Coaching, when referring to getting coached by a professional coach, is a teaching, training or development process in which an individual gets support while learning to achieve a specific personal or professional result or goal. The individual receiving coaching may be referred to as the client or coachee, or they may be in an intern or apprenticeship relationship with the person coaching them. Occasionally the term coaching may be applied to an informal relationship between one individual who has greater experience and expertise than another and offers advice and guidance as the other goes through a learning process. This form of coaching is similar to mentoring.
The structures, models and methodologies of coaching are numerous, and may be designed to facilitate thinking or learning new behavior for personal growth or professional advancement. There are also forms of coaching that help the coachee improve a physical skill, like in a sport or performing art form. Some coaches use a style in which they ask questions and offer opportunities that will challenge the coachee to find answers from within him/herself. This facilitates the learner to discover answers and new ways of being based on their values, preferences and unique perspective.
When coaching is aimed at facilitating psychological or emotional growth it should be differentiated from therapeutic and counseling disciplines, since clients of coaching, in most cases, are considered healthy (i.e. not sick). The purpose of the coaching is to help them move forward in whatever way they want to move, not to ‘cure’ them. In addition the therapist or counsellor may work from a position of authoritative doubt, but cannot claim the position of ignorance so vital for coaching, because of the assessment knowledge that underpins their work.
The UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel Management reports that 51% of companies (sample of 500) ‘consider coaching as a key part of learning development’ and ‘crucial to their strategy’, with 90% reporting that they use coaching. More recent research in 2011 by Qa Research, an independent marketing research agency in the UK, found that 80% of organisations surveyed had used or are now using coaching, but also found that while 90% of organisations with over 2,000 employees had used coaching in the past five years, only 68% of companies with 230–500 employees had done the same. The basic skills of coaching are often developed by managers within organizations specifically to improve their managing and leadership abilities, rather than to apply in formal one-to-one coaching sessions. These skills can also be applied within team meetings and are then akin to the more traditional skills of group facilitation.