Professional Coaching: Definition

Definition in brief

Professional coaching is a mode of support in which a coach proposes tools, methods and questions to help the coachee achieve one or more professional objectives.

In principle, the coach should enable the coachee to find the answers, and to make the best decisions to achieve his objectives. But he does not intervene to give him the answers. Firstly because he does not know them, and secondly because he would be less efficient in finding them.

The mission of the professional coach

A coach’s mission is to support the coachee in the different stages of his/her professional career. For example, calling on a coach can be very effective in preparing for an evaluation interview, a professional reorientation or access to a new position.

The coach must therefore support the coachee in moments of risk-taking, self-assertion at work and taking responsibility. If he can be critical of the coachee, it is above all to encourage him to progress.

The aim is that it is also beneficial for the company: coaching should enable the coachee to align his or her objectives with those of the organisation.

What a professional coach is not

The coach is not a trainer: even if he or she can distil valuable techniques for your career, his or her mission is first and foremost to initiate a process of introspection and reflection in the coachee.

It is not a decision maker either: the coachee always makes the final decisions.

Finally, the coach must not be a psychotherapist: it is true that the coach knows a little about psychology but this is not his job nor his objective (although there are very good work psychologists!)

Going further

Coaching is not the answer to everything. It can even be dangerous in certain situations: Steve Berglas, a renowned coach and author of numerous publications on professional coaching, has shown in his article The Real Dangers of Coaching that a bad coach can, on the contrary, reinforce the potential pathologies of the coachee.

Individual, group or organisational coaching?

There are three categories of professional coaching:

Individual coaching

Individual coaching consists of helping a person to achieve a professional objective by mobilising his or her own skills: the coachees can therefore be managers, project leaders, etc.

The coach will facilitate a process of reflection in the coachee so that he or she can find resources to improve his or her personal contribution to the company: to better manage his or her teams, to take on more responsibility or even to change career direction. The aim is to optimise the personal potential of the coachee.

Group coaching

Group coaching is aimed at an entire team (whether business, operational or cross-functional teams): the aim is to help them identify how they function as a group and to see how to improve them.

The coach’s task is to highlight any malfunctions, while strengthening group cohesion and ensuring a good working atmosphere. To do this, a good coach has to deal with the group, combining the authority of the leader with the individual potential of each employee.

Organisation coaching

Organisational coaching often has the mission of accompanying change in a company; this is why it can be composed of several types of coaching and target different actors: it can address the entire ecosystem of a coachee, for example (with the creation of a steering committee that accompanies the entire process), but it can also be a collective coaching of several teams (management teams, business teams, etc.) Finally, organisational coaching can be a specific coaching of decision-makers or internal and external actors of this change.

How does a professional coaching service work?

1. Define the objectives of the intervention

First of all, the specific objective of the process must be defined with the coach, according to your expectations. Then, this objective is defined according to the type of support required to best meet your needs: individual coaching? group coaching?

2. Define the intervention framework

Defining a framework for intervention means agreeing on a duration of support, in terms of number of sessions or over a defined period of time, etc., to be estimated during the first exchanges with the coach.

It also means setting a framework for meetings, whether individual or collective, face-to-face or by videoconference, which can also be adapted according to the working methods of each party.

3. Methods and exercises

In concrete terms, the coaching sessions include exercises and experiments to be carried out, in particular to apply the content of the sessions and exchanges with the coach in concrete terms.


It should not be forgotten that in the context of a coaching service, it is the coachee who does most of the work. It is fundamental that everyone is aligned with what is expected of the coachee both in terms of objectives, but also in very concrete terms of actions to be taken (exercises, etc.).

The aim for the coach is not to micro-manage at all, but to over-communicate ensures that the service is carried out without surprises and allows the person(s) benefiting from the coaching to take responsibility.

4. Measuring the outcome

The objective of coaching is above all to achieve concrete and measurable results, whether for one’s professional career or for one’s company.

Professional coaching: for whom?

1. The members of the codir

Even the best managers need coaching! This is often the case when taking on a new position that involves more responsibility: the stakes change and this can lead to an increase in stress and harm the performance of the coachee.

2. Middle management

Coaching often focuses on leaders or frontline workers to ensure business growth, but coaching middle teams is essential to achieve business goals while promoting internal mobility.

3. The operational pillars of the organisation

It is about coaching all employees to be aligned with the company’s vision and thus improve their productivity. It is also a good investment to encourage them to develop soft skills and thus foster their initiative.

When should I call a professional coach?

There are many reasons to use a professional coach:

1. For successful change management

Recent research has shown that 70% of change management projects fail, in particular due to the absence of change ambassadors, especially in middle management. Being a change ambassador is not something you can improvise, yet it is essential to motivate teams to accompany this change, from the simple employee to the executive.

2. To develop soft-skills in your organisation

While soft skills have always been essential in an organisation, they have become indispensable with the spread of remote working. For managers, for example, it is a question of continuing to motivate their teams online and helping them to juggle their work and private lives.

3. To promote and accelerate internal mobility

Many companies focus on attracting new talent when they already have a pool of talent! Supporting existing talent to promote internal mobility is a winning bet to increase your company’s growth.

4. To foster a more inclusive corporate culture

Organisations are now realising the need to foster a more inclusive corporate culture: career coaching can help to integrate more diverse teams, create opportunities for diverse talent, or adapt your teams to new experiences!

How to choose a professional coach?

1. Make a selection of about ten coaches specialised in the theme you are interested in

You can start by defining the themes that interest you in order to search for coaches specialising in these areas. It could be a professional reorientation, conflict management, support in taking up a new position, in short, so many themes which are then key words to find the ideal coach.

Secondly, word of mouth is always a very good way for you to establish a shortlist of ten or so coaches based on feedback from those around you.

2. Select the coaches that fit your budget and your “logistical” constraints

It is no secret that professional coaching is often quite expensive, especially as companies do not always pay for it because it is not considered as training. You can always ask your employer to finance it in case of professional difficulties but often it will be out of your pocket. Hence the importance of not neglecting the budget when choosing a coach.

Even though online sessions are becoming more and more common, you may prefer to meet your coach face-to-face: in this case, also take into account the location of the coach. If you have one session a week, it is better not to choose a coach who is too far away…

3. Validate the experience and accreditations of your selection

Professional coaches often have very diverse backgrounds and training, from psychology to HR: don’t hesitate to ask about their certifications and accreditations. Especially since not all coaching schools in France are the same: this is why the major coaching associations can issue accreditations to remedy this. The best known are

The State also supervises coaching, with a certification registered in the National Directory of Professional Certifications ( RNCP ).

Finally, don’t forget to ask about their previous experience: who have they worked for before? Have they been recommended to you? What kind of coaching do they do?

4. Shortlist the 3 that best fit your needs, and trust your intuition.

We won’t teach you anything here, but rely on your intuition to make a final selection from your shortlist of coaches. Don’t hesitate to gather as much information as possible about them through their websites, CVs, published articles, etc. in order to get a more precise idea of the person who will accompany you.

Pro tip

If you are unsure, it is often worth taking an initial session with two or three coaches to discuss and see if you feel confident with him/her. It is not in one session that you will reach your professional goals, but it will allow you to select the one with whom you feel the best.

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