What Is Coaching & How Does It Work?

Apr 30 2021 | Insights
Man at a desk looking at a screen.

Coaching is becoming more accessible and available at all levels in the workplace, but how does it really function, and how can you make the most of it for your career development? Ezra looks under the hood at how coaching works, along with how employees and leaders can use it to supercharge their career plans.

Employee and leadership coaching is an increasingly common phenomenon in the workplace. If we put it into simple terms, coaching is essentially a process that helps someone improve their performance through a variety of different concepts. It can often focus on amplifying strengths and dulling weaknesses, but it can also be based on motivation and encouragement.

One of the many interesting challenges in coaching is realizing that there are multiple different ways to help someone achieve their goal. Whatever your goal might be, it’s important to understand that there are multiple paths to achieving it. Every individual has their own answer to a problem, and it’s the coach’s role to figure out how to help them reach it.

What coaching is and is not

Coaching in the workplace can often be misunderstood. Here are a couple of examples of what coaching is and is not.

What coaching is

  • Encouraging independence and autonomy

  • Identifying weaknesses and strengths

  • Being transparent and communicating clearly

  • Treating people with respect as equals

  • Challenging the way we think and encouraging change

  • Assisting in breaking out of a comfort zone

  • Exploring choices and possibilities to solve problems

What coaching is not

  • Micromanaging your every move and decision

  • Patching your weaknesses

  • Withholding information that could upset or frustrate you

  • Treating people as inferior students

  • Directing the way we think

  • Expanding the comfort zone

  • Limiting choices to make it “easier” to solve your problems

Because professional coaching often takes place within the workplace, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between real coaching and micromanagement. In short, coaching should make you feel like there’s a world of possibilities out there to guide your professional development. You should feel like there are difficult challenges ahead of you, but they’re worth conquering because they will help you learn new skills and experience unique things to boost your development.

On the contrary, coaching should not make you feel like you’re temporarily patching your weaknesses and aiming for low-hanging fruits in order to achieve professional development. It should not feel restrictive and it should not feel directed.

Self-development and coaching

Self-development is the concept of improving your character and ability through your own experiences and decisions. This is often a gradual process that happens over a very long period of time. People often note the differences between coaching and self-development, pitting them against each other as strategies for professional development.

However, the reality is that coaching and self-development complement each other in many ways.

As mentioned in the previous section, coaching is a lot about helping you understand the possibilities available to you. It opens up your worldview by suggesting different kinds of situations and scenarios to help you overcome problems. Self-development focuses on conscious improvement by focusing on personal skills, talents, and knowledge. However, it also places a heavy emphasis on embracing both weaknesses and strengths to help give you a sense of direction when learning new skills.

If self-development is about having a clear vision of your future self, then coaching is your companion that steers you in the right direction.

What coaching does to your brain

We know that coaching is all about opening you up to new possibilities and changing the way that you think. But this isn’t just a concept of theory–it’s present in the way our brain works.

Our brain isn’t a static entity. It creates neural networks and pathways all the time, linking all of our memories and emotions and different feelings. When these pathways are no longer needed or seldom used, our brain rewires our neural pathways to strengthen the things that we value more.

Unfortunately, exploring these unused neural pathways can be the key to seeing things differently. When we’re too accustomed to something, such as the way we build a comfort zone, it can be difficult to see outside that bubble. Through coaching, we can change these neural pathways to explore new possibilities and learn new ways to interact with the world around us.

A great example of this is how we can break out of our comfort zone with coaching. We see our comfort zone as actions and processes that we have grown accustomed to. This makes it difficult for us to break out of this shell. In other words, our neural pathways have strengthened so much that we can’t naturally comprehend new possibilities unless we’re given a little push. Coaching can be considered a nudge in the right direction; a leap-of-faith challenge for our brain that opens these new pathways and exposes us to a world of new opportunities and possibilities.

Getting the most from a coaching program

Coaching gives you a lot of freedom to explore your thoughts and help you understand both your limitations and your potential. In order to make the most of participating in a program, whether traditional in-person or via a tech solution like a coaching app, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Understand what your goals with coaching are. It’s a free space where you can explore your thoughts and get feedback, but you can’t be idle during this process. Every session and conversation needs to guide you in the right direction.

  • Learn what motivates and inspires you. Coaching is a great way to understand what drives you and gives you energy.

  • Define your comfort zone and fight your way out of it. Coaching can help you understand where your comfort zone lies and why you’re deep within it. Your coach can help identify ways to break out of that comfort and reach out to a world of possibilities.

  • What is success to you? This is a key question that you should be asking yourself. With your coaching sessions, you’ll be able to define what your idea of success is and your coach will help you build a pathway to that objective.

There’s no reason coaching can’t be accessible for everyone, and it’s one of the most reliable ways to learn more about yourself and gain a better understanding of what drives you. This can be a massive advantage in terms of personal development and serve as an excellent mechanism for longer term career growth support.

Super-power your organization with Ezra’s world-class employee coaching, built to fit into today’s working life. We’ve redesigned leadership coaching for the modern age to help transform people through affordable, scalable and high-impact solutions, with equitable access through our world-class coaching app. Find out today how digital coaching could make a big difference to your organization.

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