What You Need to Know About Coaching Services

by Herb Stevenson

Executive development is a critical aspect of all organizations. In 1996, training and education efforts aimed at managers totaled $14.5 billion in the U.S. ( Vicere, 1998). One of the more recent approaches to executive development has been called coaching. Distinct from other forms of training, coaching focuses on the method of learning. Under a coaching paradigm, it is believed that “the more an individual is involved in identifying problems, in working out and applying solutions for them and in reviewing the results, the more complete and the more long-lasting the learning is. This form of self learning tends to bring about learning with a deeper understanding than learning that is taught.”(Redshaw, 2000, p. 106). To give this more perspective, “coaching is very different than teaching or instructing. It is best described as facilitating. The coach encourages the learner to learn for him/herself...As well as acquiring new job competencies, the learner gradually develops new and more effective learning skills. He/she becomes a proactive learner, capable of learning from almost any experience encountered.” (Redshaw, 2000, p. 107).

Coaching is most effectively employed when it is used to do one or more of the following:

What’s the Difference

Business coaching includes principles from sports coaching such as teamwork, personal excellence, and "going for the goal." But unlike sports coaching, business coaching is not about competition or based on win/lose. A business coach focuses on helping an individual "learn what it takes" for him or her to improve existing capabilities, set meaningful goals, and be accountable for his or her results. A coach helps an individual understand and eliminate barriers to more effective performance.

Further Clarification

Besides the confusion around coaching as a sports metaphor, coaching is often confused with mentoring, counseling/therapy, and consulting. The differences are discussed below:

Mentoring – A mentor works closely with an individual to help develop the skills, knowledge, and relationships needed to perform better in the current position and to advance his or her career. A mentor is usually at a more senior level in an organization and has the professional and personal competencies to pass on organizational culture, norms, and traditions through skill and example. The mentor shares personal experiences through dialog, and often gives advice.

Counseling or Therapy – Counselors and therapists focus on an individual's psychological well-being and may spend time analyzing the past. In contrast, coaches concentrate on personal and organizational success, how well the individual is functioning within the organization, and is future focused.

Consulting – A consultant gives expert advice and is hired for specific technical expertise.

The following table illustrates these distinctions:

Process Supervision Mentoring Consulting Coaching
Driving Thought I know how. Do it my way My Experience is I am an expert. That is what you are paying me to tell you. How can I support your learning?
Public Statement “Do it this way” “This is how I would do it” “This is how to do it.”
“This is how you should do it.”
“What have you tried? How has it served/disserved you? What else is possible?”
Public Action Required Compliance Guidance & Advice Direction, Method, Technique, & Information Explore, experiment, and learn new ways of working, thinking and being, personally and professionally.


What Coaches Do!?

Coaches help individuals set and achieve desired goals. Coaches utilize questions and assessment tools to help individuals become more effective. For example, initial interviews could be used to create a baseline for why coaching is being requested. Often the coach completes a “take-in” interview and observes the client in action for a day or two to better grasp the dynamics within the organization. Beyond the initial interview, assessment tools could use to more specifically pinpoint an application for the client, such as leadership skills, emotional intelligence, personality types, that may or may not involve a prior completed 360 degree feedback. Through the insight gained from assessment tools and observations by the coach, individuals become more self-aware of their strengths and barriers, and develop strategies and plans to reach their goals.

Types of Coaching

According to the Executive Coaching Forum (2001, 9-12), there are four common forms of coaching, all of which can be a part of executive coaching while none of which fully encompass executive coaching:

  1. Feedback/Debriefing/Development Planning: As the name suggests, this type of coaching occurs when an individual’s performance needs to be assessed and/or redirected. Typically, a 360-degree feedback is completed. The results are reviewed and a developmental plan is created. The coaching tends to be focused and short-term. In the past, this was simply a task completed by consultants as a management assessment or appraisal with remedial training.
  2. Targeted Content Coaching: This type of coaching is designed to expeditiously impart knowledge and/or skills. Often the individual has been promoted and needs accelerated learning either in the background that supports the position or skills to support the effectiveness of the individual, such as computer literacy, financial acumen, time management, presentation and writing skills.
  3. Career Coaching: This form of coaching is typically engaged as a competitive edge for an individual, even though some organizations provide it as a developmental support. The focus is to support the individual in developing a career plan, make critical work-related decisions, such as job moves, and planning career transitions, such as retirement planning and job succession.
  4. Personal/Life Coaching: In many ways, this is personal growth work, where the individual seeks to create a more balanced way of living. Similar to career coaches, individuals typically hire these coaches to provide personal support in exploring personal improvement and self awareness.


Traits of Effective Coaches

The role of a coach is that of a strategic business partner. The coaching relationship is built on trust–that the coach supports the client without judgment. Furthermore, trust is built on the belief and fact that all coaching conversations remain confidential between the individual and the coach. When coaching is provided, the relationship may extend to the individual's supervisor, who helps define the performance goals and provides feedback on progress, but does not engage in the actual coaching sessions.

Coaches demonstrate knowledge through past experience and application of basic competencies. Some organizations have adopted the competencies identified by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) where the coach must meet ethical guidelines of the profession. Other competencies include the ability to:

How Does a Coaching Partnership Work?

Formal coaching relationships are based on written agreements between the coach and the individual being coached. This written agreement delineates the goals and mutual expectations for how the coaching relationship will work. The individual, coach, and supervisor, where applicable, must be in agreement regarding the desired results of the coaching relationship. These are typically called coaching contracts, letters of engagement, and learning contracts.


We are voluntarily entering into a formal coaching relationship partnership, which we expect to benefit XXXX and us. The following highlights the features of our partnership:

Coaching partnership objectives:

Coaching milestones related to objectives:

Measures of success related to objectives:

Specific role of the coach and key stakeholders:



Other key stakeholders (manager, peers, direct reports, and customers):

The logistics of our meetings will generally include the following:



How long:


Who is responsible for initiating:

The client will gain commitment of his/her supervisor by:

We will honor the following confidentiality agreement:

This agreement remains in effect for twelve months. The agreement may be terminated at any time by either the coach or the individual being coached.

Signature:_________________ Signature:_________________
Individual Being Coached Coach

Coaching relationships can vary in duration and complexity. A coach may use assessment instruments to help focus the coaching process. Short-term, feedback coaching generally takes from one to six months and is intended to provide immediate feedback to the individual to help him or her develop a plan to address specific needs. Longer term, in-depth coaching involves a close, long-term relationship between the coach and individual to address specific needs, and generally lasts from six to twelve months. This type of coaching will involve more in-depth data collection and analysis with an intensive feedback session. Generally, a coach will continue to work with the client until the plan is implemented.

Example of Coaching Options

Developmental Coaching (8-15 hours)
Typically for three months or less, the focus of the engagement is to identify and prioritize developmental needs. A brief data gathering interview with the executive’s supervisor lays the foundation for the work to be done. A developmental plan is created with the client. The coach jump-starts the plan with a quick transition to client independence with supervisory and HR support for continued progress.

Executive Coaching (24 to 30 Hours)
Typically for six months or less, the focus is to identify and prioritize developmental issues. An initial assessment and data gathering is completed by the coach, including if applicable a 360 degree feedback process. The coach is retained for the implementation of the plan and follow-up for the client.

Expanded Executive Coaching (40 to 60 hours)
Typically for six to twelve months, the focus can be:

  • to identify and prioritize developmental issues. An initial assessment and data gathering is completed by the coach, including if applicable a 360 degree feedback process. The coach is retained for the implementation of the plan and follow-up for the client.
  • to support the client in addressing and keeping a clear picture of strategic issues of the organization while addressing personal developmental issues.


Why Would One Choose to Work With a Coach?

A critical aspect of working with a coach is to know what is a good use of a coach. Employees may choose to work with a coach when they:

Employees considering coaching generally think about career goals and how coaching could help achieve them. Employees may also find it helpful to ask questions to clarify their expectations for the coaching partnership, such as:

Potential benefits of coaching to the employee include: better decisions, clearer goals and roles, increased self awareness, more ideas and options, better relationships, better teamwork, reduced conflict, and renewed organizational commitment. Potential benefits to the organization include: improvements in productivity, quality, organizational strength, customer service, and shareholder value. Moreover, when coaching produces better alignment between personal and organizational values and goals, the results often include increased job satisfaction and organizational commitment and improved performance.

Assessment Stages

Step I: Self-Assessment
The first phase of the coaching assessment process begins with the individual doing a self-assessment surrounding professional goals, goals for coaching, reasons for desiring coaching, and, if known, what types of coaching is being sought. It is helpful if this is done in writing after a fair amount of reflection.

Step II: Coach Assessment
As noted in prior pages, at the beginning of the relationship the coach typically conducts an assessment. Assessments are tools used to gather information about an individual's values, behaviors, competencies, goals, interests, and potential opportunities for development.

This assessment can range from being very formal to informal depending on where the individual is in the development process and their past experience. An informal assessment may consist of a brief questionnaire, face-to-face discussion or simple observation. The coach will determine the appropriate assessment instrument tool to use in the coaching process.

Assessments are used in a coaching relationship not to label but to provide valuable information to guide and focus the relationship. Assessments provide new explanations for behaviors, discover new possibilities, generate a baseline of information about the individual being coached, build the coach/client relationship, and facilitate identification of the coaching intervention. All assessment data will be kept confidential between the client and the coach. To ensure confidentiality, it is common and considered ethical for all assessment documentation be given to the client at the end of the relationship.

Step III: Coach-Client Relationship
Once assessments are completed, the coach reviews the data with the individual being coached and provides feedback. The coach and individual then work together to create a development plan and a set of three to five objectives based on the data results and the individual's goals. The coach and individual may also identify roles of stakeholders; significant milestones related to their progress; and measures of success.

Additionally, the coach and individual will work out the terms and logistics of the coaching relationship and gain appropriate approvals, when necessary.

Mid-point Assessment

The mid-point assessment is conducted half way into the coaching contract. This assessment is designed to track the progress with the coaching contract, relationship, and coaching process. During this phase some of the following questions may be asked:

To ensure that the coach and client are on the same page, it is often the responsibility of the coach to conduct a mid-point assessment with the individual being coached, either as a check-in for the coach or as a requirement of the contract.

Final Assessment (close of relationship)

As a matter of professional development for both the coach and the client or as a requirement of the contract, the final assessment is conducted at the end of the coaching relationship. During this assessment the coach and individual are assessing the following:

At this time, the coach and individual determine whether to stop or continue the coaching relationship. If a form is available as part of the coaches process or as a requirement of the contract, the coach gives the individual being coached a final assessment form to complete.

Step IV. Follow-up Assessment (post coaching)
The final phase of the coaching assessment process is the follow-up assessment. This is normally conducted six months to a year after the end of the coaching contract. In executive coaching situations, this is often done by having the coach return to interview and observe the client. Once completed, the coach and client meet to review the original goals and objectives and the continued applicability and/or progress that has been made. A final report from the coach may or may not be offered.

What is Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching
As juxtaposed to the prior paragraphs, the best definition of executive coaching is that it is inclusive and evolving. (Kampa-Kokesch & Anderson, 2001, 208-9) All of the prior issues of coaching may apply to a specific executive coaching situation and due to the nature of the position, it involves more.

In the past, it has been more focused as a part of an ongoing consulting contract, wherein the executive develops a relationship with the consultant and the consultant develops a holding environment with the executive where learning can occur. More recently, it has been argued that ‘All coaches are consultants, but not all consultants are coaches’. In this distinction, the consultant is predisposed to executive productivity whereas the coach is predisposed towards executive development, which might include productivity. (Dutton, 1997, 39)

Regardless, of whether or not it is something beyond consulting, “the work often is about helping an executive identify his or her strengths and weaknesses and address both.” (Foxhall, 2002, 52) The confusion between what is consulting and what is coaching seems to be that it often is piggybacked with other areas that typically have been associated with consulting such as being a sounding board for the CEO, supporting a newly promoted, never having supervised manager, conflict resolution, polarity management, and/or revealing when the “emperor has no clothes” by speaking the unspeakable. (Foxhall, 2002, 52)

Kilburg, a consulting psychologist, suggests that executive coaching is more complex. He defines executive coaching as—

a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioral techniques and methods to help the client achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve his or her professional performance and personal satisfaction and, consequently to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organization within a formally defined coaching agreement.” (2000, 67)

Regardless of the perspective, executive coaching involves creating a learning environment that is complex and capable of holding the needs of the client, the power of the position and, the mission of the organization.

Qualifying the Coach

With the surge of people into the field of executive coaching, it becomes a bit wearisome to find a qualified coach. For example, there are two views. Berglas (2002, 4) suggests that executive coaches should

  1. be schooled in more than sports metaphors,
  2. acknowledge that many executive issues are not solved with short and quick behavioral modifications, and
  3. be sufficiently schooled in the dynamics of psychotherapy to be able to know, if deeper seated, psychological problems are involved. (Kampa-Kokesch & Anderson, 2001, 211)

Combined with those conditions, others add another critical condition—if the coach understands and cares about business. This latter condition is as broad-brushed as the meaning of the term “business”. Some suggest that the coach should be steeped in organizational behavior and leadership roles from top to bottom. Others suggest that a business background, such as an MBA or its experiential equivalent, is required (Foxhall, 2002, 52-53; Kampa-Kokesch & Anderson, 2001, 212; Hart, Blattner, & Leipsic, 2001, 233,234) The long and short of the situation is that coaches are qualified along different lines. Some are excellent counselors, some are steeped in executive experience and therefore are excellent support for CEOs needing a sounding board to unravel strategic issues, and some are superb in motivating employees. In brief, depending on the contract with the client, “coaching executives requires knowledge about organizations, management, leadership, economics, and a host of other disciplines.” (Diedrich & Kilburg, 2001, 203) A word to the wise, therefore, is to determine what type of coaching is needed and find a coach to match those needs. Presently, many organizations have addressed this issue within their Human Resources function. Coaches are required to complete questionnaires concerning their qualifications, coaching style, and areas of competency. Client needs are matched with the clients completing the final selection process. See example below.

Working With Coaches

Coaching is often engaged when the executive is moving to the next level of career and/or personal development. In most cases, the coach is brought into assist in the development of the individual. Noteworthy is that “coaching clients are usually valued by the company because of certain skills they possess and because they are highly motivated individuals. These clients are typically looking for ways to refine and enhance their current positions or move up into more advanced positions.” (Kampa-Kokesch & Anderson, 2001, 212) More recently, executives have recognized the value of an independent set of ears to act as a sounding board to sort through strategic issues. In these instances, the coach provides a voice or position that is not heard by the executive or spoken in ways that can be heard by the executive.


As much as there are different types of coaching, there are several requirements of being effectively coached. The learning executive (Lyons, 2000, 13), as the individual would be called in the work environment, typically, would have most, if not all, of the following behavioral traits. He or she will:

These traits are consistent with the coaching orientation. “The coach’s orientation is prospective, focusing on goals, untapped potential, and critical success factors in a whole person who seeks to maximize his or her fulfillment in life and work” (Hart, et. al., 2001, 230) These traits suggest the core of coaching is to support the emergence of a more fully embodied individual.

Example of Potential Coach Assessment


The following questions are provided to assist in interviewing and identifying potential coaches that align with our organizations strategy and guidelines for coaching.

Process of Interaction with Clients

Overview Questions

  1. How would you define coaching? What does coaching mean to you?
  2. Do you have a particular coaching model that you use?

Training and Background

  1. What is your educational and professional background?
  2. What are some of the key work experiences that led you to be a coach?
  3. How long have you been doing coaching work?
  4. What kinds of people do you work with and what results did you achieve?
  5. With what kinds of people and topics do you do your best work?
  6. Who would you turn down and why?
  7. Give an example of when you have had to be tough and confrontational in a supportive way. How did you accomplish this?
  8. What do you think are necessary experiences and educational qualities for a good coach?


  1. Do you have a particular type of coaching you specialize in?
  2. Do you have a particular industry you specialize in?
  3. How similar are the situations you engage in?
  4. What is your strategy with regards to supporting confidentiality?


  1. What kind of assessment instruments, tools, or techniques do you go through with a new client?
  2. Who do you gather information about the client from, and how?
  3. How do you determine the client's needs?
  4. What information do you gather about the organization and how?


  1. How long do you work with clients? How much time do you usually spend with the client?
  2. How will you help the client learn new ways to do things?
  3. What tools or activities do you use to improve client performance (e.g. role-playing)?
  4. How do you implement your intervention (phone, e-mail, face-to-face)?
  5. How standardized are your interventions?
  6. How much time do you spend with others in service of the client's development?
  7. At what point do you terminate the coaching relationship with the client?


  1. How will you ensure the client will get results?
  2. How do you determine the effectiveness of your intervention?
  3. How often do you communicate with the client's organization about his or her progress?
  4. What level of information do you share with the client's organization?
  5. Do you solicit feedback about your performance from your clients?


Coaching Relationships

Developing a successful coaching relationship appears to “occur in six stages: relationship building, assessment, feedback, planning, implementation, and evaluation and follow-up.” (Kampa-Kokesch & Anderson, 2001, 208) Giglio, Diamonte, and Urban (1998) expand the concept and suggest that the coach must move with the client through three phases with nine steps:

Phase I: building commitment and personal transformation

  1. Establishing a learning relationship not a telling relationship.
  2. Act as an objective information provider.
  3. Engage in joint problem identification.

Phase II: moving the executive forward

  1. Build a credible data bank.
  2. Let the clients come to their own conclusions.
  3. Acceptance of the situation and realization of the need to change.

Phase III: facilitating the personal transformation

  1. Set action plans that are realistic, achievable and within the executive’s control.
  2. Weave a safety net.
  3. Self-generated motivation and continuous improvement.

Regardless of the model, the focus of all coaching relationships should be on the negotiation of the work to be done, the actual work, and closing the work. Without each of these steps clearly defined, the potential success is lessened and the possibility dramatically increases of becoming an “evergreen”, a potted tree that is trying to become a planted, permanent fixture.


Executive coaching has evolved significantly over the last five years. As more individuals move into the executive ranks that received coaching as part of their career development, executive coaching will surely transform itself further into a support function for many executives.

Example of Content in a Learning Contract


It is expected that you will negotiate a “learning contract” or “letter of engagement” with your client at your first official meeting. A copy of this learning contract will be filed with the client’s manager, and the HR representative.

The Letter of Engagement shall include but not be limited to:

Name of Coach

Name of Client

Name of Client’s manager


Purpose of the coaching relationship

Length and nature of the contract

Start date and end point review date

Goals for coaching

Leadership Qualities that you will focus on during the contract

Measures of success

Confidentiality statement

Hours policy: You will be allotted XX hours of coaching time for the XX month contract. Time that counts toward those hours include: face-to-face meetings, emails, phone calls, interviews with others on client’s behalf, shadowing, and processing assessment instruments.

Cancellation Policy: XXXX will pay the full price for any cancelled coaching session if client does not cancel more than 48 hours prior to the scheduled session.

Renewal policy: At end of contract you will conduct formal progress review with client and client’s manager to assess the success of the coaching partnership. If deemed appropriate by the manager, the client, the HR representative, and the coach, the contract may be renewed for another six-month period. If coaching is to continue, a new contract must be given to the manager, HR representative and the coaching program manager within 15 days of the expiration of this contract.

Coach’s Contact information




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