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  • Janelle Woo

What the Heck is Coaching? Why Coaching?

What are coaching skills?

We see a coaching approach as the core set of skills that support people in growing awareness, uncovering their own wisdom and taking action on it.

Coaching skills are about guiding people to their own answers and insights, to help grow and empower their own resources.

Without these skills we may...

  • hand-hold unnecessarily,

  • diminish independence,

  • expect compliance,

  • limit ideas,

  • take too much responsibility for something,

  • constrain choices.

Coaching skills are becoming increasingly prevalent within organizations and for leaders. These skills are important for us to cultivate, especially in helping professions and in reflective leadership. They are essential because of how effective they are in sustaining change, and they are often under-developed in our field.


As creators of Coach Social Change, we've seen how powerful a coaching approach can be in our social change efforts both as external coaches and working internally in a non-profit environment.


The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as…

partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.

The ICF also outlines 8 core competencies of coaching. As the largest global coaching certification body, we align with the competencies and ethics of ICF and use this community as a foundation for skill development.


In fact these competencies provide the grounding for the professional skills we develop in our courses, including our Foundations Course. Beyond influence from ICF, we’ve integrated our latest learning in the neuroscience of change, including leveraging the mind-body connection in how we learn, grow and sustain change.



Coaching skills in helping professions


In helping professions, we don't work with machines, we work with humans - who are messy, imperfect, uncontrollable and unpredictable. It's challenging when juggling tasks and the people we serve, and a coaching approach is an extremely effective client-centered way of supporting others.

It's an approach that helps build...

  • Resourcefulness and self-determination;

  • A sense of empowerment and necessary boundaries;

  • Increased buy-in, trust and psychological safety;

  • Follow-through, accountability and ownership;

  • Opportunities for new ideas, creativity and a learning mindset;

  • Resilience, by decreasing caretaker, supporter or leadership burnout;

  • A sense of being seen, heard and celebrated;

  • Alignment, fulfillment and increased impact.

You can see why we think this is so useful in our social change efforts! Thinking about our current paradigms in how we work, what do you see as most useful? What would be possible if we cultivated more of this?



Why coaching as a leadership skill?


Sometimes referred to as reflective supervision, coaching skills are a key way to support team members in arriving at their own conclusions, taking ownership and fostering innovation. It’s not the only skill we need when leading, and this HBR article argues a key skill to master for the complex environments we work within.



Reflection Questions:

  1. What mental models do you see within social change efforts?

  2. What intrigues you most about coaching skills or a coaching approach?

  3. What mindset shifts might be required (within yourself of the environment you work in) to step into a coaching approach?


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