Coaching for the Everyday Leader:

The FAQs of Working with a Professional Coach

Just as Olympic athletes work with experienced coaches to improve their performance, motivation, and growth, everyday leaders can as well. If you're exploring the world of professional coaching, the following guide will help you along the journey as it answers the most frequently asked questions on the topic. 

Download the PDF (English & French Included)



Every Olympic athlete has a coach. Someone who joins them at every early morning practice, creates a strategy and recreates it until it’s perfected, and cheers them on from the sidelines, prepared to offer guidance and encouragement at exactly the right moment. In sports, coaches are key to an athlete's performance, motivation, and growth.

Much of the same goes for coaches in the business world. While there are countless ways to refer to these professionals, most often they will work under the title of executive, business, or leadership coach. In the simplest terms, their purpose is to provide guidance and support to help you achieve your goals. In other words, they may not be the ones out running the race, but they are keenly invested in seeing you succeed. That’s because when you win, they win.

When you have the opportunity to work with a professional coach, you will have a number of questions. The following guide is written to answer the most commonly asked questions regarding professional coaching and to ultimately help you find a coach that will equip you to succeed in the short and long term. 


What Is Coaching?

We all have experienced coaching many times in our careers. Whether it is from your boss, a peer, or another leader in the organization, you have probably been in a situation where you received feedback and advice. However, working with a professional coach is much different. In the context of working with a coach, you may be asking yourself what exactly is coaching? And why would I work with a coach?

The International Coach Federation (ICF)  coaching as, “a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching is a client-driven process that’s distinct from other service professions, such as counseling, mentoring, consulting, and training.”

Leadership coaching definition can be summed up as a formal agreement for a set amount of coaching sessions between the one seeking out coaching and a professional outside of the organization who has the education, accreditation, and experience to help individuals and teams move towards their goals. Coaches provide opportunities for self-reflection, personal development, and the development of action plans that support your career trajectory and aspirations. 


What Are the Benefits of Coaching?

There are a multitude of benefits individuals and teams can receive from committing to professional coaching services. Some of the benefits of coaching include:


Greater Self-Awareness

A coach helps you see yourself in ways you may not recognize, as well as how others perceive you. In a Harvard Business Review article, the author found there are two types of self-awareness.

  • Internal self-awareness: This is how clearly you see your own values, goals, reactions, thoughts, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, and the impact you have on those around you.
  • External self-awareness: This is the recognition of how others perceive you in terms of values, goals, and behaviors.

Working with a coach uncovers what we do not see in ourselves and how others see us. Greater self-awareness has been shown to be associated with increased happiness, job satisfaction, and deeper, more productive, relationships with employees.


Amplify What You Do Really Well

Greater self-awareness helps you recognize and leverage strengths you may not realize you have or underestimated how strong you are. Often, people underestimate the strengths they possess as they see it as just the way they operate and have a hard time realizing that not everyone behaves or thinks that way. One to one coaching helps with this as it uncovers your unique capabilities and how you can apply them to achieve your goals.


Build Professional Confidence

Professional confidence comes from the internal self-belief you can indeed take on a project, step into a leadership role, or accomplish a stretch goal. One on one coaching helps identify your limiting beliefs, silence the negative self-talk, and prevent you from self-sabotaging. Your coach can equip you with the tools and techniques to create a positive outlook for yourself, which starts from within.


Goal Clarity and the Development of an Action Plan

One of the biggest impacts professional coaching services can provide is to help you get clarity on your goals and aspirations, and develop a roadmap to achieve them. Coaches act as a support system along the journey, providing an outsider's perspective on what is moving you closer to your goal or what is getting in the way, reinforcing what you want to achieve, and cheering you on every step of the way.


Accountability and Motivation

Achieving your goals is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be highs and lows; setbacks and roadblocks. A professional coach sets a level of accountability in the workplace that is typically unattainable when you go at it alone. Your coach will hold you accountable to achieving your aspirations, as well as encourage, motivate, and remind you of why you’re on this journey when things get tough.


Ultimately, a one on one coach is there is someone to support you to achieve your goals. Throughout the coaching process, they help you develop new ways of thinking, seeing yourself, and operating that set you on the path to success.

What are the benefits of coaching_ One on One Coaching Pillar Page


Get Your PDF

Save This For Later

After filling out the form, we will send you to the PDF version and also a copy to your email so you can file it away or share it with your colleagues.


What Are the Different Types of Coaches?

Much of the confusion around coaching can be traced back to the many names it goes by. To help you decipher the industry lingo, here are some of the most common types of coaching, so the next time you see the title, you have a better idea of what it is they actually offer.


Executive/Leadership Coach

After studying different definitions of executive and leadership coaching, it became clear that the purpose of both of these types of coaches is to “provide a safe, structured, and trustworthy environment in which support is offered” and one’s leadership capacity is expanded. Though the main difference between a leadership coach and an executive coach is the level of seniority a coach targets for their services.


One-on-One Coach

It may feel like coaching is exclusive to those in executive and leadership positions. In fact, there are coaches who work at any level in the organization regardless of title. This means high-performing individual contributors, high-potentials, and new managers or supervisors can reap one on one coaching benefits by working with someone who acts as their sounding board, requires accountability, helps them define goals, and creates an action plan to make those goals a reality.


Performance Coach

The work of a performance coach significantly overlaps with the work of a one on one coach. One performance coach who worked with Google explains that he helps clients through career changes, workplace relationships problems, balancing work and life, and building self-confidence. So, while much of what a performance coach does will seem very similar to a one on one coach, their main focus will be on your job performance and how to improve it.


Group Coach

A peer group coach provides coaching to a group of individuals who may or may not work together, but who have a common goal. In other words, peer coaching groups “leverages the resources and knowledge of a group of individuals working on a common theme but who have different individual performance goals.” For example, a leadership peer group may seek out group coaching on the topic of people management, to help those who oversee employees become stronger and more effective leaders, instead of focusing on one individual development area.


Team Coach

The term “team coach” and “group coach” are often used interchangeably, although they really shouldn’t be. The ICF defines team coaching as a “systemic approach designed to support a team to maximize its collective talents and resources to accomplish and exceed the goals required by the organization.” Therefore, team coaching is different from group coaching as it is used for coaching intact teams with a common goal or project.


Peer Coach

Unlike any other type of coach, a peer coach doesn’t need to have any previous coaching experience. This is because peer coaching happens between two individuals of an equal or similar status, who may or may not work in the same department, company, or even industry. All that matters in this type of coaching relationship is that each party is mutually willing to help and support one another either on an ongoing basis or to achieve a specific goal.


Organizational Coach

An organizational coach does much different work than any of the other types of coaches listed above as they work with senior leaders and executives to align leadership behavior with strategic initiatives and organizational goals. The Institute of Coaching, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, explains, “organizational coaching aims at fostering positive, systemic transformation within organizations. It is frequently used to help organizations achieve strategic objectives, enhance leadership capability, and create culture change. Broader organizational needs are placed front and center, and the coaching is used to scale-up change across the enterprise.”


Business Coach

Unfortunately, the term “business coach” is used far and wide, making it one of the more confusing terms to decipher. Though by definition, a business coach is “a professional mentor that guides a client through the ups and downs of owning and running a business. Business coaches provide business owners with recommendations for growth and determining their company's goals.”


Life Coach

This is another term that falls into the trap of being used far and wide by professionals referring to an expansive range of services. That’s because a life coach is defined as, “someone professionally trained to help you maximize your full potential and reach your desired results.” Given that this definition could apply to any of the types of coaches on this list, if you seek out a life coach, you will want to be sure to carefully do your research and ensure their experience aligns with your specific needs or goals.

Coaching vs Mentoring vs Training One on One Coaching Pillar Page


Coaching vs. Mentoring vs. Training: How Are They Different?

Coaching, mentoring, and training all exist for the same purpose; personal development to help you grow your ability to contribute more to your organization and reach your full potential. Therefore these terms are often used interchangeably but coaching, mentoring, and training are unique.


Coaching vs. Mentoring

Let’s start with the similarities. Coaching and mentoring are one on one relationships with someone who advises and supports you in your career. In both scenarios, these relationships are designed to help you grow and develop.

Now, what are the differences between coaching and mentoring?

Coaching is a formal relationship with an accredited individual whose career is professional coaching. They’re trained to ask thought-provoking questions that help the coachee see themselves clearly to make decisions, changes, and develop a roadmap for goal attainment by breaking down your end goal into smaller achievements. They identify specific development areas and work with you to obtain the skills you need to succeed in those areas.

The relationship with a one on one coach is typically shorter than a mentor, ranging from three months to a year. The goal is performance-driven and the arrangement is formal, meaning there are structured coaching sessions throughout the engagement.

Whereas mentoring in the workplace is typically an informal relationship with someone who has “been there.” Mentors are usually someone who holds or has held a senior role that draws upon their own experience to offer advice, insight, and guidance. They instill the lessons they’ve learned while moving up the corporate ladder and identify pitfalls to avoid. These relationships are typically less formal and can last for a number of years.


Coaching vs. Training

Training and coaching are similar in that they develop or amplify skills so you can contribute more in your role at work. Though training is different as it typically takes place in a group setting, either with individuals from your own organization or in an open enrollment setting, with professionals from a variety of organizations. Training content is predetermined by the course curriculum, whereas in the case of coaching, the desired development and outcomes are co-created between you and the coach during your first few meetings.


What Makes A Good Coach and What To Look For?


A Solid Track-Record

Practically speaking, a good coach is someone with a track-record of helping clients attain their goals and who is willing to attest to their experience. Whether this information is public or by request, what this tells you is that your coach is someone that can be trusted to help you achieve your defined goals and maximize your investment in their coaching services. 


Real-World Experience

A good coach is someone who has real-world experience, either personally or in working with clients, in the area you are seeking to develop. This is an important quality of a one on one coach as their experience informs their understanding of where you are, how you got there, and the ways you can get where you want to go. For example, if your goal is to become a more self-aware and mindful leader, you wouldn’t hire a coach who has never held a leadership position or worked with a number of other leaders.



Anyone you plan to hire in business should be reliable, honest, and transparent, though this is especially true for professional coaches. These professionals are closely tied to your goals and their achievement. So, not only do they need to be transparent during the coaching sessions but also during the selection and purchase process. From the beginning, a good coach will put your success first, even if that means that you aren’t the ideal match in terms of goals, experience, budget, and so forth.


A Tried-and-True Process

Anyone you plan to hire in business should be reliable, honest, and transparent, though this is especially true for professional coaches. These professionals are closely tied to your goals and their achievement. So, not only do they need to be transparent during the coaching sessions but also during the selection and purchase process. From the beginning, a good coach will put your success first, even if that means that you aren’t the ideal match in terms of goals, experience, budget, and so forth.



A good professional coach is one who is accessible and available to meet with you on your terms and your schedule. You should never feel like the support and direction you require is only accessible based on somebody else's schedule.



A one on one coach who is passionate about what they do and helping others achieve their goals, benefits everyone, but especially those who are starting coaching sessions with feelings of stress, burnout, or skepticism. That’s because a coach's passion for your goals and success can flame your own, leading you to feel more engaged, prepared, and motivated than before.

What to look for in a coach One on One Coaching Pillar Page


Next Steps

Now that you know what coaching is, the different types of coaching, the benefits, and what makes a good coach, you might feel prepared to begin your search. But before making any Google searches, think through the following: 

What is your ultimate goal? What do you hope to get out of coaching? Defining this will determine the type of coach you hire.

What do you think makes a good coach? Now that you know what we think makes a good coach which is based on 30 years working with coaches and coachees, you need to define what is most important to you so you know what you can and cannot compromise on.

Once you have answers to these questions you can confidently begin seeking out leadership coaching services. You’ll find plenty of options to fit your career, goals, and lifestyle. For example, online coaching, 3-month coaching packages, and even customized coaching solutions are just some ways coaches offer their services. Though regardless of what you choose, a great coaching provider who is invested in seeing you succeed, like we are here at the Niagara Institute, will analyze your needs, offer solutions, and even customize the offered services to meet your goals, budget, and timeline exactly.

Get Your PDF

Save This For Later

After filling out the form, we will send you to the PDF version and also a copy to your email so you can file it away or share it with your colleagues.