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Coaching Definitions

Coaching Definitions

There are many definitions old and new that aim to describe business, professional or executive coaching. The list that follows simply aims to collect a number of the best of these definitions to allow individuals to choose the one that seems to best capture the subject.

“A process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful coach requires a knowledge and understanding of the process as well as the variety, skills and techniques appropriate to the context in which coaching takes place.” — Eric Parsloe

“Coaching is a method for helping others to improve, develop, learn new skills, find personal success, achieve aims and manage life change and personal challenges” — Laura Whitworth

“Coaching is the process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to fully develop themselves to be effective in their commitment to themselves, the company, and their work. It is a collaborative relationship focused on enabling an individual to become his or her “best self”. The Coach’s role is to facilitate discovery as well as the professional development of the individual.” — Corporate Coach University

“Professional Coaching is an ongoing relationship which focuses on you taking action towards the realization of your visions, goals, or desires. Coaching uses a process of inquiry and personal discovery to build your level of awareness and responsibility, and provides you with structure, support, and feedback.” — ICF

“Coaching is a powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness, and fulfillment.” — Coaches Training Institute

“Coaching involves expanding people’s capacity to take effective action.” — Robert Hargrove

“Executive Coaching is a facilitative one-to-one, mutually designed relationship between a professional coach and a key contributor who has a powerful position in the organization…The coaching is contracted for the benefit of a client who is accountable for highly complex decisions with wide scope of impact on the organization and industry as a whole. The focus of the coaching is usually focused on organizational performance or development, but it may also serve a personal component as well.” — Lee Smith and Jeannine Sandstrom

“The essence of executive coaching is helping leaders get unstuck from their dilemmas and assisting them to transfer their learning into results for the organization.” — Mary Beth O’Neill

“Executive coaching is defined as a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioral techniques and methods to assist the client achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve his or her professional performance and personal satisfaction and consequently to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organization within a formally defined coaching agreement.” — Richard R Kilburg

“Coaching is a one-on-one development process formally contracted between a professional coach and a management-level client to increase the client’s managerial and/or leadership performance, often using action learning.” — Robert J. Lee

“Coaching is not telling people what to do; it’s giving them a chance to examine what they are doing in light of their intensions.” — James Flaherty

“Executive Coaching is aimed at inspiring executive leaders to make behavioral changes which transform themselves and the people around them thereby increasing business results and performance.” — Jeremy Robinson

“The process of empowering others” — Sir John Whitmore

‘A process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve’ — Parsloe and Wray

‘Coaching is about change and transformation – about the human ability to grow, to alter maladaptive behaviours and to generate new, adaptive and successful actions. A coach supports us in the sometimes difficult process of change’ — Zeus and Skiffington

“Coaching is about performing at your best through the individual and private assistance of someone who will challenge, stimulate and guide you to keep growing.” — Gerard O Donovan

“A collaborative relationship which forwards action or deepens understanding, based on trust and integrity.”  In this sense, coaching “focuses on the goals, development and dreams of the congregation being coached, with specific expectations for growth.”  Successful coaching, therefore, is “a mutual conversation that follows a predictable process and leads to superior performance, commitment to sustained improvement, and positive relationships.” — Denis Kinlaw

“Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life. In each meeting or call, the Coach listens and contributes observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the client into effective action.” — Marcia Wieder

“Coaching is an open-ended process in which an individual obtains expert input so as to achieve better long-term performance and results than may have been possible by operating alone.” — Dr Jon Warner

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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  1. lale turanMarch 5, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Hi Jon,

    Excellent list! I might add few of these to my website. Very helpful, Thank you!


    • Dr. Jon WarnerMarch 26, 2013 at 7:27 pmAuthor

      You are welcome Lale.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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