Company executives have been coached since the 1980s. The focus is to increase performance by maximising what the employee brings to their role. The idea of coaching is simple: the coach, who should be accredited by a relevant professional body, should help the client unlock something within the client. Maybe the client has become stuck in some way or needs to make sense of a situation. The coach merely facilities this process, and helps the client to generate their own ideas, goals and solutions, thus avoiding a directive approach.  Coaching is different to mentoring which refers to a more experienced person guiding a less experienced person in the same field, whereas counselling is about making sense of past experiences to illuminate the present.

Applying coaching to education is relatively recent, more often applied to coaching teachers rather than students. However, coaching in education has been the focus of a recent conference run by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council and is also the focus of my PhD and private business, Lancer Coaching. The solution-focussed approach of coaching, with its emphasis on students formulating their own future plans, is in contrast to more traditional, teacher-owned academic advice.

The client takes ownership of the sessions and decides what the focus of each one should be. Possible topics might include getting the most out of school/university, starting a new school, career plans, choosing courses, managing workload, maintaining motivation and managing difficult relationships. An example could be a student, who wants to discuss how to make their goal of achieving a first class degree, a reality.  The coach would help the client to break down the overall goal into subgoals, evaluate options for achieving them and devise a time bound action plan. Each subgoal might be the focus of subsequent sessions. The coach will hold the client to account for agreed upon actions.

Of course, coaching techniques can be used in a variety of settings, and is particularly helpful when helping adults make career choices at transition points such as when women evaluate their options after having children, or after their children have left home. Some people will want to upskill – doing a course, perhaps a Master’s degree, in a new discipline. Others need to make some new connections via their existing networks and be proactive in telling people what they want to do. Coaching is also useful when employees aspire to a promotion and want to think through their strategy.

In my Psychology PhD, I am investigating what impact coaching can have on undergraduate students’ values, sense of self, key relationships, academic performance and life plans compared to those who do not have coaching sessions. I have had an overwhelming response from student volunteers and from volunteer coaches. The students will have six coaching sessions this academic year and I will interview before coaching commences, at the mid and end points and 6 months after the last session. This will help to illuminate whether coaching has any lasting impact.

Have you got some goals that you need some help working towards? Do you think you would benefit from coaching? Natalie is available for one-to-one coaching sessions for individuals of any age. She also does corporate coaching.  For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at or 01923 85 0781.