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A Beginners Guide to Coaching

The world of work is rapidly changing. We are faced with challenges, life is becoming more fast paced and multi-faceted, we are upskilling for jobs that don’t yet exist and adapting to new ways of working, while trying to maintain a work life balance and the education sector is being impacted, such as through considering how Artificial Intelligence will and is shaping education. 

One great way to achieve professional growth is through coaching.  Coaching is big news!  You may even have friends or colleagues who have spoken about having a coach or seeing a coach and told you about the great results.  Are you a bit curious?  Read on!

What is the difference between Coaching and Mentoring?

Coaching is generally described as a short term process, a coachee works with a coach to help them “unlock their potential”, this is different for every coachee.  

Mentoring can be described as working with an experienced person in the same field, over a long period of time, during which the mentee and mentor work to achieve a long term goal.

Both coaching and mentoring do have some similarities, and some of these are in the coach/mentor having developed listening and questioning skills.  In both cases, the coach/mentor is committed to helping the coachee/mentee develop.

What is the case for Coaching?

Essentially, the purpose of coaching can be at an individual or organisational level. For individual coaching, sessions can help an individual to reach their full potential by finding their direction.  In sessions with a coach, your coach will help you to focus on what is important and hold you to account for commitments you make in session.  During coaching, a coachee starts to develop their confidence and motivation – they develop a growth and winning mindset to help them achieve their potential.  A coach may also help a coachee to identify any destructive behaviours, that may be holding them back. 

For organisations committed to developing a coaching culture, staff feel empowered, confident and motivated.  Staff also have the ability to develop enhanced leadership skills.  This in turn can help to reduce staff turnover and to increase productivity.  Within organisations, team/group coaching can also be undertaken. 

What happens in session?

Sessions usually start with a greeting and a quick chat. Coaches usually follow models, such as the TGROW model.  This helps to ensure that the session is structured.  During your session, you will be establishing the Theme for the session. Your coach will move the session on to help you with setting the Goal, by asking a clear question such as  “What can we discuss today, that will have the greatest impact on you?” As you speak about the goal, you will establish the Reality of the situation, this will move into generating Options, where you will discuss with your coach, different options that you can take to help you achieve your goal.  Working with your coach you will identify an option you would like to explore and work on.  This moves you to the Will and committing to work on your chosen option in between sessions.

In session, your coach may take notes, this serves as a reminder for your coach between your sessions.

How much coaching do I need?

Remember that coaching is short-term.  Coaches offer different plans.  For example, I offer a 1 hour clarity session, 3 * 1 hour sessions taken weeks apart, or 6 * 1 hour sessions taken weeks apart for private clients.  However, if an organisation has made coaching available to staff, then the availability and structure offered will be different.

Remember, the time in between sessions is when you are able to explore the option(s) that you decide on during your coaching session.

What happens if I don’t achieve between sessions?

In session, you will discuss and explore with your coach, areas such as – What did you do instead of the chosen option”, “What did you learn between sessions?” and other questions designed to help you to unlock and unblock.  In the session, you will gain awareness of what is preventing you from achieving or holding you back.  During coaching, you will learn about yourself. Your coach is there to support you.  It’s your session.


Here are a few tips of my tips for individuals considering coaching and also to manage your coaching journey;

  • Before committing to coaching, have a short call/chat with your coach.  These are usually 15-30 minutes and ensure your coach understands your needs.  This call will usually give both parties an opportunity to develop a rapport which is important for a trusting coaching process.
  • With online coaching – ensure where possible to log on 5-10 minutes before hand to ensure all equipment is working.
  • With face-to-face coaching – arrive in good time and wait until your appointment time, coaches will usually have discussed this with you, as they may well be in a coaching session prior to your session.
  • Ensure that there isn’t any noise or other distractions during your coaching session.
  • Have a glass of water handy.
  • Keep pen and paper handy, there will be things that you wish to make a note of in session that will help you between sessions to unlock your potential. 
  • Use a coach that is registered with a coaching association such as The Association for Coaching.

Still need to be convinced?

Here is a quote from Bill Gates, that he used as an opener to a TED talk.

Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player. We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.

This is a powerful illustration of the value that one of the top business people of our time places on coaching.

Beverly Clarke is a Coach and Mentor and coaches for organisations including BCS-The Chartered Institute for IT and STEM Learning/National Centre for Computing Education

She also coaches private clients, to coach privately – visit and quote Nexus2023 to receive half price off a “clarity coaching session” (valid until the end of July 2023)

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The author

Beverly Clarke is a Coach and Mentor. A TechWomen100 award winner with a diverse portfolio, she combines a career in Education consulting with Authoring, Coaching and Mentoring. She is an ILM Qualified Coach and Mentor, additionally she holds a STEM Learning Coaching and Mentoring qualification.

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