High Performance Coaching

If you want to dramatically lift your work-life performance, there’s a crucial solution to help you get from where you are now to where you want to be.. Yes, whether you want to improve business results, boost team morale, lose weight and get fitter, develop a stronger marriage, and get all your s#%t together, the solution is simple.  What is it? High-level coaching with a professional coach.

Why coaching?

Almost every top sports team or sports star has at least one coach.  As do many CEOs, managers and business owners.

Why a coach?  It’s simple.  Coaches help individuals and teams to accelerate performance and get better results.  And, the best coaches, sometimes referred to as super coaches, use their skills to transform their players into superstars and champions.

In the business world coaches are known mainly as business, executive or high performance coaches, while the term “business mentor” is also used. Nonetheless, provided he or she has the right expertise and skill set, a good coach can help you to:

  • Develop effective strategies and plans
  • Solve critical performance issues and problems
  • Build stronger relationships of trust
  • Overcome obstacles and setbacks
  • Develop your skill base and talents
  • Achieve an important personal goal
  • Improve sales and marketing processes

Where do you find a good business and executive coach?  That’s a challenge because the fact is, excellent coaches are few and far between. Put another way, there are a lot of unqualified, poorly skilled and inexperienced people calling themselves coaches.

Some people think that buying a coaching franchise, attending seminars or being a member of a coaching association automatically makes them a good coach. Wrong!

And, there are so many varying definitions as to what a coach actually is and does, it can become quite confusing.

What is coaching?

The origin of coaching dates back to 1830, according to etymology, which is the study of word origins.  And, as defined by the etymology dictionary, coaching is:

Meaning “instructor/trainer” is c. 1830 Oxford University slang for a tutor who “carries” a student through an exam; athletic sense is from 1861. A more classical word for an athletic trainer was agonistarch, from Greek agonistarkhes “one who trains (someone) to compete in the public games and contests.”
(Source: http://www.etymonline.com/word/coach)

To me this definition highlights three key things:

Firstly, the purpose of coaching is to improve performance.  This is what is meant by “‘carries’ a student.” 

Secondly, the coach performs several roles including those of a mentor, motivator, helper and teacher.

Finally, the definition suggests that as a tutor, instructor or trainer, the coach has technical knowledge and expertise – and part of the coach’s role is to pass that expertise onto the student.

Ultimately, the concept of coaching is quite clear cut.  That is, coaching is a process of improving skills and performance.  It involves a coach, which is the person doing the coaching…as well as the coachee/s, who is the individual or team being coached.

For more than 150 years the concept of a coach has been pretty clear-cut and unadulterated – and has stayed true to its etymological roots. This has been helped no doubt by the popularity of sports and the role that the sports coach plays in the development of sporting performance.  The fact is, the domain or field most associated with coaching is sports.

Unfortunately, the concept of coaching has become somewhat muddied, especially since the early 2000s, with the emergence of what I call the professional coaching industry.  In essence, this is the industry where coaches are tasked with improving the performance of businesses, business teams, career professionals, executives, business owners and so on.

As an example of how many in the professional coaching industry view coaching, here is a definition of coaching by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a coaching body for professional coaches:

“ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.”

(source: https://coachfederation.org/faqs/)

To elaborate on the coaching process, in 2006 ICF stated the following:

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has. (www.coachfederation.org/aboutcoaching/index.asp)

To add to these definitions, it is generally accepted by many in the professional coaching industry that coaches don’t have to be strategic, tactical or functional experts. In other words, they don’t need to be experts or skilled in areas such as leadership, sales, management, strategic planning, team-building and so on.

Furthermore, professional coaching is viewed as an intervention that is distinctly different to mentoring or consulting. Here’s how.

Mentoring is where a mentee teams up with someone with significant skills and experience (the mentor) in order to model the mentor. And consulting is where an expert (the consultant) is called upon to solve a problem, give advice or improve a situation.

As currently defined by their industry leaders and associations, professional coaches do not give advice or mentor clients.

When you look at it closely, under the current professional coaching model, the coach is primarily a facilitator.

Again, this is the model favored by many professional coaches. But I believe that both the model, and the role of the professional coach as currently defined by some of its industry leaders, is flawed. Why? Several reasons.

First and foremost, this model goes against the original definition of coach. That definition is very clear cut.

Next, professional coaching as currently defined oversimplifies the coach’s role. For example, it is a mistake to think that a coach primarily asks questions, listens, asks more questions, listens to more answers etc, etc, etc….until a light bulb switches on inside the client’s head and bingo….they’ve come up with their own answer. On the contrary, coaching clients should be able to go to a coach to get answers.

Thirdly, it is unrealistic for a client to have the all the skills “within themselves.” Not all coaching clients have the skills needed to improve performance, and so they should be able to go to a coach to get them. And if the client doesn’t have the potential or talent to develop a particular skill? The coach needs to let the client know.  Let me  explain.

To perform in any field you need content (skills, tacit knowledge, talent) as well as a process (a mechanism or method by which the content is utilised). You can’t have one without the other. (Well, you can have one without the other but it won’t get you very far.)

With professional coaching currently it is assumed that the client has enough of the content and therefore the coach doesn’t need to provide more content. Instead, the coach uses a process to draw the existing content out. This assumption is a mistake because there will be many occasions when the client needs more content.

Also, coaching clients should get more than a facilitator. A coach should tell, push, encourage and, when occasion permits, demand.

Finally, a coach should be a mentor or advisor when the situation warrants. And based on my own coaching experiences, there will be plenty of situations when mentoring and advising is needed.

Finally, when coaching is viewed primarily as facilitation, it creates a low barrier-to-entry to those who want to become coaches.  As a result, there are many poorly skilled and ill-equipped people calling themselves coaches.


How to find a great coach

What to do? If you’re looking to hire a business or executive coach to help you improve business and personal performance, I recommend you do the following:

1. Look to the field of sports coaching for some guidelines. In other words, consider the attributes of the top sports coaches and apply these as criteria.

2. Identify a coach who uses robust performance improvement models and tools that are proven to get results.

3. Be clear about the skills and performance areas you want to improve in.

4. Hire a coach who “walks the talk” and “practices what he/she preaches” in the skill areas you want to improve in.  Put simply, the coach needs to have significant experience and a strong track record.

Attributes of top coaches

There are coaches and then there are super coaches.  And the super coaches out-coach their less successful counterparts by significant margins.

Now I don’t make this observation lightly. You see, for well over twenty years I’ve studied and applied the principles and practices of high performance coaching and development.  Indeed, in 1981 I was one of the first group of students to complete the Certificate in Recreational Leadership course, which pioneered many of the leadership development and coaching programs offered by tertiary institutions today.

Furthermore, in my coaching career I’ve constantly developed my skills as a championship-winning sports/fitness coach, life skills mentor and youth leader.  And I’ve also applied these same skills as a professional coach, well before the business and executive coaching industries became popular.  I’ve worked with high-performance athletes, CEOs and some of the country’s most respected business owners.

As part of my interest in coaching I’ve studied the careers of some of the world’s greatest sports coaches including Graham Henry (Rugby), Phil Jackson (Basketball), Wayne Bennett (Rugby League), Hank Haney (Tiger Woods’ former golf coach) and Sir Alex Ferguson (Football).  Now while these coaches differ in many ways, they have some common coaching attributes. Based on my research I’ve identified the top attributes of super coaches, and these form my Super Coach attributes.

By way of explanation, the super coach attributes are:

Highly skilled strategists.  Top sports coaches do their homework.  They study the opposition.  They survey competitive conditions.  They analyze with a vengeance.  As an example, Graham Henry, one of the world’s top rugby coaches, is renowned for watching rugby videos for hours on end…trying to glean useful bits and pieces of information from his analysis.  Actually, when it comes to doing their homework, all top sports coaches can often be obsessively fastidious….gleaning insights, working out strategies and solving problems.

From their analysis top coaches then develop the game plans (strategies, tactics and solutions) that give their teams a winning edge. Key point. Find a coach who is an outstanding strategist.

Technical expertise.  Top sports coaches have tons of knowledge and expertise residing in their brains, built upon their accumulated experience and learning.  They intimately understand the sports they coach and most have played their sports to a high level. Key point. Like top sports coaches, the best business and executive coaches are very knowledgeable – both experientially and theoretically – and have demonstrable track records in applying that knowledge.  In other words, they walk the talk. So find a coach with high levels of technical expertise and a track record to boot.

Strong Soft/Life skills.  No point having tons of technical ability, but lacking the all-important soft/life skills.  According to Wikipedia, Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a person’s ‘EQ’ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.” (source: Wikipedia).  Soft/life skills also include having the right mindset, and an ability to influence and teach others effectively.

Super Coaches know how to bring out the best in individuals and teams, have an excellent understanding of human behavior and psychology, and are great listeners and sounding boards. So in a nutshell, soft/life skills are those skills that refer to our ability to manage ourselves and to influence and get on well with others. Key point.  Find a coach with strong soft skills.

Excellent “Game Sense” coach using blended coaching techniques.  Super coaches understand and apply the principle of “Game Sense” to their coaching. Game sense is a sports coaching principle and methodology whereby coaching and training closely replicate actual game conditions.  It also applies blended coaching techniques Key point.  Find a coach who understands and knows how to apply the principle of “Game Sense” and blended coaching to learning and skill development.

Excellent at building a high-performance environment and team culture.  Top sports coaches are excellent at creating an environment and culture where high-performance is valued and sought after. And they understand the role that structure and processes play in building this culture. Key point.  Find a coach who knows how to build a high-performance culture.

The combination of skills, minds and plans leads to improved performance and creates and builds a track record of success.  And it is the track record of success that determines how good a coach really is.

In order to help a client achieve better results, my view is that business and executive coaches should have the skills and attributes outlined above.

Robust high performance tools and models

In addition to identifying a coach with the attributes outlined above, you need to learn about the tools and models that coach uses in his or her work.  Think of these as the coaching equivalent to a plumber’s or architect’s toolkit.  It includes the coach’s models, frameworks and approach to improving a client’s situation.

The actual coaching approach we use follows the Blended Performance Coaching model, illustrated here:


The Blended Performance Coaching model integrates elements of high-level sports coaching with apprenticeships and traditional learning.  Traditional class-based learning makes up only a small component of the coaching, with most of the coaching having a high practical component.

As shown the model highlights the two key people in a coaching initiative or session – the coach and the coachee.  The ultimate objective of a coaching program is to get the learner up to a high skill level.  And to do that the coach uses a variety of techniques including active coaching, modelling and game sense training.

Professional coaching

Let me introduce you to a professional coaching service that focuses on helping you develop the strategic skills.  In other words, those skills that are primarily responsible for performance and success. Further, this service applies the Super Coach principles and practices, as used by top sports coaches, as well as models like the Blended Performance model shown above.

Inherent in this approach is the view that coaching consists of a number of approaches to help a client improve performance.  Therefore coaching can include such interventions as consulting, mentoring and training.

The service specialises in Strategic High Performance, integrating principles of strategy, psychology, design thinking and personal development as practiced by high performers in business and elite-level sport. And it applies the following equation as the overall framework:


This is the formula used by championship-winning sports teams, Olympic athletes, master coaches, highly successful business leaders, and high performers from all types of domains.  It is a simple formula but clearly encapsulates that the keys to success in any endeavor are:

  1. Having a high performance skillset
  2. Developing a good strategy
  3. Skilfully executing your strategy

Our skills focus? We coach you to bring your “A game” in what we call the High Performance Super 7, which are seven skills we’ve identified as being most important for improving work-life performance.  The skills are:

  • High Performance Mindset – Includes self-belief, self-motivation, self-discipline, resilience and mental toughness
  • Strategic thinking – Visioning, strategic planning, goal setting, decision-making and creative problem-solving
  • Building high-trust relationships and teams – Maintaining strong relationships at home, work, and in your social life
  • Health, fitness and weight management – Maintaining health and fitness by following good nutrition and exercise habits
  • Influential communication – Effective communication through writing, speaking and body language
  • Brand and reputation development – Building a reputable personal brand
  • Personal leadership – Leading yourself and others with integrity


Effective coaching in these areas lead to stronger mental performance, better relationships, healthier living and a more balanced work-life performance.

The very best in coaching

The late Paul J.Meyer, one of the world’s top personal development authors and speakers once stated that “The best investment you can make is an investment in YOU!”  He’s right on the money.

With this coaching service you will learn critical skills designed to help you improve business and personal performance. You will also be taught how to better balance work, family and self, so that your overall performance is much more balanced.

In sports, good coaching can do much to improve an athlete’s skill levels. The same principle applies to business and executive coaching.  Simply, good business and executive coaching will improve your business skills and those of your team members.

For more information on how to get the best out of a coaching relationship call 09 534 9417. Also, ask for a free copy of Why Coaching Sucks, a special report on the business and executive coaching industry.