Background to Coaching

Building awareness and responsibility is the essence of good coaching~John Whitmore 

Many people ask what is coaching and what is  the difference  between coaching and therapy or counseling? In this section you will find pages that explain that difference, explore the opportunities for life change & transition with coaching, and discuss existential coaching. The essence of coaching is simple - it aims to build awareness and encourage self responsibility.

Jeffrey Auerbach has said that coaching is the process of helping otherwise well functioning people achieve their personal or professional goals.  Personal (life) coaching  helps individuals achieve important goals and often relates to matters of individual development, life balance, health, career and life satisfaction. Often personal coaching helps clients who are passing through a transition, such as divorce or retirement.  In contrast, executive coaching concerns itself with performance, development and fulfillment at work (Auerbach 2001).

The International Coach Federation (ICF)  defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential…Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.”

The ICF suggests the role of the coach has  five parts:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

All of these may help clients  improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.

Self awareness is crucial for success not only in business but also in life in general. The Korn Ferry Institute issued a report about self-awareness in 2010 that says "research shows that leaders can improve their performance simply by becoming more self-aware…it is critical for leaders to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses in order to reach their potential and avoid derailment" You can read more at  at: and the report is available here.


Auerbach, J. E. (2001). Personal and executive coaching : a guide for mental health professionals. Ventura, CA : Executive College Press.

Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance : GROWing human potential and purpose. Boston : Nicholas Brealey.

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