Approaches to Coaching

Feb 13, 2020

The Journey of Coaching

Coaching is a process of moving a client from a disempowering present reality to an empowering future outcome goal. Oftentimes the client may not be clear as to what would empower and how. The first step in coaching would be to partner the client into establishing a specific, evidenced, realistic and if possible transformational goal. The next step would be to partner the client in reaching that goal evoking awareness on how to overcome barriers on the way and create needed actions.

Coaching is a partnered journey between coach and client as equals, reflective, and provocative emotionally and cognitively, exploring creatively and inspirationally so that the client can shift from their present performance towards an unlimited personal and professional potential.

This journey is a humble, exploratory, inquiring journey into the mind space of the client to reframe and transform currently experienced limiting beliefs in order to reach that empowering future goal. In this approach, coaching differs from other future-focused approaches such as consulting, mentoring and training that are prescriptive, telling and solution providing, and from past-oriented processes such as therapy and counseling. Coaching assumes that the client has the answers and solutions needed to achieve the goal, and perhaps unaware of these due to negative perceptions.

GROW Model

The GROW model of John Whitmore is the journey from the disempowering Reality now to an empowering Goal. In the journey, the client would face obstacles, often a mix of conscious and visible external ones as well as unconscious invisible internal ones. Coach partners the client in exploration to make all these obstacles conscious, aware and visible so that the client can create multiple Options to overcome them, and then finally create the Will to act with accountability to overcome them.

Wants Vs Needs

In many cases, clients are unclear on the goals. Even when they have a clear goal, it may be a ‘want’ that is desirable rather than a ‘need’ that is sustainable. The ‘want’ is a shiny object that your neighbor has that you covet, with uncertain long-term benefits, whereas a ‘need’ is essential, purposeful and meaningful to life and work. Needs are based on powerful internal values, whereas wants are often conditioned by societal influence.

Once there is clarity on a need-based goal that is clearly established through exploration of how it would motivate and empower the client, and how it can be evidenced, the coach engages in exploring why the client has been unable to achieve the goal despite its criticality, and what the barriers are. In our experience, 80% of clients start with ‘want’ based goals that will not motivate them and shift to sustainable ‘need’ based goals. 80% of those with ‘need’ based goals are blocked by unconscious limiting beliefs rather than externally visible obstacles.

Other Models

Timothy Gallwey in his ‘Inner Game’ model speaks of interferences that limit our potential to reduced performance, and how these can be overcome through self-exploration and self-belief. In his Theory U, Otto Scharmer speaks of the move from a negative ‘absencing’ mindset to an open ‘presencing’ mindset of open mind, heart, and will.

These and several other psychological theories and models are embedded in Coacharya’s 3 A model of Awareness Action Anchoring.

Coach partners the client through the exploration to move from:

  • Unconscious Incompetence of limiting beliefs to Conscious Incompetence in Awareness
  • Address Conscious Incompetence converting it to Conscious Competence in Action
  • Embed Conscious Competence as a new habit of Unconscious Competence flow as Anchoring

Congruence in Client-Centric Approach

Key to the entire coaching process is the client-centricity of the coach that Carl Rogers defines as the combination of

  • Congruence and genuineness
  • Unconditional Positive Regard with warmth, positivity, and acceptance
  • Empathy, sensing and feeling client experience

The coach needs to listen empathetically and generatively, with total belief in the client and client needs with unconditional positive regard, while being congruent to the coach’s own value system.

Herein lies the challenge. How do I as a coach be congruent and authentic with a client who is disempowered and inauthentic, with both unconditional positive regard and authenticity? This is the coach’s dilemma.

If the coach is non-judgmental of the conflict in values of the client with the coach’s own, authenticity and congruence demand that the coach be aware of what is going on within and be direct in communicating it. If it detracts from the client’s move forward to the desired goal, the coach would then lose unconditional positive regard. How does a coach integrate this polarity?

The coach can be genuine in sharing what comes up for her viscerally, emotionally and cognitively, as long as this is expressed non-judgmentally, with genuine concern for the client and in an appreciative manner. This is possible even when belief systems are different. What this requires is the empathetic psychological safety and unconditional positive regard presence that the coach needs to create with the client.

Sharing appreciatively what the coach genuinely senses, feels and thinks is what mastery in coaching is about.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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