By Sarah Anthony - posted on February 8, 2017

The Fundamental Coaching Distinction: Content vs Process

Last week, Matt introduced us to the topic of conversational tools within coaching, in his post Spanners and Screwdrivers, and I will be spending the next four weeks, delving into four different conversational tools we explore with our NPCA students. Today we start by looking at one of the fundamental distinctions of coaching.

The question of whether coaching should be non-directive, or directive, is a much discussed topic among the coaching community and is at the very core of defining what coaching is. Coaching is often confused with other disciplines, such as mentoring or training, which are generally more directive in nature than coaching. On completing the NPCA Certificate in Professional Coaching, students often tell us, “I thought I knew what coaching was, but I now realise that I wasn’t actually using the true definition of coaching”.

Although I definitely fall into the non-directive coaching camp, I am actually quite directive in my coaching at times. Let me explain. At North Point Coaching Academy (NPCA), we find it more useful to think in terms of content vs process . We believe that whereas a mentor or trainer is considered to be an expert in terms of both the content and the process, in a coaching relationship, it’s the coachee that brings the content of the coaching conversation while the coach manages the process.

Content vs Process


What is content and what is process?

Content would include the client’s vision for the future, their plans, actions, ideas and their goals. A coachee is much more likely to commit and follow through on actions and achieve their goals, where they have a sense of ownership for finding their own solutions.

If the coachee is responsible for their own decisions and actions, then the coach is responsible for holding the client to account for achieving these actions. They can do this by using the different Process Tools of requesting, summarising, questioning and clarifying which are all part of the process of coaching. To give an example, a coach might ask permission to share a tool or ask to share an intuition that might create a new awareness for their coachee (a request) or ask questions that will help to move a client forward in a certain area (a question).  I will be looking in more depth at Process Tools and how to use these in our coaching conversations next week.

For many new coaches, it can be a challenge to find that balance of sharing our intuition and asking challenging questions to direct our coachee towards achieving their goals while not contributing to the answer or solution. In fact, from my own experience, it’s a constant journey as a coach to build our awareness and to self-reflect on our coaching practice. While it may not be possible to remove all bias, assumptions, and thoughts, over time, we can raise our awareness and notice our thoughts during a coaching session and decide which thoughts and insights are useful for our clients to gain clarity and which to let go off.

For me, once we can connect to the core belief that all people are objects of greatness and that therefore they are able to find their own solutions, then our behaviour as a coach changes from wanting to help by giving solutions to allowing us to listen more intuitively and ask questions that raise awareness and build responsibility in our clients instead, creating more powerful transformation for our clients.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please write your comments below.If you want to receive future articles delivered directly to your inbox you can sign up to the NPCA Community.

I look forward to introducing you to Process Tools and The Conversational Model next week.


See you next week.

Sarah Anthony

Co-Founder of North Point Academy