The Tip of the Iceberg

When you Google “what is coaching?”, “types of coaching” and “benefits of coaching” you can obtain a great overview of what coaching is and how it can impact individuals and organizations. There are many incredible books you can read like, Co-active Coaching or Coaching for Performance, that provide further insight into principles and implementation of coaching. All this valuable expertise, collectable from a variety of sources, is a fantastic objective introduction to coaching. In this blog, let’s refer to that introduction as the tip of the iceberg. Clearly visible for those who are willing to look above the surface.

The Iceberg

The thing is however, that coaching takes what is above the surface into consideration but and focuses on the part of “the iceberg” that is below the surface. National Geographic posted an encyclopaedic entry in 2022 stating that merely an eighth of an iceberg is what we see above the surface. Similarly, with coaching, if you are willing to look deep within, you will uncover so much more than what you believed to be there in the first place. The following blog aims to dive a bit deeper, to provide you with some perspective on what coaching is beneath the surface for both the coachee and the coach, individually.

Beneath the Surface: The Coachee’s Perspective

C – Choice, Changes, Courage & Commitment

It is the coachee’s choice to seek the support of a coach. To arrive at this point, you as the coachee will have gone through your own process that led you to the realization that you simply cannot do it on your own. From personal experience it takes quite a bit of trying, frustration, and the constant feeling of being unfulfilled. It takes courage to acknowledge that you need support and then it takes even more courage to actually look for it. Now that you have chosen to leave your comfort zone you must commit to also following through with change.

O – Options, Opportunity & Optimizing

Coaching takes a big amount of self-optimzation, no matter what optimization means to you. You will need to be prepared to change your habits. You always have options, even if you are completely unaware of them yet. Coaching is an opportunity to explore these options. By gaining clarity regarding these options, you can evaluate whether any of them align with your goals, values, and innate purpose. It is when we are open to options, that opportunities arise that help us grow toward our potential.

A – Action & Accountability

A lot of people have the initial perception that coaching will offer you a solution to all your challenges in life on a silver platter. The truth however is, that as the coachee you need to take action and find the solution within yourself. Beyond that, you need hold yourself accountable. Whether this be accountability for the actions that have led you to this point, accountability to schedule and appear to the coaching sessions or accountability to action the steps you have committed to during the sessions.

C – Creating Space

As the coachee, it is your responsibility to create space in your schedule to have a coaching session. You will also need to create space in your schedule to take actions toward your goals. The time needed to sustainably create a change goes far beyond the sessions. Additionally, you should be aware that you will need to make space for your growth, even if this means leaving your comfort zone.

H – Hearing, Help & Happiness

As the coachee, it is essential for you to hear your inner self. Once you are in tune with your needs, boundaries, fears, and beliefs you will need to choose to help yourself break away from the place of frustration and unfulfillment. Only once you have removed yourself from that place will you be on the path toward happiness.

I – Intuition

Many of us ignore our intuition. I am sure you can remember a time where your gut feeling warned you and yet you chose to ignore it. Often, at a later stage, we look back wishing we had listened. Trusting your gut feeling a.k.a. intuition is the most effective compass when navigating along your journey of life. Essentially, it is only you, who knows what is right for you.

N – No & New Direction

Probably the most difficult aspect of being coached is saying no to your old habits and ways to develop and go in a new direction. However, saying no is inevitable. You will need to say no to limiting beliefs, no to doubts, no to situations that do not serve you and ultimately no to the old you. Just remember, every no will result in a yes to the new you, a yes to your goals and a yes to your growth.

G – Goals & Growth

Digging deep can be uncomfortable. Making changes can be difficult. Setting goals can be daunting. But if you look at it as being planted, you will see that you are creating the environment and circumstances to grow and flourish. I dare you to choose to grow toward your full potential fiercely and unapologetically.

Beneath the Surface: The Coach’s Perspective

C – Confidence

The premise of a coaching relationship is that the coach if confident in the coachees’ capabilities, resourcefulness, and completeness. Way before you see your full potential, the coach recognises it in you and throughout the relationship empowers you to see it too.

O – Open-Space

The creation of space refers to more than the coach providing a space in which you feel comfortable to be vulnerable, feel heard and understood. The coach also needs to make space within before each session. Almost like entering a session with a blank page for you to decorate with your thoughts, fears, and dreams.

A – Acceptance

From personal experience, almost all coaches would like to help everyone if they could. Not all however have the expertise that you require. Sometimes coaches need to accept that to support an individual, they may need to recommend a different professional to assist.

C – Change Embodiment

Yes, coaches support and empower their coachees to make changes. But it is very important for coaches to also embody this change. For coaches to authentically support others to flourish, they themselves must flourish first.

H – Honouring Boundaries

It is the coaches responsibility to honour and implement boundaries. The importance of setting boundaries is essential in any coaching relationship. They will communicate the boundaries at the beginning of the coaching relationship to ensure that you as a coachee know what to expect from day one.

I – Intuition

Perhaps the most powerful skill a coach will ever possess, is their intuition. It is the coach’s intuition that helps them understand elaborately what you are bringing to the session.

N – Non-Judgemental & Non-Directional

Coaches should enter their csessions, completely non-judgemental. This means that they will respect your values, beliefs, fears, and goals without passing any judgement. Your coach will be non-directional too, they will encourage you to find the direction that you have chosen to be right for you.

G – Growth

Coaches too consistently commit to their personal and professional development. Taking steps toward creating a balanced and fulfilled life is something they incorporate into their day to day lives, to authentically walk the talk. They know that growth is not linear and that everyone grows in their own way. They are dedicated to flourishing to their full potential and to bring the best version of themselves to each session and beyond. It is only when this authentic growth is achieved, that coaches can inspire coachees to do the same.

What is Coaching? – The Iceberg in its Entirety

Coaching creates a meaningful impact for everyone involved in the process. An effective coaching relationship requires both the coach & coachee to bring resources and creativity as well as trust in themselves and their capabilities to the session. Everyone will have a unique experience, as your values, beliefs and goals differ to those of others. The only aspect that remains the same, is that the coach is there to empower you to grow and flourish to your full potential.

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• Kimsey-House, H. Kimsey-House, K. Sandhal, P. & Whitworth, L. (2018) Co-Active Coaching: The Proven Framework for Transformative Conversations at Work and in Life. 4th ed. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
• National Geographic (2022), ‘Iceberg’, accessed 20 July 2022,
• Whitmore, J. (2017) Coaching for Performance: The principles and practices of coaching and leadership. 5th ed. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

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