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Demystifying Coaching

Where did it all begin?


I’m taking you back to 1974, the year of two general elections, the resignation of US President Nixon and McDonald’s first UK restaurant in Woolwich, south east London. 


You may not know that 1974 also marked the birth of modern-day coaching.


Timothy Gallwey, a Harvard educationalist and tennis expert, published a book entitled “The Inner Game of Tennis” that shook the sporting world. He proposed that, instead of merely telling a player what they are doing wrong so they can correct their technique, they consider their internal mental state.  


Gallwey argued that ‘the opponent within one’s own head is more formidable than the one on the other side of the net.’ He believed that if a coach could help a player tackle the internal obstacles, a player’s natural ability to learn and perform would emerge without much technical input from the coach. You can improve performance by growing potential and decreasing interference.


Over the years Gallwey sought others to help propel his ideas into the world of sport. Sir John Whitmore, who partnered with Gallwey, took the methods of Gallwey’s Inner Game and applied them to the business world under the umbrella of ‘Performance Coaching’.  His definition of coaching is:


unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance


The fundamental aim of coaching is to help others learn rather than be taught - paradoxically instruction disrupts our natural built-in learning capabilities. Our potential is already built within us, all we require are the right conditions to bring it out. 

Common perceptions .…or misconceptions of coaching


  • “Coaches are mentors”: unlike a mentor, a coach is an expert in coaching, not in the profession of the client. In order to ensure that the coach does not undermine a client’s sense of responsibility and self-awareness, they will not generally pass down their knowledge. Instead, a coach will focus on the foundation of the coaching relationship, the client’s professional and/or personal development. 


  • “Coaching is therapy”: therapy is designed to assist those who are experiencing unmanageable or overwhelming challenges in their lives and explore such issues at length. Coaching is forward-focused and led by the client - you partner with the coach on your journey to be the best version of yourself.

Benefits of Coaching


In the workplace many employees are demanding a shift from the traditional form of leadership of maximising profits towards a greater emphasis on ethics and values. Individuals are seeking greater meaning and purpose in the work they do and organisations must adapt to this if they are to retain their top talent. As Whitmore states, ‘lead for others rather than for oneself.’ 


Coaching provides a fantastic opportunity for individuals and their organisations to adapt and grow in this changing world. 


Through coaching, the individual can develop: effective leadership skills; increased self-awareness; greater motivation; a healthy work/life balance; and the ability to adapt to change. At an organisational level, coaching has been proven to improve performance; lead to higher productivity and profitability; manage conflict; reduce absenteeism; increase employee happiness; and lead to a more open culture of trust and learning.


The need for coaching has never been greater.  An investment in coaching provides a sustained return over the long-term, particularly as many individuals and organisations are re-thinking career paths, the way they do business and where they do business. Failing to recognise the benefits of coaching closes the door to some of the greatest resources we have - ourselves and our people.

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