High-Performance Coaching and All You Need to Know About It

high-performance coachingOn a scale of 1 (turtle) to 5 (Cheetah), how ready are you to experience high-performance coaching?

Maybe you are unfamiliar with this type of coaching.

If so, we will begin with a brief history lesson.

Coaching in sport dates back to ancient times, and the development of coaches and coaching practices is ongoing (Kiosoglous, 2013). Athletes become great, not only because of their natural abilities but also because of the training they do and the coaching they receive. High-performance coaching sprouted from the world of sports coaching.

These days an everyday person like you and me, whether an athlete or not, can benefit from a coaching relationship.

Great coaches act as outside observers who help clients learn how to attain high performance in every area of their life consistently.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free. These creative, science-based exercises will help you learn more about your values, motivations, and goals and will give you the tools to inspire a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students, or employees. 

You can download the free PDF here.

What is High-Performance Coaching?

At its core, high-performance coaching consists of assisting the client in blocking the interference from what executive coach W. Timothy Gallwey calls, Self 1.

Self 1 thinking shifts a person’s focus from the immediate task to a self-critical inner dialogue. This interference leads to poor performance. The coach’s role is to help the person hear beyond the noise. To do this, the focus needs to move from instruction to observation, but not merely the coach’s observation. The client is also encouraged to step outside of the situation and observe. Gallwey’s coaching formula is:

Performance = Potential – Interference

This formula is, in some respects, easy to do in the world of sports. A coach can ask an athlete to pay attention to how a ball is moving or how the springboard feels when the athlete pushes off. It shifts the athlete’s awareness to aspects that are fundamentals of their sport.

Outside of sports, the client might be asked to change their focus from self-centered to objective-centered. Encouraging them to think like an investigator or scientist increases their awareness.

For example, if a client is nervous about an upcoming presentation because they perceived that a previous one did not go well, ruminating on that experience does a disservice to them. Getting a client to focus on the following could prove useful:

  • What are the key elements that need to be communicated and why?
  • Think of a presentation that someone else did well. What did that person include?
  • What elements of other presentations would you exclude, and why?
  • After observing your colleagues during presentations, what styles of presentations seem to get their attention?
  • Who could you observe to improve your presentation skills?
  • What books could you read to improve your skills?
  • What groups could you join so that you can improve your skills?
  • What technology could you use so that you can improve your skills?

Asking powerful questions also opens the person up to possibilities that they might not have otherwise considered. These types of coaching questions can shift the person’s mindset from “I’m stuck” to “I know what I can do.” This approach puts ownership squarely on the client’s shoulders. It dramatically reduces or eliminates the interference from Self 1 and allows Self 2 to have fun, learn, explore, and achieve.

Gallwey is not the only voice in the high-performance coaching space.

Brendon Burchard is a life coach turned high-performance coach. His definition of high-performance is “succeeding beyond standard norms, consistently over the long term while maintaining wellbeing and positive relationships” (Certified High-Performance Coaching, 2020).

After many years of studying what distinguishes high performers from everyone else, his company developed the High-Performance Indicator (HPI). Their research identified six habits that “combine to correlate with high performance,” and that also correlates with it individually (Burchard, 2017).

Besides, these six habits correlate with “general happiness, better health, and positive relationships” (p. 37). The habits are divided into personal and social categories. They are:

Personal Social
Seek clarity
Generate energy
Raise necessity
Increase productivity
Develop influence
Demonstrate courage


For each habit, Burchard offers practices you can implement to develop them. For example, for seeking clarity, he suggests envisioning the future four. These are:

  1. Self,
  2. Social,
  3. Skills and
  4. Service.

Begin by setting clear intentions for who you want to be on any given day. Then, decide how you want to interact with others. Consider the skills you need to achieve your future goals and determine how you will be of service to others. Burchard’s approach to high-performance coaching includes concrete actions while also requiring consistent self-reflection to support those actions.

To date, much of the research on high-performance coaching is still in the arena of sports coaching. As more people delve into coaching outside of the sports arena, we may see research similar to Burchard’s conducted by educational institutions.


A Job Description

One way to think of high-performance, or any type of coaching, stems from Gallwey’s experience with athletes, executives, and teams. He’s authored several books, but his breakout success is The Inner Game of Tennis. Read by people the world over, it distills what every coach can do to help others achieve high-performance.

From Gallwey’s (2001) perspective, the job of every coach is, “the facilitation of mobility.” He goes on to say that, “It is the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being, that facilitates the process by which a person can move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.”

Being an effective coach means caring more about the person being coached than one cares about the results of coaching. If coaches do not care about their clients, this will negatively affect the relationship and performance of the person.

Burchard’s approach focuses on results. Coaches who cannot help their clients achieve the outcomes they desire are not in the business of high-performance coaching.


Is it Different from Peak Performance Coaching?

Peak performance, often related to sports, has become more mainstream. It is a topic in boardrooms, back and front offices, and even in classrooms. According to Peters and Williams (2009), the hallmarks of peak performance include:

  • Feeling energized, relaxed, and free of anxiety
  • Self-confidence
  • Heightened concentration
  • Lack of fear
  • A sense of control
  • Performance is automatic, feels effortless, and is not forced
  • Ability to focus and resist distractions
  • Self-talk is positive and encouraging

Their research indicates that “an ideal mind-body state seems to be associated with peak performance.” This experience also is related to flow.

Omar Aziz, Senior Director of HR with Blackberry in the UK, expands on the relationship between peak performance and flow in this TEDx Talk:

If peak performance coaching and high-performance coaching differ at all, it is in this idea of flow. High-performance coaching is about achieving and sustaining levels of performance. It is about cultivating specific habits. Peak performance is getting to a flow level in a particular situation, staying there, and then “coming down” from that experience.


High-Performance Coaching vs. Life Coaching

On the surface, it would appear that there is no difference between these two types of coaching if one agrees with the definition put forth by Gallwey. All coaching is high-performance coaching because coaches are in the business of helping every client achieve their full potential, in whatever arena the client chooses to focus.

However, this is not an accurate picture because there is a wide disparity in the way each coach works with clients. Because there are no standards for any type of coach: life, high-performance, peak, or others, we cannot be sure what the differences are. It is an area ripe for future study.

We do have a study on the difference between Positive Psychology Coaching and Life Coaching as an interesting read.


Training and Certified Courses

There are not many options for training or certification specifically for high-performance coaching outside of the sports world. Here are two for your review.


Certified High-Performance Coaches

The High-Performance Institute created and operated by Brendon Burchard offers a four-day training program for $10,000 taught explicitly by him. The curriculum is based on his book of the same name. Upon completion, you will pay an annual fee of $497 to say that you are a certified high-performance coach.

Every other year, you are required to retake the four-day training. Your annual fee includes your registration for this.


High-Performance Team Coaching

Erickson International offers a High-Performance Team Coaching program approved by ICF. It is a three-day program, but costs are not specified on their website. The course covers:

  • Coming Together as a Team
  • The Team Performing, and
  • Sustain Team Collaboration.

The value of certification programs is that clients know that the coach has participated in some level of training and possibly evaluation. However, that training could also be obtained without certification when the coach in question has pursued graduate-level work in related areas. Keep this in mind if you are either searching for education opportunities or a coach with whom to work.


2 Best Books on the Topic

Then Inner Game of Work (2001) – W. Timothy Gallwey

The Inner Game of WorkGallwey’s approach highlights the role of focus, learning, pleasure, and mobility in all areas of one’s life. This book sheds light on the relationship between a person’s two selves – one who is critical and judgemental and the other who is a natural and eager learner.

Gallwey expands on his three principles that guide and inform all of his coachings: non-judgemental awareness is curative, trust Self 2 (both the coach’s and the client’s), and leave primary learning choices with the client (student, athlete). Primarily, he teaches others how to get out of their own way.

Find the book on Amazon.


High-Performance Habits (2017) – Brendon Burchard

High-Performance HabitsOne of the best books about this topic for the general public, Burchard explains what contributes to the achievement of high performance across every life domain.

You will learn how the HPI was developed, tested, and revealed the six habits everyone can cultivate.

Find the book on Amazon.




A Take-Home Message

High-performance coaching is a results-driven process for individuals and businesses. It begins by identifying the targets one wants to achieve and then creating the map to get there.

The world of sports coaching has contributed significantly to the development of high-performance coaching, and we are thankful that people in all spheres of life can now benefit.

The challenges are, though, for those wanting to become certified in this field, options are costly and limited.

What are your experiences with high-performance coaching?

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.

If you wish to learn more, our Meaning and Valued Living Masterclass© will help you understand the science behind meaning and valued living, inspire you to connect to your values on a deeper level and make you an expert in fostering a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students, or employees.


  • Aziz, O. (July 13, 2016). Engineering the mind for peak performance [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved March 11, 2020, from https://youtu.be/GAxjjeRTDSY
  • Burchard, B. (2017). High-Performance Habits. Hay House, Inc.
  • Certified High-Performance Coaching (2020). CHPC- Application. Retrieved March 11, 2020, from https://www.dropbox.com/s/u5qbd9uv27e267i/CHPC-Application-2020.pdf?dl=0
  • Gallwey, W. T. (2001). The inner game of work. Random House Trade Paperbacks.
  • Kiosoglous, C.M. (2013). Sports Coaching Through the Ages with an Empirical Study of Predictors of Rowing Coaching Effectiveness [Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and State University]. VTechWorks. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/22029/kiosoglous_cm_d_2013.pdf?sequence=1
  • Peters, H.J. & Williams, J. M. (2009). Peak performance — a unifying model. In Bartlett, R., Gratton, C., & Rolf, C. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of International Sports Studies. Taylor and Francis, UK

About the Author

Kori D. Miller, MA, is a habit change aficionado, facilitator, and coach. Kori loves helping others achieve their goals one bite-size step at a time. She completed graduate-level coursework in positive psychology through the University of Missouri-Columbia and is completing a master's program in Educational Psychology with a specialization in neuropsychology.

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