Coaching 101 – Part 1

“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”

~ Bob Nardelli


In honour of International Coaching Week which takes place from May 7 to May 13, and, in honour of all professional coaches the world over, this month’s theme will explore this constantly evolving discipline in a quest to educate members of the public who are interested in knowing more about it.


The International Coach Federation has celebrated International Coaching Week since 1999 and sums up International Coaching Week as, “a week-long celebration that educates the public about the value of working with a professional coach and acknowledges the results and progress made through the coaching process.”

What also inspired me to conceptualize this theme are some of the messages that I receive in the inbox of my official page @HigherSelfCoaching on Facebook. One message went something like this, “I don’t know what you do exactly, but I think I need your help”. This lack of knowledge about the coaching profession then usually translates, in my experience, into attitudes and actions that attempt to devalue it in subsequent interactions. It is therefore incumbent on professional coaches to also raise awareness and educate the public about coaching and the transformative value it holds for individuals, families and organizations.


Unfortunately, the coaching profession is not regulated in most countries, including South Africa and Lesotho, but COMENSA, the largest body in South Africa regulating the profession registered with the government as a self-regulated entity in 2014 to address the and other concerns. As a result, COMENSA members have to abide by codes of conduct and ethical standards, credentialing processes and continuing professional development based on international benchmarking. As a result of the lack of regulation, the unsuspecting public is often at risk of being coached by incompetent and unethical people calling themselves coaches when they have no business doing so. Paradoxically, the need and demand for coaching has increased exponentially globally and even in some segments of South African society, this is evident.


Going back to my prospective client in the Facebook inbox, why should they invest their hard-earned resources in a coaching programme? I’ll use the sporting profession to make my point. Think of any sporting great, from Jackie Robinson to Caster Semenya, and Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods in between. Think of any team sport and a soccer team like Manchester United which has rewritten the history books with arguably the best soccer coach to date, Sir Alex Ferguson. There is one central figure in all these sporting narratives, a coach. Undoubtedly, these are all naturally gifted sportsmen and women so why would they need a coach? People need coaches because performance and results matter. Performance and results matter whether on the field, in the boardroom and in the trenches. If you care about living out your purpose on this planet and using up this precious gift called Life productively, then it’s about performing at peak and marshalling all your talents and interior resources to live your best life. Performance matters whether on the field or in the boardroom or in the trenches. If Cristiano Ronaldo, Gabby Douglas and Chad le Clos need coaches in their world of work, why shouldn’t you? Why shouldn’t your organization? Why shouldn’t the leadership of the organization?


A professional coach is not attached to your problems or mental stories and has to maintain a certain level of detachment that makes them view your problems from a vantage point of objectivity. A professional coach is not a robot either so she or he will empathize but won’t let you stay mired in the mud of your self-sabotage and self-victimization because they know that you’re better than that. Professional coaches understand your neurological wiring, they understand human behavior and personality types and can creatively use this knowledge to guide you to become the best version of yourself. Professional coaches have a thirst for ongoing, cutting-edge knowledge that makes them great at what they do and do everything that they can to continue to grow into the best that they can be for themselves and for you. Instead of cheering you on from the side lines with nice-things-to-say, they provide you with scientifically tested tools from a wide array of coaching methodologies. There’s method, there’s strategy and there’s deep analysis in what professional coaches do. There’s also significant life experience and broad-ranging knowledge of the world of work.


So, take Club Sporting Genius, a fictional soccer team sitting in the lower end of the premier league table after years of winning the Championship. Things have not been going well for Club Sporting Genius but a new, renowned Head Coach, The Special One, has just been recruited. The Captain, Mbali Ndumo, can’t lead her teammates due to internal personality and behavior deficiencies that she is not conscious of and the goalkeeper, Palesa Mokoena, who also plays for the national soccer team, doesn’t get along with the entire defence. Club and country duty perpetually stress Ms. Mokoena and she has reached the lowest depths of her career. To complicate life further, the Club Chairperson, Madame Micro Manager, wants to dictate to the Head Coach who to play and how to play. The fans, essentially the customers of the company, are unhappy and unruly and the gloating press is having a field day. Dysfunction reigns at Club Sporting Genius. A professional coach will however go in with a cool head, devise an overall strategy and playing tactics, wisely and productively engage all levels of the Club, from the players, technical staff to the Chairperson and ensure that the Club regains its former glory. In life, you win, you lose, you gel, you don’t gel, you disappoint yourself and others, but a professional coach is there to help you keep a proper perspective, capacitate you in ways that actually matter and to help you dig deep, where the gold is.


The International Coaching Federation (ICF) sums up the value of coaching best:


“Professional coaching has the power to transform individuals and organizations. The best way to discover this is to experience coaching firsthand.”


In the next blog post, I will provide an overview of the major coaching specializations. Have a great week ahead!