As a personal coach you will find yourself using a number of techniques, many of which are used in other applications, e.g. counselling, mentoring, facilitating or managing others. What is important is the way in which you use the right techniques for the right people, and also the way in which you build the coaching relationship so that the individual is not aware that you are actually using techniques, and the conversation feels natural.
A personal coach is someone with whom an individual learner can develop an ongoing relationship, which enables the individual to explore his or her personal thoughts in more depth, someone who will help the individual to achieve insights and who will continue to be there for the individual over a period of time.
The key point about coaching is that when it is done well it achieves the following:
is set in the right environment;
is part of an ongoing relationship;
focuses on the individual;
shares mutual respect and the opportunity to learn from each other;
the application of higher-level skills/competencies;
actions are agreed and followed up.
The most skilled coaches have enhanced skills of questioning, listening and observing and consequently people relax and are willing to talk to them. All the skills involved in coaching are based on natural behaviours, showing genuine interest, having normal conversations with people. However, subtly underneath there is a process of asking open questions, listening carefully to the responses and enabling the transfer of knowledge or, alternatively, acting as a sounding board, helping someone to take action and make choices, or problem-solve within a safe environment.
The role of the coach, tools and techniques is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5 and in Personal Coaching: Releasing potential at work (Thorne, 2001).