By Kalyna Miletic

July 22, 2020 

Firstly, what makes a great coach?

There’s a lot to consider when selecting a coach or coaching firm for yourself or your company. The industry has been inundated with self-proclaimed “coaches” so it can be challenging to discern who has expertise in the field. That’s why checking for certification, like that from the International Coaching Federation, is critical. It’s important because when you choose a coach, you need to ensure they have actual training alongside hours of experience. ICF coaches have worked with at least 25 clients and have over 100 hours of experience at the minimum certification level. You wouldn’t pick a self-proclaimed doctor, unless they had results and experience, and this is reasonably the same thing. Whether choosing a coach for yourself or the people in your organization, certification is a must in order to ensure professional, high-quality service is going to be delivered.  

Now, regarding the coaching session itself. What is coaching exactly?

Coaching is a structured conversation that has a defined process. It’s not like talking to a friend, or a mentor. It’s a unique way of talking with a professional to define where you are (point A) and where you want to be (point B). 

We use this diagram with clients to visually explain the differences from our related mindset based counterparts.
Chiefly - Diagram that explains the differences from our related mindset based counterparts


Professionals in their own right, consultants are useful when you would like a third party to assess your current situation and share viable solutions. Ready to give you advice at the drop of a hat, these professionals are great if you need a roadmap drawn out for you or your organization. They can be but are usually not involved in the project implementation.

Consultants can be involved at the organizational and personal level, similar to coaches.

Coaches, on the other hand, believe that you have the roadmap in your head if you give yourself the chance to think it through, and it just takes some time to craft this roadmap for yourself as a leader, alongside professional asking structured questions.

Therapists - Psychotherapist, Psychoanalysts, Psychiatrists

Although each profession listed above has a variety of methodologies, we are putting them together for the sole focus of categorizing a general "approach" that this group of needed professionals provides.

There is a distinction amongst them in regards to who can prescribe medications, if they focus on Jung's work, Freud, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy amongst others.

The key difference that we would like to highlight is that coaches are not trained to go into deep psychoanalytical work unless they have some sort of degree related to the above.

What coaches do that differs from many conventional therapists however, is that they are focused on the present moment and on finding solutions to act upon in the future. They do not spend sessions focused on the "why" or root cause of issues. Coaches focus on the "what" and the "how" of where someone wants to go. They are future-focused.

This is not to say there aren't therapists who look to the future as well, but a trend of focus amongst professionals that has been noted in researching alternatives in related professions.

Teaching and Mentoring

Another viable source of learning and support this absolutely supports growth and development but is highly different from what coaching provides.

Simply put, teaching and mentoring are focused on "telling."

The leader is told how something is done through stories or presentations in order to illustrate learning without the learner needing to do or experience it themselves.

Coaching is about "asking." The coach assumes that the individual in the conversation has the best answers at hand. They believe that the client knows their situation and options best. Coaches create a space for the client to assess their options in a non-judgmental open format. It's about giving yourself thirty, or sixty minutes to consider a situation, vision or goal in a multitude of ways. Coaching is mulling over the challenges and goals in your head with a third party out loud in a way that you actually get to a set of action steps by the end of the conversation, that you've created.

There's no homework in true coaching. It's all about the participant, coming up with what actions they want to take next in order to bring their set vision to reality.

Professionals not listed in the above image, but those who exist in related areas are:

Meditation Experts/Mindset “Gurus”

They are a subcategory of mentors but have a unique spin. They are teaching a specific process of mindfulness that has roots in Buddhism and Taoism. This is a highly unregulated space and similarly crowded with additional members from the yoga teacher community as there is content crossover. This is completely separate from coaching in many regards.

Coaching is mainly based on neuroscience, depending on the methodology used. It also uses neuro-linguistic programming to consciously alter thinking patterns using word choice both while thinking and speaking to others. Rather than teaching you principles and breathing techniques, which are very helpful and needed, coaches are working to help you strategize, establish a vision, and set up actionable steps that will take you there.


This is a big one. Why can’t a friend just coach me? I used to ask myself this question. There are a few major hurdles with this.

Friends are mostly very biased.
         1. Friends are mostly very biased.  

They love you and want you to succeed (hopefully) but have all of their layers of personal experience and opinion clouding what they ask, do, and say to you. Coaches remove themselves from this equation as they’re not really your “friend” even if they begin to feel like it. Coaches are there to keep the conversation, and you, on track to reach your predetermined point B.

          2. Friends aren’t trained.
A professional coach is different from a friend asking questions, or even you asking questions to yourself because the effectiveness is in what questions are being asked.

One of my favourite concepts is that you pay an expert not only for the tools they have but the knowledge of when to use those tools. That’s exactly what a great coach does. They know which questions will pierce through the noise in your head to help you find your own solution to your challenges. It’s the reason I chose to become a coach myself, rather than a psychologist.

          3. Friends aren’t getting paid.
When you pay someone to provide a service, that level of service is different from when you get it ad hoc from your friend on a Saturday afternoon. The coach is there to follow up consistently, they have worked with other clients so they know common roadblocks, and they have an approach to supporting you along your journey to that Point B. It’s a completely different exercise than meeting up with Julie at a café on Saturday and talking through some challenges. A coach shows up, every Tuesday at 10am, and ensures you are keeping on track and accountable, while supporting you to improve to a greater level in whatever it is you’re working toward.

Emerging AI-Based Coaching

This is a means for coach rosters like CoachHub and Verb to help more people, with fewer humans on staff. CoachHub intends to move to fully AI-based coaching at a future stage, eradicating the need for coaches nearly completely in their platform.

With an AI model, clients answer questions and the app learns from their responses to deliver further questions that are supposed to be a match to their desired skill development goals.

The apps can check in automatically with users set as “reminders” and their accountability is flagged automatically in the app if they are not responding or completing tasks on time.

The question in this model for me, as a coach myself, is what makes this any different from a glorified task manager, like ToDo or Trello?

From my experience, as a PCC level coach with over 2,000 client hours, we need more individualization at the moment that is far more complex than machine learning will ever handle. Of course, this technology continues to improve over time, but as stated above, at Chiefly, we’re of the opinion that nothing will ever completely mimic or improve the human connection.

How does Chieflly coaching differ from the rest?

          1.Chiefly delivers Human Coaching, not AI Coaching. 
Now and forever, we take a stand that human-based coaching (i.e. talking to a real live human) will never be replaced.

We’re all for improving our automation on the back end and making the client experience great.

What we will never do is remove the human coach from the process of supporting leadership development. Some business advisors and investors don’t like that, but at Chiefly, we’re 100% about the participant.

We know from experience as coaches that there is something very intangible that comes from having a real person on the other end of the meeting. Given the way work is moving toward being more remote, further removed from interactions and isolated due to COVID-19 changes this year, this is critical now.

Talking through your development challenges and goals with a real person is always going to win out over answering pre-populated questions to a machine. No matter how smart the algorithms get, there is no replacement to a human on the other end of the screen.

Long live real human connection.

          2.Chiefly Coaching is focused on developing resilient and adaptable Tech Leaders
We have really narrowed in on our people. We don’t coach everyone. This focus allows us to be experts with our group of participants. Tech leaders have a unique set of challenges. 

Developing into leaders from an individual contributor position like a developer is one we have seen. Honing in on soft skills from a very technical, “hard” skill expertise is the gap we fill to get leaders in the tech space exceptional at leading their teams. Managing a project with client specifications, like building software, is different from managing projects in other industries. We have zeroed in on supporting the ups and downs of development projects with international staff, client expectations, and the shifting from strategic thinking to putting out daily fires, and back to strategy. These are just some of the specific challenges we have seen and supported tech leaders to overcome using our coaching and software solutions.

This might seem logical, but it’s not the norm amongst platforms in the current market. Many coaching firms want to be the go-to for “all people” or “all managers”. At Chiefly, we’re about being all in on one group, so we have a personal offering to solve the specific challenges of tech leaders in this post-COVID landscape of leadership.

We’re developing leaders using a solution-focused methodology for our coaching. We support leaders of tech companies to come up with solutions to their challenges, increasing their resilience, and confidence in their own leadership abilities. A great leader knows how to steer their own ship, talking through their challenges along the way. We ask powerful questions, the leader comes up with a strong action plan, and away they go into bringing that to life in the organization.

Our focus on solutions has a conversational format that can be broken down into three components:

      1.Get clear on the current state of the situation

      2.Define what the leader wants – Answer the who, what, where, when, why?

      3.Define how they will create it – Answer the how
Throughout the coaching session, we rely on the leader’s individual capabilities and trust that they are able to come up with their own solution. The coach is there to guide that development through our solution-focused process.

          3.Chiefly focuses on the 95% of the time outside the coaching session: We measure behavioral change using habit-building software
When it comes to tracking progress, a lot of companies say they focus on metrics and quantifiable results.

The caveat is what they’re tracking is often extremely subjective and unable to be linked to actual behavioral changes.

The difference comes down to this:

Chiefly - Software details

We track things like:

Number of Tasks completed on time.
Number of Conversations had with direct reports.

Others track:  

How productive did you feel today on a scale of 1-5?

How engaged was your team today on a scale of 1-10?

Both types of metrics are absolutely valid things to track. The challenge is that it’s difficult to assess any sort of tangible behavioral changes from these qualitative measures.

We’ve based our coaching on successful habit building principles from Gallup’s research, Atomic Habits, The Leader Habit, and over 2,000 hours spent supporting clients to change the way they lead in their work and personal lives.

We deliver graphs on results both individually to participants, and on an aggregate level to the organization. With quantitative measures, we’re able to aggregate participant data to show behavioural change over time across different roles, departments, and levels. Our software gathers this data in such a way that we can report on data using any categorization or filter, at the click of a button.

If you’re a tech leader and want to bring Chiefly to your people, we’re happy to chat.

You don't need to try to become an amazing leader alone

Schedule a call with our experienced team and let's discuss how we can help set up your leadership development program for success.
© The Chiefly Company 2020. All Rights Reserved.