Article: Coaching is helping others to catalyze their thinking

Executive Coaching

Coaching is helping others to catalyze their thinking

Magdalena N. Mook, CEO & Executive Director, ICF, on the role and attributes of a good coach, transformation of the perception of coaching and more
Coaching is helping others to catalyze their thinking

Coaching is partnering with an individual in a thought-provoking process that helps bring his/her best potential personally and professionally


Magdalena N. Mook is the Executive Director and CEO of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and is actively involved in ICF’s leadership as a strategic partner. Her expertise lies in strategic planning, cultural competence, ethics, international affairs and board governance. Magdalena is a trained Coach and holds a certificate in the Fundamentals of Systemic Coaching. 

Is there a change in the way companies are approaching leadership development that validates the need for a coach?

Recently, we conducted a research with Human Capital Institute on coaching organizations. One question was, “why companies hire coaches?”And the no. 1 reason organizations engaged coaches was for leadership development. Right now it seems to be on top of the agenda as the approach to leadership development has seen a shift. When you look into the research which identifies core traits of a modern leader, self-awareness and empathy are prominent skills that emerge, and coaching seems a beautiful modality to illuminate such skills which also comes handy in areas of self-awareness, empathy, listening, more of a decision-making than telling, and asking for inputs.

Nowadays , organizations understand that coaching is more of a professional development and leadership development exercise – something that helps people grow, define their goals and move towards them. I think that is a very positive mindset shift, because right now you see people proud of talking about working with the coach instead of keeping it to themselves.

How does the process of coaching help leaders to develop the skills you are referring to?

The definition of coaching according to ICF is, “Partnering with an individual in a thought-provoking process that helps bring the best potential personally and professionally out of the individual and maximize that potential”. Thus, it is not about telling others what to do. It is not mentoring as well. It is helping others to catalyze their own thinking, finding answers to their issues and helping them in identifying the root cause of barriers and obstacles. Active listening, coaching presence and partnering with the individual helps a person to be in a safe space where he can explore the self. And that exploration not only helps in knowing the true cause of a concern but also helps in probing and going deeper until there is an ‘AHA’ moment. So when one defines what the real issue - concern or opportunity alike -  might be, it becomes easier to design specific goals and actions for getting from a place you are into a place you would like to be in.

How do you decide what are the right kind of interventions that a leader needs to have to be fully productive?

It is very much on a case-by-case basis and depends on the experience of the individual. It is not age maturity, it is professional maturity and what the goal might be. Often, having a mentor is really productive. Coaching should never be mistaken for managerial responsibility, yet coaching approach may support it very strongly. We see this trend as well – many organizations offer coach skills training to their managers and leaders. It doesn’t make them coaches. It means they have a different approach to working with others, more collaborative and involved process and that is more about professional development. Managers and leaders should never neglect their responsibilities as managers - there are days when they have to tell people that they are boss and make a decision. However, how they engage their teams, how they lead decision-making process and how they relate to their colleagues and peers can be significantly influenced by their ability in using coaching skills.


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Topics: Executive Coaching, Leadership Development

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