, once-off exercise or self-observation.

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


  • Burnout
  • Recovery from poor performance or sub optimal 360 feedback
  • Career advancement and transitioning self or team to the next level/role
  • Low skill/competency and attention to people management and team development
  • Interpersonal clashes and varying degrees of connection – often termed ‘low EQ’
  • Realities of cost cutting and possible retrenchment
  • Increased politics in matrix environments
  • Reduced trust in the authenticity of the corporate and leadership agenda
  • Exiting corporate to ‘go out on own’
  • Questions of identity, personality type and management styles
  • Questions of legacy and stewardship
  • Questions of missing mojo, meaning and inspiration ‘is this it?’
  • 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, competency or resources
  • There is a desire to accelerate results
  • There is a lack of clarity, meaning, inspiration, well-being, connection, and there are choices to be made
  • The individual is extremely successful, and success has started to become problematic
  • Areas of 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 Coaching Process typically begins with a personal interview ‘chemistry session’ (either face-to-face or by teleconference call) to assess the individual or team’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.

  • Assessments: A variety of assessments are available to support the coaching process, depending upon the needs and circumstances of the individual or team. Assessments and stakeholder interviews provide objective information which can enhance the individual’s self-awareness as well as awareness of others and their circumstances, provide a benchmark for creating coaching goals and actionable strategies, and offer a method for evaluating progress.
  • Concepts, models and principles: A variety of concepts, models and principles drawn from the behavioral sciences, management literature, spiritual traditions and/or the arts and humanities, may be incorporated into the coaching conversation in order to increase the individual’s self-awareness and awareness of others, foster shifts in perspective, promote fresh insights, provide new frameworks for looking at opportunities and challenges, and energize and inspire the individual’s forward actions.
  • Appreciative approach: Coaching incorporates an appreciative approach. The appreciative approach is grounded in what’s right, what’s working, what’s wanted, and what’s needed to get there. Using an appreciative approach, the coach models constructive communication skills and methods the individual or team can utilize to enhance personal communication effectiveness. The appreciative approach incorporates discovery-based inquiry, proactive (as opposed to reactive) ways of managing personal opportunities and challenges, constructive framing of observations and feedback in order to elicit the most positive responses from others, and envisioning success as contrasted with focusing on problems. The appreciative approach is simple to understand and employ, but its effects in harnessing possibility thinking and goal-oriented action can be profound.

The length of a coaching partnership varies depending on the individual’s or team’s needs and preferences. For certain types of focused coaching, three to six 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.

Overall, be prepared to co-create and design the coaching partnership with your 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 that partnership. You will want to build those same things into a coaching relationship. Our recommendations:


  • 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, and there is generally no charge for an introductory conversation of this type.
  • Look for stylistic similarities and differences between the coach and you and how these might support your growth as an individual 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 a 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.

The Role of the Coach is to …


  • be a thinking partner, walking alongside the Coachee on the journey
  • practice active listening
  • ask questions that result in the Coachee identifying new ways of thinking and exploring new approaches and options
  • create a safe space that encourages exploration and openness – a space of non-judgment
  • be a sounding board in support of possibility thinking and thoughtful planning and decision making
  • champion opportunities and potential
  • encourage stretch and challenge commensurate with personal strengths and aspirations
  • foster the shifts in thinking that reveal fresh perspectives
  • challenge blind spots in order to illuminate new possibilities
  • support the creation of alternative scenarios
  • be honest and strive to work with integrity
  • communicate openly, sharing and reflecting back observations
  • make explicit any observations of issues that are more appropriately and ideally explored by a counselor / therapist
  • hold the focus of the sessions in line with the objectives and goals set
  • Finally, the coach maintains professional boundaries in the coaching relationship, including confidentiality, and adheres to the ICF coaching profession code of ethics.


The Role of the Coachee is to …


  • own the coaching process
  • create and bring the coaching agenda based on personally meaningful and business relevant coaching goals
  • utilize assessment and observations to enhance self-awareness and awareness of others
  • envision personal and/or organizational success
  • own the decisions taken and take responsibility for personal decisions and actions
  • utilize the coaching process to promote possibility thinking and fresh perspectives
  • take courageous action in alignment with personal goals and aspirations
  • engage big picture thinking and problem solving skills
  • utilize the tools, concepts, models and principles provided by the coach to engage effective forward actions.
  • hold an awareness of exploring areas that feel ok for exploration
  • be committed to the forward action movement that coaching will bring
  • be committed to spending time in reflection
  • be accountable to self
  • be honest with self and the Coach
  • hold an understanding that adult learning is a process and involves change
  • provide feedback at the completion of the coaching programme

Measurement may be thought of in two distinct ways:

  1. First, there are the external indicators of performance: measures which can be set, seen and measured in the individual’s and/or team’s environment and performance.
  2. 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.


Working with a coach requires both a personal commitment of time and energy as well as a financial commitment. Fees charged vary by the scope of the program, area of 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.