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The Coaching FAQ
Top Origins of the term "coaching"
Top A definition of coaching
Top What exactly is Executive Coaching?
Top How do corporate coaches identify my strengths and my barriers to success?
Top How does coaching differ from mentoring?
Top Who is a good candidate for participation in coaching?
Top How do business coaches know what my company expects of me in this process?
Top Typically, how much time does the coaching process take?
Top What information from the sessions does the coach reveal to my company?
Top Is coaching supposed to make me a different person or change my personality?
In Partnership with Your Organization


On this page are a number of questions frequently asked by professionals like yourself who are considering, or are about to engage in, an executive coaching process.

Like any new experience, questions arise and our curiosity is piqued. It is our hope that many of those questions you may have will be addressed in this FAQ section.

If this is your first experience with coaching, I hope the process will prove to be as rewarding and enriching for you as it is for us in the delivery of this work and, the passion we have for the work we do.

If this FAQ does not address all of your questions, please feel free to pick up the phone and call me or, email me directly and I will be happy to assist you in any way I can.

Kind regards,

Stephen Xavier

Origins of the term "coaching" -

In the earliest use of the word "coach" it described a carriage; a mode of transportation, that carried royalty and other privileged and successful people from one place to another.

In view of the growing popularity of coaching in the world of business, what is interesting is that the next use of the term " coaching" was in education and then in sports. Only recently, has the term been associated with business. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb "to coach" as to "tutor, train, give hints to, prime with facts". In education, the connotations of the term still pertain to instructing - specifically, preparing a pupil to perform well in an examination.

In sports, by contrast, the term began slowly to evolve in meaning in the 1970's - from instructing the learner/athlete how to perform better to enabling the learner to understand what it is that impedes high performance. Coaching now began to take on a new meaning -- helping the learner to learn as well as teaching him/her to perform. Interestingly, this was not as innovative as it perhaps seemed - Socrates had voiced the same distinction between teaching to perform and helping to learn 2000 years previously.


A definition of coaching -

Understanding these origins enables us to understand the two distinct definitions of executive coaching in present-day management development. The two definitions show that Socrates distinction between teaching to learn and teaching to perform is still embodied in the two separate, but related, forms of executive coaching. They are:

Although both types of executive coaching are evident in the management development field, it appears that the former predominates today. This may be as a result of the powerful demand for management development processes that deliver measurable improvements in performance and business results.

At Cornerstone we believe that a unique combination of the two forms sets our work apart and ensures greater levels of success with our executive clients. We believe that the combination of the two deepens and enriches the process and, in our experience, propels the coaching client into a deeper more introspective process seldom seen in stand-alone Performance or Development Coaching models.

Further benefits of the combined styles is evidenced in our clients being more easily able to complete the coaching engagement with our coaches with measurable performance improvements; and, pursue a "new" role as coaches themselves by engaging more with their own direct reports in more of a coaching and mentoring capacity then they had experienced previously.

This dynamic serves our clients and their organizations in a two-fold capacity; first, it ensures that the changes we have helped the client create are lasting and, we co-create a model within our client organizations that creates less reliance on outside consultancy. This increased internal capacity - or "bench strength" - further increases the likelihood of successful succession among managers and other emerging organizational leaders.


What exactly is Executive Coaching?

Executive Coaching is based somewhat on the model of sports coaching. Just as coaches in sports help good players achieve peak performance, business coaches help technically proficient professionals and executives overcome barriers to ongoing success in their careers.


How do corporate coaches identify my strengths and my barriers to success?

Corporate coaches understand what it takes to become and remain successful in today's extremely competitive and ever-changing business climate. They are people who have in-depth knowledge of organizational systems and cultures and how these two factors influence individual performance.

A qualified coach also has considerable experience working in the business world, typically in a corporate position prior to consulting or, they may have backgrounds in Personal or Organizational Psychology and related fields.

Through in-depth interviewing with the coaching client coupled with the use of 360 Feedback Assessments and related tools, the coach can pretty easily paint a picture of how the client is perceived in his or her organization. That "picture" includes externally perceived strengths and areas in need of improvement. It also includes the client's own perceptions with regard to strengths and areas to improve as well.

Once this data has been collected and analyzed by the coach, barriers to success are more easily recognized and more easily worked with going forward.


How does coaching differ from mentoring?

An equally popular management development process, and one which is often confused with developmental coaching, is mentoring. Eric Parsloe, in his book "Coaching, Mentoring and Assessing" defines both terms in a way that is echoed by many other writers in this field. Coaching, he says, is;

"...directly concerned with the immediate improvement of performance and development of skills by a form of tutoring or instruction. "

By contrast, mentoring, he says, is,

"... always one step removed and is concerned with the longer-term acquisition of skills in a developing career by a form of advising and counseling."

The widely accepted distinction between coaching and mentoring, thereby, can be seen in two ways:

They have different purposes, coaching being short-term performance improvement, and mentoring being long-term career development; they require different methods - coaches 'instruct' and mentors 'counsel'

In fact, the way in which Parsloe defines the purpose and methodology of mentoring makes it look similar in some respects to what he have defined here as "developmental coaching". In other words, mentoring is really not distinct from coaching at all if one takes a broader view of coaching - encompassing both of Socrates' notions of education - learning to perform and learning how to learn.

The Cornerstone model of coaching, therefore, embraces the characteristics of both developmental and performance styles of coaching. Our approach to executive coaching is:

A process between a coach and a learner, which seeks to enhance the client's capacity to maximize his/her potential to learn as a manager and leader and/or, to improve performance in specific areas of management and leadership. And, to bring that learning to the next level - developing increased bench strength to ensure successful management and leadership succession.

The methods used by our coaching team in this process can range from facilitation of the learner's self-awareness of how to grow and develop to more structured, directive techniques such as clarifying expectations, identifying shortfalls, pinpointing a desired higher level of performance, agreeing on strategies of achieving this level and confirming commitment to the learning process.


Who is a good candidate for participation in coaching?

In general, professionals who have a strong desire to develop themselves in a very focused way are good candidates. These individuals have been identified, usually by internal processes, as "Ready Now, High Potentials" and are on a track towards higher levels of responsibility in their organization.

Although anyone can participate in coaching, it is most beneficial for people who are open to feedback, flexible about making changes, and willing to see themselves as others see them. It is not recommended for people who are simply not willing to change their behavior.


How do business coaches know what my company expects of me in this process?

Coaches utilize a wide variety of assessment tools to learn about the specific areas in which you can be more effective. Typically, they conduct interviews with your management, colleagues, and staff; use 360-degree feedback instruments or other related self-evaluation assessments.

Equally important is that the individual's development goals be closely aligned to his or her department goals and, to the organization's long-term goals as well. This ensures that your growth path is in synch with where the organization is going and, will more likely keep you on a path towards assuming positions of higher responsibility as your career advances.

A model that we often follow in a process such as this is to define the goal-setting aspect of the engagement in this way; all goals set and agreed upon must be:

S - specific
M - measurable,
A - agreed on
R - realistic -- achievable
T - timed - have a set beginning and end timeframe for completion

A key to the success of this process is a meeting between you, your boss and the coach at the start of the coaching engagement. During that meeting, an open dialogue takes place between the three of you to discuss and agree on your specific development goals. It is that very level of open and honest discussion and agreement that further ensures success in the process.


Typically, how much time does the coaching process take?

In order to allow the maximum time possible for behavioral change to be understood and develop, coaching can take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on the level of involvement of the person being coached. During that time, you will meet one-on-one with your coach for several hours; usually, two 90-120 minutes per month for a period of 6-12 months.

In addition to the dialogues that occur in the one-to-one sessions, the coach will frequently assign reading to you between these sessions and assign other homework as well. The between-sessions work can prove to be an enriching experience in that it allows you to practice, in real-time, what you are learning in the sessions.


What information from the sessions does the coach reveal to my company?

The coaching relationship is a confidential one. Coaches will share only information directly related to helping you achieve your goals. They will not reveal any information obtained in interviews, meetings with you, or from feedback instruments. They might prepare an action plan to help your manager continue the coaching process in the workplace.

In some organizations, however, an HR Rep may be involved in the process. Typically, their involvement includes reviewing the 360 data to assist the lead coach in making the best match of coach to client based on needs. However, that level of interaction by someone outside of the coaching relationship is rare.

Next, that same HR Rep may participate in both initial goal-setting meetings with you and your boss and, in any mid-engagement reviews with the coach and your boss. These mid-engagement reviews are designed to "check-in" to ensure that the boss, coach and client are aligned to previously agreed upon development goals and, that some progress is occurring.

These sessions prove to be invaluable in that they ensure alignment to goals and, often serve as a forum to support the client through feedback regarding progress made up to this point in the engagement.

At every stage, however, it is important to note that the coach never reveals session content and, the HR Rep is bound by the same rules of confidentiality as the coach.

The only exception to the confidentiality rule is if the client makes the coach aware that he or she has broken the law or, has the intention to break the law and cause harm to self or others.


Is coaching supposed to make me a different person or change my personality?

Definitely not. Coaching is based on the premise that you're already doing things right, and simply need to complement existing strengths with complementary skills taught to you by the coach.

The coach's job is to assist you in identifying strengths and areas in need of development to enhance your professional skills and, assist you in advancing your career.

Although many therapists practice as business coaches, there are ethical questions that arise from that dynamic. The Therapist-as-Coach can indeed be effective in supporting a client to strive towards improved performance; however, the approach must remain within the appropriate structure of a business coaching engagement, not a therapeutic one.

In the end, business coaching is designed to support you in achieving higher levels of success in your career, not engage you in any form of psychoanalysis.


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