Coaching support

In the Oxford Learning Institute we can suggest potential coaches for staff members and we maintain a list of coaches who have experience of coaching successfully at Oxford/ in higher education. Please contact our administrator for more information.  

Would you like to become a coach or further develop your coaching skills? Interested in gaining an ILM Coaching qualification? Oxford Brookes University is offering all Oxford University staff a 10% discount on course fees on their ILM5 certificate in Coaching and Mentoring starting in November 2016. Following this link to find out more.

What is meant by coaching?

A coach facilitates a conversation. Coaches create an environment in which a coachee considers an issue that challenges them and which they wish to move forward to a conclusion or resolution. These issues are often related to personal and/or professional development. The coachee is enabled to articulate goals and to generate and consider options before identifying what they will do next in order to achieve those goals.

Coaches are often non-directive in the sense that their role is to respond in an empathetic, non-judgmental manner to the issues raised by the client. The coach will not offer advice or guidance or impose their own agenda, nor will they intrude into areas that the client wishes to keep off-limits. Coaching can be a rigorous experience; a coach will often reflect what has been heard from the coachee to allow the coachee to hear their own inner thought processes spoken in another’s voice. Coaches will also, on occasion, challenge an assertion or a line of thinking to enable the coachee to review their internal dialogue.

Coaching is a different activity and experience to mentoring. When we work with a mentor, we seek to learn from the mentor’s experience and knowledge. When we are coached, we seek to learn from our own experience and knowledge, and the role of the coach is to enable us to achieve that.

The value of coaching is that it allows an individual to work with an objective, impartial "partner" who will enable them to focus on the issues that are important to them and to arrive at self-generated solutions. Coaching complements the relationship between an individual and their manager/supervisor/head of department; it does not replace that relationship.

What kind of topics can be taken to coaching?

People take may different issues to a coaching conversation. Here are some examples:

"I am anxious about conveying difficult messages to colleagues at work. I want to be more confident in speaking up so that I am heard, without appearing to be difficult myself."

"I don't have a productive working relationship with a colleague. I need to know how to overcome that."

"I don't seem to be managing my work-life balance very well and my home life is suffering. I want to know how to improve that."

"I'm trying to make a difficult decision about something and I need some help working out what I'm going to do."

What does coaching cost and who pays?

Individuals or departments make an agreement or contract with a coach and are responsible for paying the appropriate fees. Fees will vary depending upon the experience and charging structure of the coach concerned. There may be occasions where an internal coach agrees to take on a coaching assignment and these may be free of charge to the department concerned.

What types of coaching are available?

Within the University, OLI supports two different strands of coaching activity.

  1. Individual coaching
  2. Three way coaching

Individual coaching happens when an individual coachee wishes to work, with a coach, on an issue that they have identified, in order to achieve a personal or professional goal. In this situation, a coach will work with a coachee on whatever issue the coachee brings into the room. The issue will be for the coachee to articulate. The “contract” is between coach and coachee. The content of these conversations is confidential to the coachee and coach and the coach will only disclose information outside of the relationship when this is explicitly agreed with the coachee or when the coach believes that there is a serious risk of harm or danger to the coachee or others if information is withheld.

Three way coaching can be offered in a situation where there is an identified and agreed need for an individual coachee to develop or change a working practice or capability. That need is discussed and agreed between the individual and a manager/supervisor or head of department/unit. The individual concerned must be in agreement that coaching is a potential way forward. In these circumstances, a coach will meet with or talk to the coachee first, in order to discover whether the coaching relationship is likely to flourish. If the coachee and coach agree to work together, then the coach will usually be briefed by the manager before hearing the development need being discussed and agreed between the coachee and manager/head of department. The coach will agree to work with the coachee on a specific issue or issues agreed between all three parties. The contract here is between the coach and the “commissioning” manager and exists to support the coachee in developing their practice.

During the conversation between all three parties, an agreement will need to be reached on how the coachee and coach will share the content and outcomes of any coaching conversations with the commissioning manager. The coach will only disclose information outside of this agreement when the coach believes that there is a serious risk of harm or danger to the coachee or others if information is withheld.

The commissioning manager will be able to assess the impact of agreed coaching through any agreed subsequent conversations and through observation.

It may prove valuable to have a further three-way meeting between all parties to review progress.

What can OLI do to help individuals and departments source a coach?

Some individuals and departments already have working relationships with coaches they have used before and value. On other occasions, enquirers may simply want a list of coaches who have experience of working in higher education and/or at Oxford. For OLI’s list of coaches, please contact our administrator.

There are circumstances, however, when individuals or departments may wish for some additional guidance in sourcing a coach. OLI can assist by:

  • Listening to the issue at stake
  • Clarifying where coaching is and isn’t appropriate
  • Suggesting coaches who may be appropriate in the context described
  • Making contact with the selected coaches to identify whether or not they are available to help and feel suited to take on the commission
  • Advising the individual on how to identify, in conversation (usually by phone), which coach is best suited to the situation in question
  • Putting the individual in touch with the coaches selected
  • Advising the individual or department on how to agree a contract with a selected coach (as well as how to contact those not selected to explain that they have not been successful)
  • Advising on the nature of a coaching relationship, what to do if the relationship does not flourish and how to manage the end of a coaching relationship

Contracting with a coach

Individuals or departments who are agreeing a contract with a coach should take care to ensure that these topics at least are covered in any agreement:

  1. What is charged and what isn’t (an initial meeting to discover whether the coaching relationship is likely to flourish, for example, is frequently excluded from any fees)
  2. The length of the coaching relationship (usually expressed as a number of coaching meetings over a specific period)
  3. The fees involved and any additional expenses (e.g. travel and/or subsistence)
  4. Potential or agreed venues for coaching meetings
  5. Any required review points
  6. The terms upon which the agreement may be terminated on either side and any conditions attached

I am a coachee; how can I get the best from a coaching relationship?

Participation in coaching is voluntary. If you are unfamiliar with coaching then deciding or agreeing to work with a coach may lead to some very natural anxieties.

You can expect a coach to be:

  • A good listener. Effective coaches will listen far more than they talk. Their role is to create an environment in which the issues voiced, the goals and the options are coming from you. Effective coaches will punctuate a conversation in order to give you the opportunity to reflect on your experience and what you want to achieve.
  • Empathetic. That doesn’t mean that a coach should or will be "on your side." It means that the coach will listen, unconditionally, to what you say and will demonstrate an understanding of the issues you raise.
  • Non-judgmental. A coach will accept what you say and who you are.
  • Authentic. A coach will be "present" in the conversation with you and, without in any way dominating the conversation, will speak genuinely and openly with you.

Sometimes, a coaching relationship does not flourish. In that case, the coach and/or the coachee should feel free to end the coaching contract without anxiety.

Code of ethics

The advice on this website is based upon the guidance contained in the Code of Ethics published by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.