Coaching

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 where they wish to make progress. 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.

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.

The value of coaching is that it allows an individual to work with an objective, impartial “thinking 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.  All coaches should adhere to a recognised code of ethics, such as the European Mentoring and Coaching Council Global Code of Ethics.

Coaching is different from mentoring in that coaches bring coaching qualifications and skills, but usually have no direct experience of the area of work of their coachees, while a mentor will often bring relevant knowledge or experience of the mentee’s area of work to share with the mentee.  Research among UK employers found coaching to be one of the top three most effective learning and development practices (CIPD Learning and Development Report 2015).

Is coaching for me?

Do you…

  • Have a thorny issue to work through, which feels impossible or overwhelming?
  • Have a decision to make, which you are going round and round on?
  • Find your thinking has got ‘stuck’ or ‘foggy’?
  • Find a working relationship causes frustration and needs to improve?
  • Wonder how to plan your career, and what step to take next?

Or you might be…

  • Starting a new role and not sure how to get off to the best start
  • Returning to work after a career break, or extended absence, and not sure how to find your feet
  • Going through major changes at work or home
  • Feeling you have more to offer
  • Keen to get your career more on track

Are you:

  • Prepared to reflect on your own approaches and thinking
  • Open to new perspectives
  • Ready to make changes
  • Happy to commit to participating fully in coaching sessions
  • Open to working out your own solutions in a supportive environment, without seeking advice

….Then coaching may be for you

When mentoring might be more appropriate:

If you are looking to learn from someone who has faced similar challenges in the past, or who is working at a more senior role in your profession, or if you are keen to gain advice and guidance on issues you face, then mentoring will be a more appropriate development opportunity for you.

When training might be more appropriate:

If you already know where you would like to improve, e.g. time management skills, or managing difficult conversations, then applying for an online or face to face course may be a more appropriate development opportunity for you.

When counselling might be more appropriate:

If you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope and need emotional support, or if you would like to explore issues in your past experiences which you feel are colouring your present, counselling will be a more appropriate support for you.

What different types of coaching are available?

One-to-one coaching is available for University staff at no cost to departments through the Oxford University Coaching Network (OCN).  This network is made up of University staff who hold coaching qualifications or training, who offer their time on a voluntary basis within their working hours to coach colleagues working in other parts of the University.  The coaching may be related to a wide range of work issues, such as personal development, confidence building, improving work relationships, career progression, specific challenges, issues and projects. 

One-to-one coaching from a bank of approved professional coaches external to the University is also available to University staff, where a departmental budget has been allocated for this.  Coaching fees vary between approx. £150 - £400 per hour, and coaching programme length will vary from approx. 3-9 hours.  Coaching from an external coach is used where an individual has been referred to coaching by their line manager or HR as part of a performance improvement plan.  This may also be recommended for senior roles or for particularly sensitive issues where an individual may feel constrained working with a colleague.

Applying for coaching

Working with an Oxford University Coaching Network (OCN) coach

Oxford University Coaching network (OCN) is made up of University staff who hold coaching qualifications or training, who offer their time on a voluntary basis within their working hours to coach colleagues working in other parts of the University.  The network is administered and quality assured by the Oxford Learning Institute.  There is currently no cost to departments for accessing coaching (coaching by professional coaches external to the University will generally cost between £150 - £400 per hour).  Staff must apply for their own coaching, and cannot be referred by their line manager or HR contact.

Staff can access up to four 1:1 coaching sessions with an OCN coach.  These sessions will take place at mutually convenient times and locations.  Sessions will be confidential and will give you the opportunity to explore an issue, challenge or goal in depth, explore options and decide on your approaches and next steps.   Oxford University is using Mentornet, an online system to help staff find a coach. 

To apply for coaching:

  1. Read through the Coachee agreement (192kb) and ensure you can meet all the criteria listed.
  2. Go to the Oxford University Coaching Network webpage and register with Mentornet. You will need your Oxford University email address and a memorable and secure password. Please refer to the Quick start guide (1,145kb). Provide information about yourself and your coaching interests and goals. 
  3. When a coach becomes available, your profile will be authorised and you can log on and look for a coach. 
  4. Click on 'request a coach/mentor' and the system will provide a short list of coaches who are currently available for coaching, so that you can select the one you feel would be the best 'fit' to work with you. Click on 'Request match' for your preferred coach. 
  5. Your selected coach will accept your request and contact you to arrange a time to have an initial conversation by phone or in person.  In some circumstances, a coach may not accept your request, e.g. if they are suddenly unavailable, or if they foresee a conflict of interest.
  6. If you are happy from your initial contact with your coach that this will be a productive working relationship, coaching begins, and you will agree further sessions (usually up to four in total) at mutually convenient times and locations (including Skype or phone coaching if selected).

Working with an external coach

Departments can contact the OLI for a list of approved external coaches.  It is good practice to offer more than one coach for the coachee to select their preferred coach.  The contract is agreed between the department and the coach.  Coaching from an external coach is used where an individual has been referred to coaching by their line manager or HR as part of a performance improvement plan.  This may also be recommended for senior roles or for particularly sensitive issues where an individual may feel constrained working with a colleague.

Getting the most out of my coaching

To get the most out of your coaching, you will need to be very clear about your expectations from coaching, and in particular be sure that you are not seeking mentoring, training or counselling from your coach.  You will need to have thought through what you want to gain from the coaching and be open to changing the way you look at things.

Once you start your coaching, make sure to play an active part, challenge your thinking, attend all planned sessions and follow up on your agreed actions.  Give your coach feedback on what you find most and less useful, and set aside time to reflect on your learning and progress.

If you would like to learn more about coaching

  • Watch: search on Lynda.com for Coaching and Developing Employees
  • Visit: the Association for Coaching webpages
  • Read:
    • Cox, E., Bachkirova, T. and Clutterbuck, D. (Eds) The Complete Handbook of Coaching. (2nd Ed., 2014) London: Sage.
    • Kline, N. (2014) Living with Time to Think, Octopus Books