What Makes Coaching Work?

By Amanda Moore – 67th Cohort – Auckland –

What makes coaching work? In other words, what makes coaching an effective way to get the results you want. After all there’s really no point in coaching unless it gets results – right?

However, what’s surprising is that the results you get aren’t always the ones you first want. Wants often change as coaching deepens awareness, and clarifies thinking. Therefore, as well as getting results you really want, coaching at its best provides opportunities for insight and discovery, so be prepared for shifts, new perspectives, and fresh choices that could change your life!

Now let’s get down to what makes coaching work really well There are three key essentials that make coaching work powerfully:

  • The quality of connection between the coach and client
  • The coach’s ability to facilitate learning 
  • The client’s motivation to change and take action

The first, and most important, is the quality of connection between coach and client. When working at its best, this partnership of trust, heightens the art of facilitation, and boosts the impulse to change (Baron & Morin 2009):

Partnership This living organic connection grows stronger, smoother, and more powerful as rapport develops over time between co-active partners.

Rapport:  Both coach and client need belief in and commitment to each other and the process to enable rapport to grow. You may be in the dark at first, especially if you are new to coaching and your coach.

That’s why it’s a good idea to find out about coaching, get to know your coach, and then decide how coaching and your coach fit with you.

Setting off on a confident footing enables coach and client to fully engage as they listen, communicate about feelings and ideas, and develop rapport.

The resulting positive regard, openness and warmth that can develop between coach and client has a powerful impact on the efforts, focus, and depth of inquiry that they engage in to get results (Brockbank & McGill 2006)

Time: As with any relationship, smoothness and strength of connection evolves over the time spent getting to know each other.

What’s really interesting here, is that in coaching more sessions mean better results, but not for the reasons you might first think. Better results are not directly down to the client having more time to learn.  Better results come as time allows the coach/client relationship to grow stronger and smoother, and this supports further development for the client. A significant point that again highlights the impact of a great coaching relationship (Baron & Morin 2009).

Co-active Partners: The coach and client are in this together! The coach has to be able to facilitate reflective learning, and the client has to want to change.

Coach ability to facilitate learning  So there you are sitting in the coaching space with your own thoughts in your head, and your own take on life: a unique individual. And there’s the coach with expertise in the universal principles of coaching, and no expertise in your uniqueness.

That – may seem a bit daunting, but as you get into it, you’ll see it’s the balance that’s essential for creating the magic!

The coach uses deep listening, an understanding of reflective learning and positive psychology, and powerfully relevant questions to empower the client. Not to fix them, as in therapy, but to coach them: the client does all the heavy lifting!!! Meaning the client explores and gains awareness and clarity about:

  • What they really want
  • What motivates them  ·
  • Their underlying beliefs and attitudes
  • Their languaging and metaphors
  • Thinking and feeling
  • Developmental or resource needs
  • How to plan, take action, and celebrate success  ·
  • A way to create the change they want to see in their lives


“Coaching, in its essence, enables clients to gain insight into the underlying dynamics of the challenges that they face, and guides them to apply the insights in the real world to create the desired change.” (D & M Anderson 2011).

So why is it important that the coach facilitates the client to have their own insights rather than giving advice? Because it works! Have you ever been given advice, and then proceeded to ignore it? We’re all like that – good at giving it, but not so good at taking. Because it creates magic! Once you connect with your innate deep drivers, and feel more aligned from the inside out, then the spell of stuckness is broken, and you shape your new freedoms in a way that works for you.

The client’s motivation to change and take action  The client’s part in the coaching partnership is essential to getting results:   Desire for change: Number one thing here is – the client has to want to change, or all bets are off! (Goldsmith 2016)

Follow up action: A study of 86,000 coaching clients found if there’s no follow up action, then there’s no change. A coaching experience without action, even if it has the fervor of a religious conversion, will sadly amount to very little (Goldsmith 2016)

You are the expert of you: If it’s transformative change you want then it’s good that the coach is not the expert of you, only you have access to the wisdom in your system, only you know what will work, so you do the lifting and looking, and the coach is there for every lift encouraging, engaging, and empowering you.

Spotting: your coach doesn’t have a crystal ball, but they will watch out for you – like a second pair of eyes. As you become open to your coach’·s observations, s/he may offer to share what they notice about gaps or inconsistencies between:

  • current behavior vs. desired behavior
  • words vs. actions
  • intention vs. impact

Environment of Support: Another factor shown to help clients is when the supportive environment extends past the coaching room and into the client’s life. Whether at home or at work, it helps if family members or colleagues genuinely want you to succeed and are prepared to support you. (Goldsmith 2016)

Of course there’s more to all the above – but hopefully this summary will get you off to a great start with your exploration of coaching, what makes coaching work, and what you can do to make it work for you.

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