Similarities and Differences in Coaching

Business and Executive Coaching is a very challenging and yet very rewarding profession.  Helping business owners and senior members of staff to address important issues that may be preventing them to achieve the real success they deserve, is truly very satisfying.

This article highlights similarities and differences which can be found in different styles and/or types of coaching.   In my experience of delivering coaching to individuals, teams and groups, I have learnt to adopt the most appropriate form of coaching while maintaining the key proposition: helping business individuals to identify and address issues that prevent them from being highly successful and releasing their full potential.


Different people associate the word coaching to a range of meanings; I will refer in this article to coaching as a process based on self-directed learning, addressed at business people, with the aim of addressing and solving issues around business performance, where the coach’s main role is asking questions. This way, the coach stimulates and facilitates the client’s thinking therefore helping her/him to address those issues that are preventing the achievement of her/his full potential.  Coaching methodologies differ from each other quite considerably and, while some of them are based on a fairly laid back approach, others carry articulate structures and measurability metrics that allow both Coach and Client to understand where the process is going and easily measure the results.

Irrespectively of the different type of coaching used, the key element, that ensures the expected outcome, is the commitment  of the client  to simply carry out the actions and tasks agreed during the session/s.

Coaching Individuals

Similarly to personal training for athletes,  we can say that coaching individuals in business is a very effective way of  ensuring a swift and powerful transformation in the client’s outcome.  By working regularly with a coach, the client is stimulated, stretched, supported and, at the same time, held  accountable to ensure that she/he will maintain focus and dedicate sufficient energy toward the achievement of her/his goals.  It is the coach’s responsibility to be fully dedicated and ensure that the client can achieve the best possible outcome in the shortest period of time.   Coaching individuals also offers full confidentiality; clients can disclose to the coach their deepest emotional issues that may affect their performance in business, without seemingly being directed related to business at all.

Coaching Teams

A simple and obvious definition of Team Coaching is: “helping a group of people  become and/or behave like a Team”.  A Team should have certain typical features like complementary skill-set among members, willing to work together as a whole and having agreed on a common working approach and methodology.  Team members may know each other socially to certain extent and they have to work together either virtually or in person.  As coaches, we need to ensure that we are helping the Team members define common goals and have an agreement about tasks and actions that each member will perform.  Eventual disagreements and conflicts must be addressed and promptly resolved to avoid long term negative repercussions.  Compared to Individual Coaching, the level of confidentiality toward each member is reduced although common rules about what should and can be disclosed and addressed are usually agreed at the beginning of each session.  The level of accountability among members of the team is ensured by the expectations from each member of the team to receive specific and prefixed results from all members.

Coaching Groups

Coaching a group of heterogeneous people is a great way of helping them address issues they would normally discuss during individual one-to-one sessions. Alongside coaching and several other benefits, working in a group offers the wealth of knowledge and experience from other members of the group.  Within a well selected group, is quite common to find out that somebody’s current challenge is part somebody else’s experience.  Each member of the group has his own agenda about what to achieve and the content of the coaching sessions is dictated by these specific needs.   I have developed a format for group coaching which ensures  that each member of the group can quickly get used to and learn to use coaching-based conversations (e.g. asking questions) when dealing with other members of the group.

Similarities in coaching Individuals, Teams and Groups

Building on what we described before, we can say that the 3 types of coaching all share the following similarities:

  • Self directed learning during coaching conversations: asking questions and stimulating the clients’ thinking will  help them  achieve solutions that they will own, be motivated to achieve and proud for having achieved them.
  • Dedication of the coach: in all cases, the coach’s role to ensure that  clients will achieve the best possible outcomes as per their own definition and expectations: e.g. the coach will/should not offer an opinion or judgement about what the outcome should be and whether it’s good or bad for the client.
  • Commitment of the client: no result can be achieved unless the client commits to take action and carry out the tasks agreed during each session.
  • Lasting results: achieving one or more goals could have a limited and short term meaning and so it is key that the coach helps clients to extend the learning process and the benefits of coaching to create a positive impact on other areas of the clients’ business and private life.

Differences between coaching Individuals, Teams and Groups

Withstanding the similarities described in the previous paragraph, we should bear in mind the following differences:

  • The level of confidentiality: it can be expected to have total confidentiality when coached as part of an individual session; when coaching within a team session there are different areas of conversation that can be totally open but equally there may be areas of conflict that could cause resistance from some of the members of the team. When coaching a group is a good practice to ensure that all members of the group are bound by a comprehensive agreement that include a professionally written paragraph which ensures and enforces confidentiality.
  • Duration of the sessions: individual coaching is usually arranged in fairly short sessions, usually ranging between 45 and 120 minutes although shorter or longer sessions can be possible.  Team and Group sessions  usually last between 2 and 7 hours depending on the size of the group and their specific needs.
  • Frequency of the sessions: individual sessions are organised weekly or fortnightly, although some programs work over 3 or 4 weeks periods; Team or Group sessions usually operate on longer periods, 4-12 weeks between sessions.
  • Delivery of the sessions: sessions for individuals can be delivered in person as well as over the telephone or other VoIP technologies.  In fact nearly 50% of all coaching delivered is over the phone.  Team and Group coaching is usually delivered in person while there can be short follow-up conference calls in between.


Coaching is a powerful tool that helps individuals, teams and groups to define and achieve lasting goals for themselves and their businesses.  The choice of being coached as an individual or part of a team or group can depend from a number of factors, some of which can be out of your control; the most important thing to agree is that, whatever you expect to achieve through coaching, can and will indeed be achieved. The one key element which may determine the outcome of any type of coaching program, is the willingness of the client to follow through, to take action and actually do what he/she has agreed to do; no action = no results.

Posted under Articles

This post was written by massimo on 24 March 2011

Tags: , ,