Unlocking Your Personal and Professional Potential

All of us remember (some more fondly than others) opportunities in our youth to be acquainted with a great coach. He or she may have been involved in coaching a youth soccer, baseball or football team. Some of us may identify with great coaches represented in the media or in movies like Hoosiers or the recent Remember the Titans.

Often, the things we remember about coaches involve things like how they helped us push ourselves toward excellence, how they cared about us as individuals, how they were "there for us." We might recall that they were great teachers, or great motivators, or simply great role models.

Some of us with less than positive experiences might remember coaches who did not contribute to our self esteem–those who belittled us or made light of our abilities (or lack thereof). While these people might have had the title of "Coach," they do not compare favorably with coaches who were more positive influences.

And, in some cases, the greatest coaches were not called by that title at all. Sometimes they were teachers, big brothers or sisters, music teachers, scoutmasters or clergymen. But in all cases, those who truly merited the title "Coach" were those who lifted us, taught us, and helped us be better than we could have been without them.

The new consulting specialty of personal and professional coaches seeks to provide people today with a similar mentor: a "coach" in the true sense of the word. In this article, we examine the new coaching profession and how it fills a special niche in management consulting: consulting not for an organization, but for individuals.


According to Eric Parsloe, the director of the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring, coaching is "a process than enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful coach requires a knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place."

The Coaching Fact Sheet at Coach U defines coaching similarly, as a "powerful, collaborative relationship between a coach and a willing individual which enables, through a process of discovery, goal setting, and strategic actions, the realization of extraordinary results."

How Coaching Works

For an individual, a coach is a mentor, motivator, planner and consultant rolled into one. The coach works privately with an individual, typically in person or by telephone. They usually begin with a personal strategic planning process, in which the coach assists the individual in assessing his or her strengths and weaknesses, exploring opportunities for success and inherent challenges that threaten success. The individual, led by the coach, sets goals, personally and professionally. The coach then periodically meets or consults with the individual in reaching their goals. The coach will assist in eliminating doubts and removing barriers to peak performance.

Modern coaches may use various technological means to manage the success process including telephone, e-mail, web interfaces and accountability mechanisms. In any case, the value of personal and professional coaching is in the ability to have an external impetus to internal focus; accountability and flexibility are keys to successful coaching.

Corporate Coaching

Applying the coaching model to various levels of an organization can improve organizational performance by improving individual development. Establishing a core group of people in an organization with coaching competency and using their skills can enhance morale, improve motivation, stimulate productivity and reduce turnover. Coaching is more than training, however; it is the practical application of the training process.


As Timothy Gallwey, the author of The Inner Game of Tennis, observed, "Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them." Coaching is designed as a way of unlocking potential through a systematic approach to success. It has shown great promise in the lives of individuals and organizations in improving productivity and programming for success.