What is coaching?

Jaclyn Kodosky, LMSW. Coaching Specialist at CWEL.
Jaclyn Kodosky
May 10th, 2024
Two women sitting across from each other, one is smiling and explaining something

Coaching is a form of relational supervision that helps to unlock a person’s inner professional potential, build skills based on their current knowledge base, learn to think strategically, and help grow their performance.

Coaching involves:

  • Partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires people to grow their personal and professional potential.
  • Focusing on helping people learn rather than simply telling them what to do.
  • Asking questions to support the learner’s critical thinking in order to discover the solutions within themselves.
  • Modeling and supporting staff in how to think, not what to think.

Key elements of the coaching relationship

Rather than simply discussing cases with a supervisor, a key element of coaching is naming barriers and reframing them into challenges that can be addressed or solved.

This is achieved by asking open-ended and reflective questions that invite critical thinking and the creation of solutions.

A key element of the coaching relationship is the creation of a supportive learning environment, where power dynamics are leveled, mutual trust exists, and there is a felt sense of safety, mutuality and collaboration, and empowerment.

Another key element of coaching is helping team members understand that their work with children and families is a dynamic, of which they are playing a part. Through the use of open- ended and reflective questions, supervisors can help them recognize that they can only control their part of that dynamic and assist them in critically thinking about how their part in that dynamic may be impacting those relationships.

Being a coach involves modeling critical thinking and problem-solving with (not for) those you are coaching.

Benefits of coaching

By helping team members learn how to think, we are encouraging them to use creative solutions rather than just doing what they are told.

When we take a lead role and tell people what to think, we’re often expressing an “I know, and you will learn from me” approach. When we help people learn, we are using a knowledge base they already have and critical thinking skills they already possess to help them solve a challenge. This will eventually translate into the ability to solve more than the immediate challenge at hand.

Helping people learn how to think empowers professionals to further explore the outcomes of their approaches to working with children and youth and what they can do to create the most effective change. 

In coaching, there is a greater emphasis on asking the right questions rather than giving the right answers. Coaches ask more questions and give less direction, allowing team members to engage in higher level critical thinking and application of what they already know.

One of the best parts of coaching is that we don’t have to have all the answers, just the right questions and an open mind.

Benefits of coaching:

  • Allows the team member to assess their strengths and needs with their supervisor. 
  • Helps identify and work through bias in a non-judgmental way.
  • Helps team members think outside the box to discover possible solutions to challenges and create a plan to address those challenges.
  • Prevents supervisors from being the go-to person for day-to-day challenges that can be resolved independently or with peers.
  • Fosters a culture of learning and a growth mindset.
  • Helps support professionals in accessing resources they already have.
  • Helps team members retain and apply skills taught in training.
  • Builds proficiency in the skills of coaching (reflection, reframing, problem solving, creative collaborative thinking, use of questioning, etc.) through the use of modeling.

Through coaching, team members:

  • Feel more supported.
  • Develop greater competence and confidence in the role.
  • Feel more empowered.
  • Develop higher level skills necessary for their roles.
  • Are better able to connect with clients.
  • Are more effectively able to identify barriers and challenges and create solutions to address them.

The ultimate benefit of coaching

When team members are more actively involved in creating solutions through connection in a supportive coaching relationship, they feel more effective in their role, more confident and competent, and more empowered in their work. Combined, these things lead to a higher level of job satisfaction, less burnout, and greater worker retention, which ultimately leads to improved outcomes for families, youth, and children.