Coaching – What Coaching?

Feb, 18, 2018

Even among experienced executive coaches, there seems to be a lot of confusion and disagreement on how to distinguish different types of coaching.

The following is based on Progress-U’s Asia Innovative Coaching Institute’s (AICI) definitions and distinctions, based on what we found most meaningful and matching with the major trends in the industry.

a) Distinction Personal / Corporate Coaching

It simply distinguishes ‘who pays’: personal coaching means that the coachee pays her/himself, corporate coaching means that the company the coachee works for pays. Coaching contents could vary from life issues, career issues, work/leadership issues, etc.

b) Distinction Life / Executive / Career / Business Coaching

Here the distinction is more along the lines of what the coaching topics are. Of course, it can (and does) happen that sometimes coaching crosses over to more than one of these topics.

Life Coaching: mostly focused on personal topics such as marriage / divorce (it’s different from marriage/divorce counselling though), teenagers, personal relationships, personal lifestyle, finding meaning, etc.

Executive Coaching: typically for managers at different levels (up to C-Suite) – focus tends to be on leadership related topics such as leading team, leading organization, emotional intelligence as a leader, driving engagement, navigating politics, etc.

Career Coaching: as the name says, it’s about career related topics, such as finding a new career direction, optimising the current career prospects, finding more joy/meaning in what one is doing, preparing the next career step, succeeding in a new career, etc.

Business Coaching: tends to focus more on business owners, could be start-up entrepreneurs or more established owners; topics could vary widely from leadership related topics, to innovation, taking the business to a higher level, succession, turnaround, etc.

c) Distinction 1:1 / Group / Team Coaching

Here the distinction is more about who are we actually coaching.

1:1 coaching is straight forward and self-explanatory. Group and Team Coaching are often confused.

Group coaching is typically for a group of 2-8 people who have more or less the same coaching objectives. They may or may not know each other at the beginning of the coaching, they might be from the same or different companies. The additional challenge (vs. 1:1 coaching) in group coaching is to achieve a sufficiently high level of trust and intimacy as well as dealing with the group dynamics.

Team coaching is about working with an intact team that may be functional or dysfunctional. It’s important that all team members plus the team leader are involved. The coaching is more about the positivity (how the team members and the team leader engage with each other) and productivity (how the team member and its leader gets results) of the team.

Both Group and Team Coaching are considered advanced coaching approaches. It’s highly recommended that anyone who considers conducting that kind of coaching first becomes proficient in 1:1 coaching and then gets trained on tools, processes and skills for these advanced coaching approaches.

d) Distinction Mentor Coaching vs. Coaching Supervision

While both Mentor Coaching and Coaching Supervision are supporting practicing coaches, the focus of either tends to be different:

  • Mentor Coaching focuses on supporting practicing coaches enhance their coaching proficiency through discussion of coaching competencies, coaching cases and often includes either direct (= shadowing) or indirect (= through recording) observation of the coach in her/his coaching practice
  • Coaching Supervision tends to be more broad and supports the coach in whatever support the coach would benefit from in order to coach more successfully. It could touch personal challenges that impact the presence of the coach, it could touch on particularly challenging coaching clients, etc.

Besides these distinctions, there are numerous other types of coaching, often based on a certain methodology of coaching, such as:

  • Fearless Coaching
  • Ontological Coaching
  • Results Coaching
  • Integral Coaching
  • NLP Coaching
  • and many more…

So next time anyone asks you what kind of coaching you offer, the above distinctions might help you give an accurate and concise answer.


Charlie Lang
Charlie Lang
Founder and Chief Content Architect
Founder and Chief Content Architect – Charlie Lang is a C-Suite coach and a pioneer in the coaching industry in Asia Pacific.


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