How does coaching work? A very good question and an important one to consider when everyone seems to either call themselves a coach or professes to do "coaching" in some way shape or form.
The first thing to understand is why coaching is the most powerful means for personal growth and professional development. This one thing actually has three elements.
The first of these elements is knowledge. In most learning environments, knowledge is transferred from one person to another through a lecture, conference speaking, lunch and learn format or even through the reading of a book or a webpage like this one. :-)
In each and every case, there will be some "discounting" that goes on as the information is transferred from one party to another primarily because situations, circumstances, personal histories, personal potential, intellectual capacity and so on are different. Think about how many times you were told something and your response was one or more of the following:
"That will never work in my situation".
"He hasn't included half the things I am facing".
"I don't have the authority, influence or whatever to do that".
Whatever that comment or thought is - is "discounting". You are discounting the knowledge transfer (not necessarily all of it but some part of it) because it doesn't reflect your reality or your truth. This is normal and natural.
So what does this have to do with coaching? When in coaching, the knowledge actually comes from the client, not the coach. Yes, you read that correctly!
Through the coaching relationship and the professional training that a credentialled coach will have received, the coach creates a safe place where the client explores their truth and comes to their own realizations about what is going on and what can be done about it. This insight and epiphanies are a huge part of what makes coaching so powerful! Fundamentally, the knowledge and insight obtained by the client is "un-discounted" and therefore 100% applicable to their situation and life.
Within The Coaches Training Institute, this is known as "Deepening the Learning" and it is hugely powerful.
Of course, knowledge in and of itself is insufficient. What else is required is some action to translate that knowledge or insight in to change. Knowing what to do and how to do it is irrelevant if it isn't' actually done.
The coaching process can involve brainstorming ideas and perspectives on how to translate the client's knowledge into a tangible course of action that will result in change. Within The Coaches Training Institute, this is known as "Forwarding the Action" and it really helps the client translate what they know into how they wish to become.
The final element of the coaching process, is the commitment peice that ensures not only that the client has taken the action necessary to translate knowledge into change but that this action and subsequent change are not forgotten or passed over. The commitment part of coaching essentially means that the client has a witness to the commitment they are making to themselves and this is critical if change is not to be a one time only sort of thing.
To be effective, change must be sustained and permanent and while some "backsliding" is to be expected, part of the coaches job is to point out when that backsliding is happening and then encourage and support the client to get back on the bus so to speak.
None of this is magic of course - it just makes sense. It is why programs like "Toastmasters" for public speaking and "Weight Watchers" for healthy eating work so well. They follow the same model of knowledge, skill/action and commitment.
Even for those who have gone through the testing or examination process at school will see that the knowledge portion (coming from the teacher) and the skills portion (from assignments, laboratories, projects etc) are followed up at the end of the term or year with an examination of some kind. The exam is as much about providing the commitment portion as it is a test of knowledge. Students will study for an exam and this is an excellent demonstration of the commitment necessary to lock in the learning. Of course, if that learning is never used again after the exam....well...then change that is learning may not actually stick around very long.