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Well known but not entirely explored. Fashionable, distinguishing, however, still arousing lots of emotions, perhaps thanks to its aura of mystery and inaccessibility. Coaching appeared also in Poland in the half of nineties of 20th century and since then has won increasing number of supporters and exponents (based on data of the Polish Chamber of Training Companies and the Coaching Center report it is estimated that there are currently over 1000 persons in Poland working as a coach, while forecasts for 2012 assume this number will triple) .

Coaching is nowadays one of the most commonly used words, treated as a buzzword, often used inadequately and exaggeratedly. Thus, it would be worthwhile to start the considerations on the phenomenon of coaching by defining what it is. 

The literature on the subject provides many definitions of coaching, but the one suggested by Julie Starr seems to express its essence fully and in the simplest way at the same time. She defines coaching as ‘a method supporting people in striving for what they really want – no matter if it concerns some specific goal or simply a lifestyle they want to create’[1].

Particularly important element of the above definition is SUPPORT, which the coach should offer their client in the course of the coaching process. Support is above all keeping the client company in difficult moments of the defeat as well as in moments of the triumph. Thus, the assistance provided this way does not consist in helping somebody out in their struggle or providing ready solutions, which is misidentified with coaching by many people. Similarly to the role of the coach, who instead of being perceived as ‘the omniscient, the mender of the world’ should be identified with the one who leads the client to their goal and offers them as best as possible conditions to let them ‘spread their wings’. The support is given at meetings, during which the coach shows their client commitment and full acceptance, motivates, provides with knowledge, presents different points of view, shares so-called good practices, suggests but never imposes. Thus, the final word, decision, choice belong to the client, which lets them take the responsibility for their own action, gives an extremely important prime mover[2] and has a positive effect on their self-esteem.

If coaching does not offer ready formulae and solutions, then perhaps it is a form of psychotherapy? 

This is also quite popular but unfortunately wrong perception of coaching.  Undoubtedly coaching and therapy have a lot in common, particularly if we refer to the Erickson’s therapy. Its key assumption, similarly to coaching, is faith in the fact that ‘people have a natural ability to overcome the difficulties and solve their problems’[3], whereas the role of the psychotherapist (similarly to coach) is help to make one aware of them and understand them. Yet, in the coaching process the resources are used for the purpose of development, not in order to heal trauma, disorders or psychological dysfunctions. Moreover, coaching is focused above all on the present and future. It does not refer to past experience – which is the clue of most of the therapeutic systems. The difference between coaching and therapy is also relevant to the supporting person, namely to her education, experience, professional qualifications. Psychotherapist, who wants to pursue the profession, not only needs to (unlike coach) hold a diploma in psychological studies, but also fulfil the number of other criteria determined in the Psychology Profession Act. As for the coach’s qualification, there are no regulations which provide for specification of this profession, hence the major risk of falling on pseudocoach, who not only lacks experience but, above all, knowledge and essential skills. Helpful in this case may be chambers, coaching communities, which associate certified coaches (certificates are issued by the International Coach Federation, the crucial task of which is to ‘determine the competence and ethical standards, provide the independent structure of coach and coaching schools accreditation as well as building a forum of experience exchange’[4]), guaranteeing the quality of provided services at the same time. 

Skills of a professional coach

According to Julie Starr[5], the crucial soft skills of a coach are as follows:

  • relation building skills – ability to create bonds based on confidence, authenticity and approval. A degree of intimacy in this type of relations constitutes the result of close relations and distance. The relation is close enough to give a feeling of freedom and commitment, and distant enough to let both coach and their client keep autonomy and independence.  Competence supporting the process of building satisfying coaching relations are: interpersonal communication (both verbal and non-verbal), assertiveness, empathy;
  • listening on different levels, but first of all active and empathic listening which requires from a coach total concentration on their client and attention to information sent by them through different communications channels (then, not only words are taken into consideration, but also the way they are said, body language, emotional component accompanying expressed content etc.);
  • asking questions – is a very important component of active listening. By asking accurate and intentional questions (especially open ones) coach shows the client not only interest, but also stimulates them, above all, to carry out numerous analyses (of situations and behaviour) leading to constructive conclusion, reflections, observations;
  • using the intuition – requires from a coach high self-awareness and trust in the knowledge either gathered from literature sources or based on experience, but also the undefinable one, instinctive of unknown origin;
  • support by feedback which enables the client evaluation of behaviour or situation by presenting it from the perspective of the other person. Feedback is constructive, if it contains objective data, and what is more, is honest, given immediately after a given behaviour, and supportive, i.e. expressed in the gentle, calm, kind way.

Apart from the above skills ‘a competent, well educated coach, should undergo 100 hours of training, at least 250 worked hours, permanent contact with the supervisor (minimum of 20 hours), recommendations from two other coaches and regularly renewed certificate in one of training centres or at the impartial examiner’[6].

It is also worthwhile to emphasise that interpersonal skills, thorough education, rich experience and excellent recommendations sometimes turn out to be insufficient in order to build a satisfying coaching relation. It occurs that there is no ‘chemistry’ between the coach and client. Then, the only and honest (both towards the client as well as the coach’s towards themselves) solution is to quit meeting and professionally cease coaching process at a given stage (by the coach).

Coaching process – stages

Coaching process usually covers about 10 sessions lasting 1.5 hour each.  Meetings with the coach are divided in stages executing the defined objective.

The first stage in the process is when the parties[7] of the coaching relation get acquainted, the coach introduces themselves, presents their experience, role in the coaching process, collects the necessary information about the client, provides knowledge on coaching, the principles and procedures applicable in coaching, defines the preliminary goals and areas of coaching, proposes the schedule of meetings. Similarly the client who also carries out the self-presentation, tells about their preliminary expectations regarding coaching, role of the coach, presents that how they sees and understands their position in the coach-client relation.

The second stage, except for the coach’s exploration of the core of the problem reported by the client (or the sponsor), includes a crucial element in the form of coaching contract in writing. The contract constitutes the set of norms and rules adopted and accepted by coach and client (e.g. confidentiality principle, possibility of redefining goals, principles concerning passing on the feedback to the third parties, e.g. to the sponsor etc.) refers also to the goals which are supposed to be accomplished, determines the execution time.

The following longest stage is the right coaching actions leading to the client’s development. The aim of these actions is to make the client aware and activate their internal resources of the client, essential to accomplish the established coaching purposes and raise the personal effectiveness of the client. At this stage, the current analysis of the competence and skills acquired by the client is carried out. Furthermore, the consistency of the coaching action direction is verified in the context of the originally established purposes and assumptions. 

The fourth stage finishes the whole process – closure of the coaching process.  Then summing up is carried out (the oral form of summary is often accompanied by the coach’s written report), including the thorough evaluation of the achieved results, the degree of the assumptions completion as well as the level of client’s (and sponsor’s) satisfaction with the acquired skills, knowledge, competence.

Properly conducted coaching brings multitude of advantages. Increasing personal effectiveness (as well as the effectiveness on the organizational level), improving crucial interpersonal skills, easiness in setting the goals and determination to reach them, sense of responsibility and power, increase in creativity and motivation - these are only some of them. Taking into account the goals carried out by the coaching, it is safe to say that it is becoming a part of the currently prevailing trend, and actually the present requirements concerning the permanent education and improvement. Optimistic forecasts indicating greater and greater interest in coaching, let us believe that in a dozen or so years this will stop being a luxury, which is accessible by very few people. And the fact of having a personal coach will not arouse surprise and amazement any more.

Julia Otto



Ireland S., Law H., Hussain Z., Psychologia coachingu, PWN, Warszawa 2010.

Monostori S., Jak znaleźć najlepszego dla siebie coacha, „Coaching” 2011, No. 3.

Starr J., Caoching dla menadżerów, Edgard, Warszawa 2011.

Starr J., Coaching. Proces, zasady, umiejętności, PWE, Warszawa 2005.




[1]    J. Starr, Coaching. Proces, zasady, umiejętności, PWE, Warszawa 2005, p. 18.

[2]  Sense of power is related to inner control. Subjective conviction of having impact on our life, work, interpersonal relations. It is a result of learning and education process, which includes elements such as: permission for self-reliance, creating opportunities to make decisions, positive reinforcement, appraisal, showing love, acceptance etc.

[4], [10.08.2011].

[5]    J. Starr, op. cit., p. 92.

[6]    S. Monostori, Jak znaleźć najlepszego dla siebie coacha, „Coaching” 2011, No. 3, p. 21.

[7]    Except for coach and client, the other party in the coaching relation can be also a so-called sponsor (e.g. employer), that is a person who delegates a client to a coaching training and bears costs of this method of development and support.