The characteristics of professional coaching

by admin | on Oct 14, 2013 | No Comments

In the article There is coaching and there is coaching, we have seen that, although there are differences between coaching, mentoring, consulting, training and psychotherapy, the boundaries between these different types of interventions remain somewhat difficult to draw.

To move further in the understanding of coaching, I propose to delve more deeply into the specifics of professional coaching (and when I say professional, it refers to the coaching practiced by a professional coach, be it in the professional or personal life of the client).


After having analysed several definitions, I have chosen, as the starting point for this article, one from Vincent Lenhardt and Laurent Buratti in Le coaching (Collection Découvrir, InterEditions, 2007, 978-2-10-050212-7).

Coaching is the process of supporting a person or a community of people with the aim of developing the human potential of individuals or organisations, in a global and lasting way.


The underlying philosophy of the coaching process is based on the following axioms borrowed from the realms of humanistic psychology:

  • Every human has a positive part (it is the handsome Prince hidden in the frog, just waiting to break free)
  • Every human being is responsible for the choices they make.
  • Every human being is capable of changing and developing their potential.
  • Every human being is capable of being the pilot of their own change.

It is with this philosophy that the coach supports clients in the development of their potential.


Regardless of the objectives pursued by the clients, when working with them the coach remains focussed on the following higher intentions:

  • Keep «the essential at the heart of the important» V. Lenhardt
    According to the phrase borrowed from V. Lenhardt, beyond the stated objective of the client and their current issue (the ‘important’), it is key to make sure that the client, as a human being (the ‘essential’), is at the centre of the debate.
  • Lead the client towards autonomy
    This is to help clients to become fully aware of their own potential and as a consequence to get them to think and act for themselves.  Compared to a consultant, the coach encourages clients to find their own solutions. This does not prevent the coach from offering knowledge and advice when appropriate in helping the client progress.
  • Extend the range of possibilities and develop the ability to choose
    This is to help clients to recognise and overcome their limiting beliefs and behaviours and to open up to new opportunities, to develop their potential and become the pilot of their life, rather than accept and suffer it.


The approach of a professional coach is characterised by the following perspectives.

  • Global
    In their work, coaches look at clients from a systemic perspective. They consider the whole complexity of the human being and all their dimensions: professional, social, private, familial, psychological, spiritual…  With a concern of ecology, they make sure their intervention preserves and promotes alignment and balance between these different facets of the clients’ identity.
  • Lasting
    Ensuring that changes are global and as lasting as possible, and that solutions adopted today do not become the problems of tomorrow.
  • Contractual
    The coach ensures that the objectives, scope, limits and modalities of coaching are clarified and agreed with the client in a written or oral agreement.
  • Professional and ethical
    A professional coach adheres to the code of ethics as issued by a coaching association such as ICF  (International Coach Federation) or EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) or have their own specific charter, based on the ideas of the above.  I will not delve into great detail here; basically it comes down to respect confidentiality, the spirit I have expressed in this article and the law.  It is also important that the coach is trained in coaching, has done and ideally pursues work on themselves and is under supervision (that is question their own practice with the help of an more experienced coach), and to continue in their own training.

I hope this article has shed some light on the characteristics of professional coaching and I invite you to join me for the next article, third and last one of this series, which deals with the ‘magic of the coaching process’.

Categories: Coaching @en

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