Coaching is training or development in which a person called a coach supports a learner in achieving a specific personal or professional goal.

Coaching 202 – Understanding the three kinds of Professional Coaching

In Coaching 101, I provided an introduction to Professional Coaching, explaining what it is and how it helps people. In brief:

Coaching is training or development in which a person called a coach supports a learner in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. Coaching is something that parents, teachers, tutors, managers, consultants and board members do day-to-day when they invest time in improving other people’s performance.

Professional coaching is provided by a professional coach: someone who has been specifically trained in coaching skills and attained a high level of competence. They are primarily engaged in coaching as their main paid occupation, rather than as an amateur.

Professional Coaching can be categorized under one of three main categories:

1.       Skills coaching
2.       Performance coaching
3.       Developmental coaching

These three kinds of coaching can be visually represented as a pyramid, with skills coaching (tactical) at the bottom and developmental coaching at the top (strategic), reflecting the experience that performance coaching is often a hybrid of these other two kinds of coaching.

When thinking about engaging a Professional Coach, it is helpful to understand the differences between the three, so you can match a coach to your current needs.

1. Skills Coaching

The first kind of coaching focuses on developing a specific, designated skill set. The coach often models the required skills and behaviour and coaching sessions then involve a rehearsal and feedback process. For example, skills coaching may be used for improving skills in areas such as: presentation, communication, professional writing, sales, negotiation, time management, business planning and visioning.

A training workshop or program that is followed up by one-on-one or group coaching designed to support people practice new skills to a required level of competency is a good example. It is one thing to be taught a new skill – it is another thing to learn (or master) that new skill.

There are a range of specialist coaches offering these kinds of services in the market today, that draw on their particular field of expertise, often resulting in the delivery of a hybrid of training, coaching and mentoring solutions: sales coaches, presentation / public speaking coaches, marketing coaches, wealth coaches, wellness coaches, relationship coaches, parenting coaches, etc.

2. Performance Coaching

The second kind of coaching is concerned with improving performance over a specific time frame; ranging from just a few weeks to several years in workplace settings. Performance coaching focuses on the processes by which the coachee sets goals, overcomes obstacles, capitalises on opportunities, evaluates and monitors his or her performance over a period of time.

Performance coaching is somewhat more strategic than skills coaching, and in the workplace may take place following a performance review or in relation to a specific workplace project.

Performance coaching is also often proactively engaged by rising stars who have received a promotion and want to ensure they fast track learning and results to consolidate their position.

Performance coaching may require the integration and coordination of different skills to deliver a “performance”, rather than simply get things done.

3. Developmental Coaching

The third kind of coaching also takes a broader strategic approach and deals with the individual’s personal and professional development. Developmental coaching refers to coaching aimed at enhancing the individual’s ability to meet current and future challenges more effectively via the development of increasingly complex understanding of the self, others and the systems in which the person is involved.

This kind of coaching may focus on facilitating perspective taking and meaning making, enhancing emotional competencies and working more effectively with team members.

Developmental coaching often involves the creation of personal reflective spaces where coachees can explore issues and options and formulate action plans in a confidential, supportive environment. The majority of leadership and executive coaching is primarily developmental in nature.

These personal reflective spaces can be both physical (e.g. coaching sessions conducted at the offices of the coach) and virtual (e.g. coaching sessions delivered by phone / Skype, often from the person’s home rather than workplace). Either way, physical separation from “current reality” provides an opportunity to generate new insight and foresight into “desired reality”.

Choosing The Right Professional Coach

The competencies, skills and experience of effective coaches may vary somewhat across these three types of coaching.

The clearer you are about what you want to achieve from investing in coaching, the easier it is to find the right coach. In “The Art of The Brief – Part 1” I provide some simple, practical framework and advice you can use to prepare yourself for finding your perfect match when it comes to engaging the right coach for you, at this stage in your personal and professional development.

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