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A relationship between more experienced individuals and less experienced individuals designed to enhance learning and performance of both individuals and teams, typically focused on the achievement of specified objectives within given time frames.

Purpose and benefit

A common purpose of coaching is to enhance individual’s capacity, judgment and to encourage independent action. Coaching methods are primarily concerned with a task, focus on skills and performance, and typically address a short term necessity and encourage feedback and reflection by the learner. In the organizational context coaching is often seen an effective approach used for employee and leadership development specifically with encouraging motivation, confidence and self-belief, as well as self-awareness and ownership of responsibilities for one’s own actions. Changes resulting from coaching individual employees can have a positive effect on the organization through developed styles of leadership, management and communication.

In knowledge management context coaches are required to facilitate collective learning and motivate others to engage in the subject matter at hand. A coach can enable organizational learning by passing on skills, routines, managerial systems, norms and values. Here coaching is concerned with helping the learner discover a problem-solution on their own. This method can help with knowledge transfer.


Coaching is frequently used as an intervention aimed at performance improvement or developing a particular competence. Coaching refers to personal development methods that encourage a person’s own abilities in order to improve behavior and performance. In some organizations the word is used in the same context as mentoring and training. Coaching is task and concrete skill oriented and performance driven. Usually at least 2 people are involved where an experienced employee (researcher, engineer, maintenance worker) teaches usually a more junior or a recently arrived person on how to develop these skills or perform a concrete task. Coaching is usually limited and defined in time (short term). It lasts as long as needed to obtain targeted skills. Coaching does not require an extensive planning phase. Coaching can be conducted almost immediately on a given matter. If a company seeks to provide coaching to a large group of individuals, then certainly some planning is required in order to determine the competency area, expertise needed, and assessment tools used, but this does not necessarily require a long lead-time to actually implement the coaching program. The coachee's immediate manager is a critical partner in coaching. She or he often provides the coach with feedback on areas in which his or her employee is in need of coaching. This coach uses this information to guide the coaching process. Often the manager and the coach are the same person.


Coaching can be focused on developing some soft or technical skills of a coachee. Professional coaches use a number of tools and techniques to encourage reflection, analytical thinking and discussions. Some of these include reflective thinking, probing, brainstorming, challenging and critiquing thinking, using assumptions etc. Various models also exist such as GROW model, which is task oriented; a framework to support coaching sessions with questions relating to person’s Goal, Reality, Options and Will. STEER model is similar and also task oriented that stands for to Spot, Tailor, Explain, Encourage and Review. Another method is to use solutions focused coaching which is somewhat different from the above mention models and tends to focus on the problem instead. OSKAR model uses this approach and it stands for Outcome, Scaling, Know-How and Resources, Affirm and Action and Review. It is applied to identify what is working well and to reproduce it. It centres on bringing out the current skills and abilities of the person in order to grasp their self-defined goals. All models and tools are centred on encouraging discussions and meeting sessions to reach set objectives. However, often no models are used.

The role of a coach is to create a supportive environment that will develop the ability of those being coached to perform existing tasks better or new tasks. In the nuclear industry, coaching is a legitimate and effective teaching tool for situations like on-job training (OJT); however, it is to be avoided during the process of confirming acquired competences. For this reason, some utilities prohibit OJT instructors/coaches from also serving to evaluate the effectiveness of the learning by trainees on given tasks. Coaches may be from within or from outside an organization.

Implementation guide

Most of the processes and approaches involve a series of focused discussions or joint working sessions, directed by agreed and specific goals for each session. Both parties must willingly participate with clear expectations and agreements set out and understanding of the process. Between sessions the learner will reflect on the former session and practice new methods and working styles which are reflected on and conversed in the following sessions. In connection to knowledge transfer and learning, a coach will work with an employee in process problem solving, root cause analysis and collaborative problem solving skills or other work related issues.

Success factors

  • Learner must be committed to change
  • Learner should be able to choose their-own coach
  • Both parties should plan for coaching
  • This should be seen as a fundamental activity and not as an add-on activity
  • Organization and managers need to provide support for the process, as well as appropriate funds and time
  • Patience is also imperative

Common pitfalls

The most common pitfalls include

  • failing to define clearly the coaching objectives and adjust means to meet them (e.g. e.g. an oral discussion might not be an optimal tool to assure that the coachee obtains the skill on replacing a pump.
  • failing to follow up on the coaching sessions and to monitore that the matter was learned and the skill is obtained. Also
  • not establishing and building trust is another common mistake. It is important to be aware that sometimes the learner also does things to challenge this relationship through lack of commitment, having unrealistic expectations, being passive, not willing to take risks, being too dependent on the coach or blaming others.

Strategies to overcome some of these common pitfalls include asking open ended questions and probing the issues more deeply, identifying interpersonal factors and confronting the behavior.


Deans. F, Oakley L., James R. and Wrigley R., (2007). Coaching and mentoring for leadership development in civil society. Available from: [25 February 2016]

Leonard, D., Swap, W., and Barton G. (2015). Critical knowledge transfer: tools for managing your company’s deep smarts. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance: growing human potential and purpose-the principles and practice of coaching and leadership. 4th edition, Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. (18 March 2016)

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