Coaching a Coach: Is It a Challenge or an Opportunity? - International Coaching Federation

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Coaching a Coach: Is It a Challenge or an Opportunity?

Posted by Sezin A. Ninic, ACC | July 2, 2018 | Comments (2)

While practicing coaching, we come across a wide variety of clients from different education levels, professional backgrounds and personalities. This happens to be one of the most rewarding and enriching parts of the coaching profession. But, what about coaching someone with a similar training to yours and from the same profession: a coach?

Coaching a coach at first seems intimidating since it may raise performance concerns for the coach who facilitates the sessions. While you are managing the process as a coach, someone who knows the techniques and methods of coaching can easily spot what you are doing, why you are doing it and whether you are doing it right. This makes many coaches feel uncomfortable of coaching a coach. Yet, reality is different and often the opposite. Let’s look at some of the elements that shape the experience of coaching a coach.

Coachable or Non-Coachable

For coaching programs to be successful, the client must have a bigger role than the coach has. Whether your client is coachable or not is one of the main identifiers. Forbes lists some of the traits of being coachable as humility, willingness to surrender control and faith. “Humility” here simply means being open to other ideas, willing to learn more and to progress. “Surrendering” is also important when it comes to letting go control and allowing the coach, and  the process, to do its course.  And finally, “have faith” in the process of coaching rather than only relying on certain outcomes and doing regular checks of outcomes. You may not always find these qualities in your client, but for someone who took coach training and/or actively coaches, they most likely will.


Self-awareness is one of the valuable outcomes of coaching programs for clients, such as finding their values, strengths, self-limiting beliefs and thought patterns. As a coach, you may worry that your coach-client already has a high level of self-awareness, so your contribution to this area would be limited. But, on the contrary, high levels of self-awareness fuel coaching sessions.

During the sessions with the coach-clients, I observed that powerful questions unfold their own new ones. Profound insights come out as more of aha! moments occur; self-limiting beliefs and blockages come to the surface more easily and quickly. The higher the self-awareness of the client is, the easier it becomes to facilitate for further awareness to emerge. As a result, coaching sessions become more impactful.


Even though the coaching industry is growing and there is increased visibility and coverage about coaching, this doesn’t mean that clients would be knowledgeable about the process. Most often, first-time clients don’t have clarity and have mixed expectations. For instance, some clients expect to receive personal advice, or they focus more on past, childhood issues.

In these cases, it’s the coach’s responsibility to underline the scope and the limits of coaching. Sometimes it may not be enough to clarify this at the beginning, and you may need to touch base along the process a couple of times. It takes time for full alignment, but for coach-clients, this turns out to be a totally different experience, more of a smooth coaching journey from day one due to the contribution of their knowledge on the scope and the limits of coaching.


Every profession has its own jargon, which makes it easy and smooth to communicate within the profession but may sound like a foreign language to someone outside the field. This applies to coaching as well, especially the way some of the questions are formed, as they may not click for clients outside of the coaching world. I never forget my experience of this. In the early times of my coaching, when I asked my client “What did you bring today to our coaching session?” she replied in a witty way, “I brought cookies.” Although it was a question just to find out the client’s choice of topic for the day, this experience clearly showed that the question needs to be asked in a clearer way to someone outside the coaching world. On the other hand, while coaching a coach-client, you can use these kinds of questions without the need of elaborating and simplifying.

Even though coaching a coach at first seems intimidating, it has great advantages that makes the coaching sessions smooth, effective, more impactful and successful.

Sezin Ninic headshot

Sezin A. Ninic, ACC

Sezin A. Ninic, ACC, is a Leadership and Career Coach who helps clients with their career transitions and leadership journeys, such as taking on a new regional role. She served in senior Human Resources leadership positions for 16 years at multinational companies and has worked with variety of cultures across different countries. Sezin is an ICF Turkey Chapter Member who is contributing to the development of the coaching profession as a member of the Chapter’s Marketing and Social Media Committee. Connect with Sezin on Twitter @sezininic.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (2)

  1. Reem says:

    Amazing Sezin! I love the topic 🙂

    I am curious what will be the case when coaches feel compelled to coach their peer coaches, but without a request or mutual agreement. How does this process go for both? for the initiating coach? and for the receiving coach?

    • Thank you Reem for sharing your thoughts, happy that you liked it.

      Coaching programs are structured. It should be initiated by the client. Willingness to enter a coaching relation and coaching agreement is crucial to start the program and for the success of coaching.

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