Coaching Philosophy: What is It and How to Develop Your Own?

coaching philosophyCoaching comes in such wondrous variety, and so do the people who are lucky enough to work in this profession.

Fortunately, most coaches get into the business to serve others, and with that heart of service comes a pathway to a personal coaching philosophy.

Personal values and integrity in the field are an essential step in understanding the benefits that coaching brings to the world.

If you’re lucky, your trainer will help to develop this coaching philosophy well during training. Coaches are responsible for how they show up to serve their clients, and being mindful and self-aware is an integral part of that service.

Come along to read more about coaching philosophy and how it can add value to any coaching practice.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

You can download the free PDF here.

What is a Coaching Philosophy?

Having a well-defined approach for the way each client is served is a crucial part of being a coach. As coaching is used in a wide variety of areas, so too will there be a wide variety of coaching philosophies. The development of a coaching philosophy is a way to set expectations for the coach and the client.

A coaching philosophy is a coaching tool to help guide coaches in their process of coaching. Having a philosophy gives a coach clear guidance on the objectives that should be pursued and how to achieve them. While adhering to values, a coach can make consistent decisions and broader life coaching questions by sticking with their philosophy.

The ICF has taken steps to solidify a code of ethics for credentialed coaches, and the coaching philosophy is a part of this code. True coaching involves holding space for a client to allow their personal growth to lead the coaching conversation. Coaches are not advisers, but rather active listeners who are not wedded to the outcome of any coaching conversation.

Becoming well versed in the ICF Code of Ethics will aid coaches in developing the personal standards by which their clients are well served.

A coach’s stand is a great way for a coach to begin effectively determining their coaching philosophy. Through utilizing the commitment portion of the coach’s position, what one stands for clears the way for a well-served client. Unconditional positive regard is a big part of this, but a clear philosophy can be fully developed through a deep understanding of core values.

 

Developing your Coaching Philosophy

The development of your coaching philosophy should start with core values. This philosophy will reflect your moral standards as well as your integrity. For you, as a coach, to show up as your best self for your clients, you should have a deep understanding of why you got into the profession in the first place.

Here are a few questions to ask when discovering that “why.”

  • What is my motivation for coaching?
  • What type of coach do I want to be?
  • Why is coaching the right fit for me?
  • What is it that I would like to achieve with my clients?
  • What will I achieve for myself?

Each coach tells him or herself stories that may bring forth the commitments that will undermine the effectiveness of the coaching. Self-awareness in coaching is vital in delivering effective service to clients.

Here are a few examples of what a coach might unintentionally be committed to that holds them back from their philosophy and power as a coach (Lasley et al., 2015).

  • The need to be admired.
  • Ensuring the process is being done “right.”
  • The need to highlight personal knowledge.
  • Being consumed with the client’s level of comfort.
  • Being too polite.

To be an effective coach, one must step into the shoes of someone whose focus is not on the self. Most coaching philosophies are “others” focused, which allows for coaching environments where creativity and collaboration can flourish.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself in developing that coaching stand.

  • Can my clients expect that I bring my best self to each and every session?
  • Do I speak to my client’s excellence and accept nothing less than that?
  • Am I problem-solving? Or am I tapping into my client’s resourcefulness?
  • Are the coaching questions I ask in tune with the client’s agenda?
  • Am I actively listening?
  • Am I in tune with my intuition?
  • Am I bringing my whole self to each and every coaching conversation?

When a coach chooses the style in which they’ll serve their clients, there are perspectives on growth that must be acknowledged. The model or personal style of coaching can be developed by answering these questions. Expand upon what training you’ve already received to more intensely focus on the personal integration necessary for effective coaching to occur.

  • What type of client will you choose to serve?
  • What personal view of the process of change do you employ?
  • What objectives does this personal view require for growth?
  • How is accountability established for yourself and your client?
  • What personal standards will you bring to each client?

A coaching philosophy will directly impact the coach and his or her clients and the world around them. Developing this philosophy allows for a type of “standard of care” if you will. Though each conversation will be creative and unique, having a philosophy for the approach will allow the coach to show up in the same way for each person served.

Coaching conversations can shift and change direction. A coach who deeply understands his or her coaching philosophy can approach each of these conversations with curiosity and ensure their values are respected in the process. When fully in service, a coach will create space for a client to explore possibilities fully.

Here is a graphic to follow in developing your coaching philosophy.

Developing coaching philosophy graph

A step by step example of a pathway to developing a coaching philosophy is below.

1. Identify your values.

  • List 3 or more specific values. For example – mutual respect, organization, and integrity.

2. Develop a personal belief system by developing actions for each value.

  • Mutual respect. Always approach clients with unconditional positive regard.
  • Organization. Always be organized with meeting times, admin, and keeping track of progress and discussions.
  • Integrity: Always honor the trust and confidence of your clients.

3. Build a mission statement from the answers to the second part on the path.

To be a source of open-minded support for clients as an organized, safe, and honest coach providing collaborative and creative space to explore personal growth.

 

3 Examples of Coaching Philosophies

1. Sports Coaching

sports coaching philosophyWhen you say the word ‘coach’ to most people, an image of someone with a clipboard and a whistle comes to mind.

Though athletic coaches have an alternative role to other types of coaches, many of the philosophies are similar. A coaching philosophy may be developed by acknowledging the objectives of the athletes and the team, followed by the type of coach you want to be, and completed with your personal ideals.

The head football coach of the LSU Tigers, Ed Orgeron, developed his coaching philosophy by channeling Pete Carroll of the NFL. The two are wildly successful leaders of young men in the sport. They are clear about why they are serving their athletes. They are clear about how they are going to build their team into the best possible versions. They stay true to their values in the process of doing so.

Coach Orgeron’s mantra, “Always Complete,” highlights his mentality toward coaching. He considers himself as always improving and learning from mistakes. He brings his whole self to how he coaches, and the results are evident in LSU’s 2019 record. Mr. Orgeron’s coaching philosophy has played a large part in the team’s current success.

 

2. Executive/ Business Coaching

The relationship between Executive Coaches and the businesses they serve should be similar to an individual coaching relationship. The personal coaching philosophy can serve as a mission statement for the way a coach approaches coaching in business.

Creating a clear vision of the type of client served and the way they’ll be served will allow the process of coaching to reach exponential growth.

Here are some examples of coaching philosophies from several coaches established in the field:

Coaching is a relationship of equals, where accountability for moving oneself forward lies with the individual being coached, and responsibility for providing the insightful and challenging coaching to support that happening for the client lies with the coach.

Dave McKeon

We exist to make the world a better place – one courageous conversation, one liberating truth, one great leader at a time. We partner with individuals, teams and organizations to help leaders and their teams enjoy the journey.

Greg Salciccioli of Coachwell.com

 

3. Health coaching

Everyone’s health is important. What health coaches hold true is that nobody is the same. Coaching philosophy in this area of coaching must acknowledge that a “one-size-fits-all” mentality won’t work for improving health or supporting someone going through a health crisis.

Here is an example of a health coaching philosophy that would serve clients well.

They recognize that everyone is unique and different so no one diet, exercise, or way of life will work for everyone. Health coaches taylor recommendations and plans for each individual based on the individual. It’s personalized information for you.

 

A Look at Some Examples of Life Coaching Philosophy

Life coaches are similar to personal trainers. There is an element of motivation that is harnessed within a positive coach/ client relationship. A life coach’s philosophy will usually align with the ignition of personal responsibility and action toward desired outcomes.

Life coaching can be seen as an umbrella term for coaching. Beneath this umbrella, life coaches can coach in the following areas: personal growth, career, business, health, and relationships, among others. It is a powerful process through trained, skillful interpersonal interaction.

Motivation is followed by strategic planning, which is generated by the client through open-ended questioning. Once a plan is forged, a life coach will then create space to explore how the client wants to be held accountable. The process can be therapeutic, though it is not therapy. It can also bring clarity and greater illumination of purpose.

The Flourishing Center trains positive psychology coaches who may serve others as life coaches, in addition to other areas of coaching. The philosophy taught in this Applied Positive Psychology Coaching certification is one of “purna.” The word means ‘complete,’ and in this training, it is the understanding that both the coach and the client are whole and resourceful. The philosophy taught in this certification program is as follows:

I have within me all that I need. All that I have, I need. They have within them all that they need. All that they have, they need.

This philosophy allows for trained coaches to view clients as whole and resourceful. It keeps the coach in the approach that is not advising or mentoring but instead attached to intuitive questioning.

This philosophy enables the coach and client to create a collaborative space for personal growth. It allows coaches to adhere to ICF core competencies and stick to the ICF Code of Ethics with a mindset that can approach each client in the same way.

Each client is seen as the expert in their own life. With mutual respect, integrity, and commitment, coaches can serve their clients in reaching their best selves, as determined by the clients themselves. Not all life coaches are created the same, and a solid coaching philosophy will make all the difference.

This informative article outlines the differences between life coaching and positive psychology coaching.

At Positive Acorn, coaches are offered training in developing a personal coaching philosophy. Though the coaching profession is highly unregulated, training opportunities adhering to ICF standards are creating quality in the profession. Coaches who are taught to develop their personal coaching philosophy will serve their clients with increased self-awareness, confidence, and ethical integrity.

Here are some principles that every coach, in every modality, should hold true for themselves and their practice:

  1. Living life well is a responsibility to the gift of life itself. Purpose is found in the pursuit of a life well-lived. Serving others in this pursuit should be the foundation of every coaching conversation.

  2. The pursuit of a well-lived life cannot come at the expense of another. The pursuit of our personal best should never deprive another of the pursuit of theirs.

  3. Coaching does not exist to change or fix others. It is about helping others become fully functional in the pursuit of their higher selves in any arena.

  4. Life well-lived requires interconnection. To achieve #1, one must serve others in pursuit toward their best selves. Meaning and purpose are illuminated when this service releases ego in favor of abundance and calling.

Related: Mental Health Coaching Software Solutions

 

Inspiring Quotes

The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Vince Lombardi, NFL

A coach should never be afraid to ask questions of anyone he could learn from.

Bobby Knight, Basketball

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen we would have two mouths and one ear.

Mark Twain, Author

You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.

Michael Jordan, Basketball player

The first thing successful people do is view failure as a positive signal to success.

Brendon Burchard, Executive Coach

A life coach does for the rest of your life what a personal trainer does for your health and fitness.

Elaine MacDonald, Activist

If you enjoyed these, we have 54 more inspiring Coaching Quotes for you to enjoy.

 

A Take-Home Message

When a coach develops and embraces their personal coaching philosophy, fear becomes irrelevant. A coach who embodies the principles of leadership that allow for all encountered to show up at their best will serve to improve the world around them. A coach who knows and lives with their values will show up for clients at their best for every conversation.

Everyone deserves the gift that is the creative process of coaching. It opens people to their potential and ignites them in that pursuit. When searching for a coach, be sure to ask them about their coaching philosophy.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

  • https://www.brainyquote.com
  • Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). Personal coaching as a positive intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 544–553.
  • Crewe, Paul. (2016, October 30) Building A Program In His Own Image. Retrieved from https://www.andthevalleyshook.com/2016/10/30/13401740/building-a-program-in-his-own-image-how-ed-orgeron-is-flexing-pete-carroll-s-philosophies-at-lsu
  • Lasley, M et al. (2015). Coaching for Transformation. United States of America: Discover Press.
  • Port, M. ((2018). Book Yourself Solid. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley & Sons.
  • Roskvist, Kate. (2014, October 21). Quotes From Best Sports Coaches. Retrieved from (https://athleteassessments.com/coaching-quotes-best-sports-coaches/

About the Author

Kelly Miller is a graduate of the Flourishing Center’s CAPP program and published author of Jane's Worry Elephant. She is currently the owner of A Brighter Purpose, LLC, a provider in positive psychology coaching services. When she isn’t gleefully helping humans move toward flourishing, she enjoys National Park hikes and spending quality time with her adventurous family.

Comments

  1. Miriam

    Loved reading this, super helpful! Thanks so much for sharing <3

    Reply

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