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3 hard truths about coaching

19th August 2015 | Ro Gorell

Ro is co-author, with Gillian Jones, of 50 Top Tools for Coaching. In this article she explores three facets of coaching that are essential for creating a great foundation for coaching relationships.  Including these as part of your coaching practice will ensure that you have a sound framework for success.  How often do you consider these when starting out a coaching assignment?  


Very often prospective clients seek coaching because they ‘feel’ or believe it is the way to go because everyone else is doing it.  Often without really understanding what’s involved and what they can expect.  The following three truths of coaching will provide a reference framework to guide your clients as you begin your coaching assignment. 


Hard truth #1 – coaching is about results

This truth is something we intuitively know but sometimes in our eagerness to work with clients we can dive straight into action before digging deep around a very simple but profound question:


What specifically do you want to change? 

  •          Behaviours – what specific behaviours?  In what way?  How will your behaviour be different?  How will you know?
  •          Relationships – What aspects of relationships?  Who specifically?
  •          Productivity – What type of productivity? Efficiency? Quality? (speed/accuracy)
  •          Skills – what type of skills?

Clients who already know the results they’re seeking are ready, willing and able to start the coaching journey. But if your client doesn’t know what they want then addressing that becomes the assignment.  Coaching ultimately is a conversation with an outcome in mind.  Whilst time spent in free flow conversation with clients can lead to insights and action, ultimately they are paying for a result.  Having tools to help you work with your clients around the results they want means you have a consistent, tried and tested way of helping them take the first step to their outcome.    


Hard truth #2 – coaching is time bound

Clarity around results isn’t just about the end outcome though – it also influences the scope and timing of the coaching relationship itself.  When you’re both clear on the result areas you can put a realistic timeframe around how long you will work together to achieve the desired results.

Prospective coachees often need certainty about how coaching works.  Often they have little knowledge or understanding of what will be involved.  And this is natural – after all, they are relying on you as their coach for your expertise to guide them on how the process will work for them specifically.  When you understand the results your prospective coachee is seeking you can apply the learning you have from coaching others in similar situations and suggest how many sessions will be required and the roadmap of how you’ll work together.

One of the key selling points of coaching is that it has an end point – in other words, certainty.  This helps you and your clients work with purpose.  You may be familiar with Parkinson’s law – that work expands to fill the time we give it – therefore making sure you allocate the optimal time up-front enables you and your coachee to focus on working towards a result.


Hard truth #3 – everything you do is an intervention

Every time we interact with our coaching clients we’ve either consciously or unconsciously made an intervention.  Coaching tools are an intervention, therefore choosing the best one is vital.   Your expertise in using the right tools for your clients means you create coaching packages with a defined outcome and time frame.  We structured 50 Top Tools into different topics to help you with making those choices. 

Is your coaching client seeking transactional change or transformational change?   Answering this question up-front guides you towards the best fit tools to use.  If you want to change behaviours then your work will involve exploring mindset.  For task-based change perhaps tools that provide process are better suited.

Tools are only part of the picture when it comes to interventions – just being in the room with your coaching client is an intervention.  Therefore, as we say in our book, use your experiences to create tools that work for you – bearing in mind that we always make a difference just by being present with our clients. 

This third truth is perhaps the one that has greatest resonance.   And whilst we have collected many tools over the years, coming back to just being present with your clients is the first step in creating great coaching relationships and co-creating an environment where both you and the coachee experience the power of purposeful conversations.



You can order 50 Top Tools for Coaching 3rd Edition at a 20% discount when you enter code 50TOP20 at the checkout on www.koganpage.com. This discount is valid until 30 September 2015

HR, Organizational Development & Coaching

Kogan Page publishes market-leading books on human resource management, training, learning and development, change management and coaching to help HR managers attract, develop, manage and retain staff effectively.

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