The word ‘philosophy’ originally comes from the Greek words Philo which means ‘love’ and Sophos meaning ‘wisdom’. So, in the literal sense philosophy means ‘love of wisdom’.
The great Greek philosophers – from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle – strongly believed that emotions are connected to our beliefs and opinions, and that philosophy is a daily practice, so that your principles become automatically ingrained into regular behaviours and actions!
As a coach, a large part of your coaching philosophy comes from your basic life philosophies, your beliefs and value system that guide your actions. After all, your fundamental principles are the ones that steer you in your professional path as you try and forge a successful coaching practice.
Read on to know what a coaching philosophy is (with examples of coaching philosophy) and how you can develop a strong and effective one that will deliver positive results.
What is coaching philosophy?
A coaching philosophy is a set of principles that a coach adheres to while coaching, including being aware of and responsible for their actions, attitudes, morals & integrity while operating as a coaching professional. A coaching philosophy is about having a clear vision of the values that you stand for and it acts as a moral compass that guides how you work with clients to deliver the best results.
This belief also influences the relationship between you and your client, the type of clientele that you will attract, and also decides the coaching methods that you choose to adopt as well as avoid.
As a coach, defining your own coaching philosophy is about being true to yourself – adopting the good qualities of your role models is fine, but blindly copying someone isn’t. Instead take those attributes, add your extra bit and make them your own! It portrays what you stand for, your commitment to your ideals and values that honestly present who you are as a professional and also as a person.
Read on for some examples.
ICF and coaching philosophy
The ICF (International Coaching Federation) has a code of ethics for professional coaches, and the coaching philosophy is a part of this code. One of the basic principles of coaching is that a coach is not an advisor, mentor, therapist or counsellor but an active listener who guides their client in their journey of self-realization, enabling them to find solutions to their issues and achieving their stated goals.
The code of ethics mainly revolves around understanding the nature and potential value of coaching, divulging real coaching qualifications (coaching competency, expertise, experience, training, certifications and ICF credentials), adhering to strict levels of confidentiality, transparency in financial arrangements, avoiding conflict of interests, non-discrimination (on the basis of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality or disability) and any other terms of the coaching agreement.
Is coaching philosophy a fancy name for coaching style?
No, in fact, there is a basic difference between the two, although many times coaching philosophy is often mistaken for coaching style.
A coach can adopt any of the coaching styles (democratic, authoritarian, holistic, autocratic, vision) depending on the client, requirements and their desired goals. Coaching styles can change based on who the coach is interacting with.
A coaching philosophy, on the other hand, is all about the coach’s intrinsic values, the principles that they stand by and the foundation on which their entire lives are based. They stay the same no matter who the client is, their current situation, their aspirations, challenges, or stated objectives.
The coaching philosophy, a coach’s belief system, stays the same (generally) all throughout his/her career whereas their coaching style can be adapted to suit various clients and their needs.
Coaching philosophy examples
While developing your own coaching philosophy get inspired by some of these remarkable examples…
a. Business coaching/ executive coaching
‘I am passionate about helping leaders become more conscious and purposeful so they can have a greater impact on the world. I believe that impact can only happen if we understand ourselves better.
We will start by working together to gain clarity on where you want to focus your impact, so you can become more intentional in how you are spending your time, and notice what you are doing (or not doing!) that aligns with that focus. With that clarity, we can identify and work with mindsets or habits that are getting in the way of your declared purpose.
Everything you see and do is influenced by your history, so you have blind spots or limiting beliefs that are a result of those previous experiences. My perspective as a coach will help you identify those blind spots and see how mindsets and behaviours that once served you are now getting in the way of your desired growth.’
‘When patterns are broken, new worlds will emerge. I believe that coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses, and organizations. Through coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.’
b. Sports Coaching
‘My coaching philosophy is I am a firm believer that if you have knowledge pass it on to those who do not. I also believe that playing sports as a child not only builds character and confidence but also gives a sense of accomplishment. It also prepares children for life, teaching them about working as a team or as a team player, not as an individual. I also feel it can bring a child out of his/her shell or shyness.’
‘I consider building the character of the person just as important as developing the skills of the player. I will teach my players through my words and actions the values of respect, resilience, empathy, teamwork and sportsmanship that will benefit them long after their youth soccer days are over.’
How do you develop an effective coaching philosophy?
Coaching is a challenging job, one that requires you to make consistently ethical & appropriate decisions (in face of external pressures) in order to be effective. A good coaching philosophy must convey the intent, principles and values the coach follows as this will directly impact how client journeys play out and, in turn, impact the coach’s career.
Here are some important considerations to keep in mind while developing an effective coaching philosophy…
a. Identify coaching values that are non-negotiable
You’re likely to have a set of beliefs that are non-negotiable, such as integrity, professional ethics, non-discrimination, transparency in financial dealings, mutual respect etc. You need to identify what your uncompromisable principles are and make sure that you practice what you preach in your own coaching career.
If you ever find yourself swayed by circumstances or client demands, reflecting on your coaching philosophy can prove to be a valuable guidance system to get back on track.
b. Be authentic, be self-aware
Having a coaching philosophy is all about being genuine and bringing the very best of yourself to the process. Self-awareness of your strengths, weaknesses, talents and experiences, how you respond to situations, tough queries, difficult clients are all vital to staying true to your philosophy and helping clients achieve results. A good way to analyse this is to assess your coaching sessions, observe how you stay true to yourself and what works.
c. Understand your coaching style
As stated above, a coaching philosophy remains unchanged whereas a coaching style is something that you adapt taking into consideration your client, their challenges, their requirements and their goals.
Choosing a coaching style and the reason behind selecting it will help you understand your own motivations, the situations that are suited to your coaching style, the type of clients that you can communicate with effectively and work best with to deliver positive outcomes while staying true to your coaching philosophy.
d. Create a behaviour framework
Developing a framework that sets out rules and guidelines for your conduct, that incorporates the principles and values that drive you to accomplish your objectives, will be a strong structure that will help you stay on one path as you create a more rewarding journey for your client.
e. State your coaching objectives
Setting coaching objectives or the specific goals that you want to accomplish – developing or defining leadership roles, strengthening communication skills, forming specific decision strategies, implementing more efficient procedures to increase productivity, establishing code of conduct for behaviour and attitudes, boosting morale, changing toxic work environment etc.) that convey the coaching philosophy is vital. It reveals who you are and what it means to you to be a coach, where your beliefs lie, what is more important – client satisfaction or making money etc.
f. Share your coaching philosophy
It is not enough to develop a coaching philosophy; it is also necessary to stay accountable to it. A good way to do this is to share your coaching philosophy, either with your clients or with the world at large. In doing so, you are announcing your values and goals openly – not only are you accepting responsibility for conducting yourself in accordance with your stated beliefs but are also leaving yourself open to questions in case of any inconsistencies.
g. Stay true to your stated coaching philosophy
Putting your coaching philosophy on paper can be a very useful practice, it helps you refer to it in case you stray or are faced with a conundrum. But as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating – similarly the benefit of the coaching philosophy is in its daily implementation.
So as a coach, develop a solid coaching philosophy, live it daily and use it as a moral compass to guide your behaviours & attitudes, measure your actions against your own beliefs and ensure you are staying true to your own stated coaching philosophy.
1. What is an example of coaching philosophy?
‘Health Coaches help people connect their life’s experience to the well-being of mind, body and spirit. Health coaches meet people wherever they currently are in life and serve intuitively as a guide and a facilitator in their process of healing and growth.’
‘Today’s business environment demands that both organizations and individuals perform at much higher levels than in the past. As a result, leaders must stretch themselves as well as others to achieve challenging goals and bring about real change in often compressed periods of time. What worked for the leader in the past may no longer be sufficient to effectively address new challenges.’
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