Coaching for success

By Pelican director Cheryl Bennett

In business, as in life, people encounter barriers that prevent them achieving their goals. Coaching can help you overcome these barriers and realise your potential. So what is it, and is it something you would benefit from?

What is executive coaching?

Coaching uses conversation and questioning techniques to identify and unlock the barriers to development and explore how to improve performance. Sometimes a therapeutic approach is employed if the coach is skilled in the appropriate techniques. Training or learning can also be included, depending on the client’s requirements.

Unlike training however, coaching is done on a one-to-one basis and is more ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’.

The idea is that the coach doesn’t necessarily supply the answers, but encourages the ‘coachee’ to find those answers through careful facilitation and acting as a sounding board.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.” ― Socrates.

Because the sessions are one-on-one, those receiving coaching can talk in confidence and raise issues they might not in a classroom. Progress is usually fast, as it is a more tailored approach to development.

Sometimes coaching is required for a specific topic such as motivation, confidence or managing difficult situations. Other times, a manager or director will feel the need for a coach to support in a new role or when dealing with a difficult transition. Board directors or business owners may benefit from having a coach to call on from time to time to help them see things from a different perspective: someone who might challenge them when others do not.

What’s the difference between a coach and mentor?

Some organisations have mentoring programmes where an employee is partnered with a mentor to help progress that individual. A mentor is a trusted advisor – someone within the business who knows ‘how it works around here’ and has the knowledge and contacts needed to get on. It’s a good role for a senior person who may be heading for retirement, ensuring the knowledge is not lost from the business.

A coach, on the other hand, is someone outside the business who can provide an external viewpoint. They can facilitate the person being coached to come to their own decisions about a whole range of issues and situations.

How to pick a good coach.

You could contact one of the main bodies in the UK:

  • The Association for Coaching (AoC)
  • The International Coach Federation (ICF)
  • The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)
  • The European Mentoring and Coaching Council or the Association of Professional, Executive, Coaching and Supervision (Apecs).
  • The ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management)

Most of these bodies will have a list of their own ‘accredited’ coaches available in your area, but the best option is to get a recommendation. Good coaches will be happy to provide testimonials or let you talk to a client to find out how they work.

Do you need to ‘like’ your coach?

Yes! A coach is like having a best friend in that you will probably tell them things you have never told another soul.

Perhaps less like a best friend, your coach will tell you things you don’t always want to hear. Trust, confidentiality and rapport are essential to this relationship. Every coach has their own style and you need to be sure it is compatible with you.

What happens in a coaching session?

This very much depends on who you choose to work with as all coaches have an individual approach. That’s why it’s important to talk to prospective coaches to make sure they are the right fit for you.

The following is an overview of my own tailored approach, and does not necessarily reflect the methods of other coaches.

In my 25 years’ of experience, I have developed a very results-focused methodology based on my belief that to achieve success on any issue the following four steps need to take place:

  • A full understanding of the problem(s) from various perspectives
  • A clear view of the desired outcome
  • An exploration of the possible solutions
  • A commitment made to put solutions into action.

The first step is usually a personality questionnaire. This is a psychometric tool which helps the client review personality traits and understand how others might interpret them. The results also help the client see any ‘career limiters’ and possible ‘derailers’ which may impede their progress.

After this, one or all of the following techniques may be used, depending on the needs of the individual:

Taking a personal history

This includes a review of the client’s upbringing, education, family life, religious influences, health etc. Many of our beliefs are created early in life and patterns then begin to repeat themselves based on our beliefs. By uncovering some of these unhelpful beliefs we can change the way we think, our behaviour and the patterns we run.

Questioning techniques

A variety of techniques such as Socratic and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) are used to explore issues and unlock barriers to development.

Training input.

Sometimes simple advice and training input is required to supplement or refresh knowledge. These might be how to manage meetings more effectively, how to read people, improving communication style, presenting information effectively, conflict handling etc.

Hypnosis, NLP, visualisation and other therapeutic techniques

These are often useful for helping with issues such as stress, sleeping issues and lack of confidence. If there is something causing stress in our personal life, that will affect our ability to deal with workplace pressure. Alleviating one will have a positive impact on the other. Some coaches can offer a range of complementary skills


Between coaching sessions I ask my clients to work on specific tasks which have been agreed in the session. As a way of recording efforts, I provide a ‘self-coaching tool’ which is simply a form used to record events, reactions and encourages thought about what is happening. These completed forms create the basis of the following session when they are reviewed. This way each session builds on the previous one and learning becomes embedded.

If you feel you or someone in your organisation would benefit from coaching sessions, call today for an informal chat with one of our people development experts.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSR, food, packaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategy, design, content creation, public relations and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.