If you’re a coaching professional, that means you possess a coaching philosophy — whether you’re currently aware of it or not. It is the very thing that drives all your decisions in your work: from the direction in which you stir the coaching conversation to the way you forge your career path forward.
If you’re certified by a coaching center or you’re licensed by a coaching franchise, you might have adopted their coaching philosophy as your own. If you’re flying solo as an independent coach, perhaps you’re yet to settle for one. Either way, making your coaching philosophy a conscious decision is key for you to stay consistent with your actions and keep your integrity as a coaching professional.
Knowing what you stand for as a coach will make it easier for you to express your values, decide how you coach your clients, and know how to talk about your profession publicly. It will also serve as a compass in terms of choosing who to work with, which media outlets to be represented by, or which events to speak at.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at what a coaching philosophy is (and isn’t), the three most common coaching philosophies, and how you can develop your own.
What Is a Coaching Philosophy?
Your coaching philosophy is basically your underlying belief system about your vocation. Coaching might mean different things to different people, so it helps to define what it is for you.
It is your conviction about how best to help your clients, but it may not have a place in your coaching practice. Naturally, being settled on a coaching philosophy will determine the kind of clientele you’ll be working with and your relationship with them. It will also influence the coaching methodology you use as well as the practices you want to stay away from.
You don’t necessarily have to come up with your coaching philosophy from scratch; you can take a look at the principles that your role models act by and make them your own. In fact, if you’re taking a certification, you kinda have to do that to pass anyway.
What matters is that the philosophy of coaching you stand for is authentic to you. It’s not about debating how coaching should be done by others but about committing to your own principles, values, and ideals, that make up who you are as a professional. It’s about doing things in a way that feels right to you.
The Difference Between Coaching Philosophy and Coaching Style
It’s easy to confuse your philosophy of coaching with the coaching styles you use in your work. The main difference is that your coaching philosophy remains the same throughout your entire career. These are the core values and principles you stand by; they’re unlikely to change over time — unless you change with them.
On the other hand, your coaching style could change with every client, or even within the same coaching conversation. It adapts to who you’re working with, what their goals are, and consequently, what fits the situation.
Think of it as values vs communication: your core values as a person stay mostly the same throughout your life, but your communication style adapts to the people you interact with throughout the day.
Your coaching philosophy is also irrelevant to the type of coaching you do. You can apply the same philosophy whether you’re a business coach, health coach, life coach, or relationship coach.
Coaching Philosophy Examples
There are no set coaching philosophies, just like there’s no official “rulebook” to doing coaching right. That’s what gives you the freedom to develop your own playbook!
But you might find that some principles overlap between the philosophies most coaches advocate. For example, a lot of coaches and organizations follow the code of ethics of the International Coaching Federation, even if they’re not associated with them.
The following examples are the three most common coaching philosophies that you can draw from in your own work.
Winner’s Mindset Coaching
This coaching philosophy is largely inspired by sports coaches who drive their team to success. Just like on the sports field, they believe that there’s a clear and definitive goal to strive for with every client, regardless of the area of life or business they’re focusing on.
Their one and only agenda is to make their clients win at all costs.
They do this by “keeping their eyes on the prize,” aka reminding them of the main goal they’re working toward in every coaching session. Every other objective becomes a subset of the main goal that they’ve set at the very beginning of the coaching relationship. They choose the strategies that are most effective to help their clients reach their ultimate goal, and they motivate them to keep up their momentum.
This philosophy of coaching respects the client’s personal freedom and autonomy above everything else. Coaches who adopt this principle always make sure that they don’t advise or influence their coachee with their own agenda. Even if they share their personal experience, they do it in a way that says “This might or might not resonate with you, but this is what happened to me as an example.”
Following the principles of autonomous coaching empowers your clients to discover their own answers to their most burning questions in life. It leaves room for a change of mind, and it creates a safe space for your coachee to find their truth, independent from outside influences.
The autonomous coaching philosophy believes that the goal is personal growth itself and our life goals are only a subset of that main objective. Thus, if the objectives of the client keep changing but in the grand scheme of things they’re constantly growing and evolving, then the coaching process is deemed successful.
Coaches who follow this principle say that there’s a definitive plan or solution for every client that best suits them. However, this plan will differ from every other client’s plan, based on who they are and the challenges they’re facing.
Their main approach to coaching is developing a customized plan for the coachee with the tools and coaching models that work for them specifically. They craft a tailor-made recipe from their excessive inventory of methodology and give plenty of exercises and homework for their clients to move closer to their main objective.
How to Write a Coaching Philosophy of Your Own
Crafting your own coaching philosophy is a similar process to defining your own core values and beliefs — something you’re probably familiar with as a coach. These beliefs form the innermost part of your identity as a professional. They are so natural to you that they can easily become your blind spot.
Here’s how you can uncover them and create your very own definition of coaching.
First, Do Your Research
Look at the three examples above and other philosophies of coaching from professionals you know. Use them as reference points, and see what you agree or disagree with, to understand your own values around coaching in contrast with them.
If you’re planning to get certified by a coaching institution or to buy a coaching franchise, this can become a part of your research to choose the right opportunity. It will also serve as a compass when you select your coaching mentor, someone who will potentially have a great influence on your career.
Next, Coach Yourself
It’s time to be your own coach and get a deeper understanding of your beliefs in the context of your vocation! Answering the following questions will shed some light on what you stand for as a coach.
- What’s your own definition of coaching?
- Why is coaching important?
- What got you into this field in the first place?
- What kind of (coaching) support do you wish you had when you were going through a crisis in the past?
- What do you think should happen in a coaching conversation?
- What doesn’t have a place in a coaching conversation?
- What do you think is the most effective approach to coaching, to create the results your clients need?
- How would you describe a coaching relationship?
Finally, Distill The Essence Of It
Now that you have clarity on your yeses and nos, you can write out your coaching philosophy in a more articulated form. You can make it a part of your mission statement, turn it into a code of conduct, or write a whole one-pager about your philosophy.
Should You Share Your Coaching Philosophy?
Whether you share your philosophy with others or keep it to yourself, that’s totally up to you. As long as you act by it, it will be clear where you stand.
If you’re working with a team of coaches or you’re planning to start a coaching franchise, this can be a tool to create alignment between you and your mentees or franchisees. Turn your coaching philosophy into guidelines or a code of conduct that they can follow.
Your philosophy of coaching will also make it easier for your prospects to choose whether they want to work with you. Place it on your website, include it in your brochures, or share it personally during your discovery session.
And most of all, use it as your own inner guide to do the right thing.