News & Insights

What is Coaching?

Jul 14, 2016

Author: John Shewfelt​

We are performance coaches. While working to make a step change in performance with Turnaround and Capital Project teams, we are often asked "What is Coaching?" While those asking can easily make the connection to coaching in sports, they are genuinely curious how coaching applies in professional business sense, and in particular, how it applies to them?

Recently, we came across a crisp definition in the PMI PMBoK v5 as it applies to coaching in project teams:


  • Coaching is a means of developing the project team to higher levels of competency and performance.
  • Coaching is about helping people recognize their potential through empowerment and development.
  • Coaching is used to aid team members in developing or enhancing their skills or to build new skills required to enable project success.
  • Coaching can take many forms and approaches. In some instances, formal or informal training may be developed to increase technical skills or assist team-building efforts and facilitate consistent interpersonal interactions. 
  • Coaching is also used to address poor performance and to help team members overcome deficiencies in their skill sets.
  • Coaching is distinct from counseling. Counseling focuses on addressing situations where team members “won’t do” something rather than “can’t do.” If the situation is one where the team member is not performing or meeting expectations due to a lack of skill, knowledge, or experience, coaching can be employed to help the team member to develop this skill and thus turn a “can’t do” situation into one of “can do.”
  • Coaching can be a powerful motivator for teams. As teams develop their skills, abilities, and confidence, their willingness to take on challenging or demanding tasks is increased. This can lead to more effective and productive teams.

Often, despite dramatic improvements in project results, our performance coaches are remembered for the meaningful impact they made on individuals through coaching.

The takeaway is this. While process improvements, facilitation and tools are important components of a performance improvement project, coaching multiplies their effect while creating sustainable change in individuals and teams. Recognizing this, we make coaching an essential part of every RLG performance improvement engagement.

“If you want to change an organization to get results through people, call RLG. I've been involved with RLG for more than 15 years with six groups in different companies. They've helped us change the culture of an organization to make it an exciting place to work, with high achievements being the norm.”

  • Past President, Pipeline Company

“By working with our team, Joe helped us develop confidence in the KPI scorecards for the look-ahead meetings. And in our one-on-one sessions, Joe's coaching helped me work through some tough personnel issues I was dealing with. This was much more than just a set of tools, it was handholding and encouragement when it was needed.”

  • Scheduling Lead, Petrochemical Project Team