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What Do Coaches Do?

What Do Coaches Do?
2 June 2015 John Moore

A purest approach to coaching sees the coach as helping people to discover and clarify what their client wants to achieve, engage in ‘self-discovery’ and to elicit strategies and solutions generated by their clients.

However, this depends of course on the nature of and type of coaching being undertaken.

Things Coaches Do

Coaches undertake a wide range of actions and processes including:

  • Helping clients to clarify their goals
  • Identifying gaps between where their client is and where their client wants to be
  • Asking thoughtful questions enabling their clients to explore gaps and issues
  • Helping their clients to develop a strategies and action plans to close the gap

They do this by creating a safe environment in which their clients can understand themselves more clearly which involves listening, asking questions, reflecting, challenging, and holding their clients to account.

What Does Jack Say?

I like what Jack Welch, former Chief Executive Officer of General Electric says about coaching:

“Does coaching work? Yes. Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will.”

In my language, this means, helping clients to define and visualise what they want to achieve, feel and be able to do, which means helping them to ‘tell it like it is – no more and no worse’ (this is the reality of their situation) and then to move forward.

Coaches Are Like Chameleons

In my world of business and executive coaching where clients demand results and impact on productivity and performance, coaching involves the selective use of a number of different roles including the following.


The Coach:

The Coach Role involves one-to-one and group coaching activities enabling clients to solve problems themselves. “Together we will explore the issues and agree how you will proceed.”

The Trainer:

The Trainer Role involves the delivery of structured workshops or training courses for clients. The Trainer Role involves the transfer and development of knowledge, skills and understanding based upon a pre-determined agenda or syllabus. “I can show, explain and train you so you can do it yourself.”

The Facilitator:

The Facilitator Role involves helping individuals and groups explore a range of issues and challenges through the use of a variety of tools and techniques. “I will help you as a group to explore the problem and reach agreement on a way forward.”

The Advisor:

The Advisor Role involves analysing client problems and proving guidance and advice on specific issues. The Advisor Role involves a limited amount of knowledge transfer. “Let me give you my analysis of the problem and recommendations on what you can do about it.”

The Broker:

The Broker Role involves identifying potential sources of help and support for clients “I am not able to help you with this, but I know someone who can.”

The Consultant:

The Consultant Role involves analysing client problems and developing and implementing solutions on behalf of clients. The Consultant Role is about solving a problem and not about transferring knowledge to clients. “I will devise and implement the solution for you.”

The Mentor:

The Mentor Role involves sharing personal experience with clients. The Mentor Role involves sharing the benefit of personal experience, wisdom and contacts. “I have been there and got the t-shirt, so let me share my experience with you.”


The skill of an Exponential Training coach lies in knowing which role best meets the outcomes that the client wants to achieve. This means adapting our approach to coaching in line with client needs and requirements. By moving between the different roles of the coach, I am in a better position to meet their needs – sometimes I might need to be more directional, sometimes I need to be more of a ‘wise old owl’ and sometimes I might need to help broker new solutions and sometimes the client needs a solution implementing quickly which is of a client-centred coaching approach and more like a solution-oriented consulting approach.

I know some of what I have said might sound like heresay to the purist coach. Exponential Training is in the business of helping businesses and individuals to improve productivity and performance. With this in mind, my team and I work with clients to understand their reality, their goals, their timescales and the resources they have available to achieve their goals, then we decide on the optimum mix of coaching roles.

Throughout the coaching cycle, it is likely that I move from one coach role to another responding to subtle changes in my client’s needs. As they become more confident and independent, nothing is more frustrating than a coach that is still using the same coaching techniques, approaches and style as they did when first working with that client.

Coaches need to learn to be chameleons.

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.


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