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The six roles of an Executive Coach

At the International Coach Federation European Conference in Italy, Robert Dilts ran a seminal session titled 'From Coach to Awakener'. He stated that coaching is the process of helping another person perform at the peak of his or her abilities. It doesn't presuppose that people are broken - on the contrary, it helps them identify and develop their strengths. It starts from the assumption that people have the answers and that the coach's role is to help that person to overcome internal resistances and interferences, give feedback on behaviour and give tips and guidance.

But Dilt added that a coach plays five further roles:


Guiding and Caretaking
Guiding is the process of directing another person along the path leading from where they are presently to where they want to be, providing a safe and supportive environment without unnecessary distractions or interferences from the outside.


Teaching relates to helping a person develop cognitive skills and capabilities and the emphasis is on learning. It focuses on the acquisition of general skills, rather than on performance in specific situations. A teacher helps a person to develop new strategies for thinking and acting.


A teacher instructs, while a coach provides specific behavioural feedback, in order to help a person learn or grow. Mentors, on the other hand, guide us to discover our own unconscious competences, and strengthen beliefs and values, often through their own example.


Sponsorship involves creating a context in which others can act, grow and excel. Sponsorship is about the development of identity and core values, awakening and safeguarding potential within others. It involves the commitment to the promotion of something that is already within a person or group, but which is not being manifested to its fullest capacity.


Awakening goes beyond coaching, teaching, mentoring and sponsorship to include the level of vision, mission and spirit. An awakener puts other people in touch with their own missions and visions and thus the coach needs to know his/her own vision and mission and purpose.



Suzanna Prout