Friday, March 26, 2010

Origins of Coaching

The term “coach” comes from the Middle English word coche, which meant “a wagon or carriage.” In fact, the word still carries this meaning today—such as when a person travels “coach” on a railway or airline. A “coach” is literally a vehicle which carries a person or group of people from some starting location to a desired location.

The notion of coaching in the educational sense derived from the concept that the tutor “conveys” or “transports” the student through his or her examinations. An educational coach is defined as “a private tutor,” “one who instructs or trains a performer or a team of performers,” or “one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy.” The process of being a coach is defined as “to train intensively (as by instruction and demonstration).”

Thus, historically, coaching is typically focused toward achieving improvement with respect to a specific behavioral performance. An effective coach of this type (such as a “voice coach,” an “acting coach,” a “pitching coach”) observes a person’s behavior and gives him or her tips and guidance about how to improve in specific contexts and situations. This involves promoting the development of that person’s behavioral competence through careful observation and feedback.

In recent years, starting in the 1980s, the notion of coaching has taken on a more generalized and expanded meaning. Coaching in organizations involves a variety of ways of helping people perform more effectively, including project, situational and transitional coaching. Project coaching involves the strategic management of a team in order to reach the most effective result. Situational coaching focuses on the specific enhancement or improvement of performance within a context. Transitional coaching involves helping people move from one job or role to another.

Many companies and organizations are opting for coaching of these types, in place of or in addition to training. Because coaching is more focused, contextualized and individually targeted, it is frequently more cost effective than traditional training methods in producing real change.

Another rapidly developing area of coaching is that of life coaching. Life coaching involves helping people to reach personal goals, which may be largely independent from professional or organizational objectives. Similar to transitional coaching, life coaching involves helping people deal effectively with a variety of performance issues which may face them as they move from one life phase to another.

Originally written by Robert Dilts

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