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The Performance Coach blog

Below you'll find some interesting articles about developments in the world of coaching and leadership development. Enjoy, and if you'd like to subscribe to posts, just join our mailing list here.


Coaching and the neuropsychology of relationships

On 28 August 2014 at 14:00 (BST), Virginia Brown, co-author of ‘Neuropsychology for Coaches,’ will be delivering the 3rd webinar in our series of webinars on coaching and neuroscience / neuropsychology; you can register to watch the new webinar here, or follow the links for the previous sessions below.

In session 3, Virginia will be focusing on ‘coaching and the neuropsychology of relationships.’

We are “wired to connect” to others; it seems to be instinctive and even as very young babies we are able to imitate facial expressions in order to form and strengthen social bonds. Experience shapes each brain in a unique way, through the synaptic connections that are established, and the experiences that we have of early relationships have a profound impact on our relationships (and expectations of them) throughout our lives. 

During this webinar we will explore some of the emerging evidence for these assertions and consider the implications that this has for us as coaches and for our client work.

We'd love you to join us: you can register to watch the webinar here.


Coaching and NLP part 3 - our next free webinar

NLP jigsaw

On 21 July at 14:00 (BST), we will be hosting our next free coaching webinar, which is part 3 of our Coaching and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) series.

NLP Coaching develops the coachee’s awareness of how they subconsciously organise what they see, hear, feel and how they edit and filter the outside world through their senses.  It provides them with insight of how their language and their resultant actions stem directly from the way they have structured their understanding of the world.

In Part 1 of this series, Damion and Janey discussed the background to NLP and some key concepts utilised in their coaching practice, specifically on working with coachees to shift an unresourceful state and how to flex your style as a coach and develop an effective working alliance. (You can watch this webinar here).

In Part 2, Damion and Janey explored the “Meta Model” as a way of enabling our coachees to become aware of the patterns and meaning of their language - the language they use both internally and externally and how it influences their map of the world, their state and outcomes. (You can watch this webinar here).

Part 3, will shift focus directly onto us as coaches and provide us with individual reflection and insight of how we can become resourceful in our work.  During this session, Janey will take you through a number of NLP coaching approaches she utilises in her practice with leaders that have outcomes on becoming more confident or finding their sense of authority or personal power in their work.

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

Mahatma Gandhi

This will be a reflective and interactive webinar with an experiential component so please prepare yourself for this session by reflecting upon a recent coaching experience where you felt less confident in your work, experienced deference or were curious about your reactions after the session.

Sign up for the free webinar here.


Managing transference and countertransference

Fingers pointing at each other

This is a guest post by one of our Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching and Development students, Nicola Williams

Within a coaching relationship, unchecked transference can hinder the ability to hold positive regard and a non-judgemental position and research has found it is often the cause of the deterioration of a coaching relationship. In this blog post, I offer three steps the coach might use to help manage these processes.

What is transference and countertransference?

Transference and countertransference are two related psychological processes. Transference occurs all the time in everyday interactions and is where we may be reminded of someone in the behaviour of others or where previous memories are triggered. Countertransference is a specific reaction by the coach to the client’s transference. Here are some examples to help illustrate:


  • I have the strongest sense at this moment that my boss is just like my beloved father

  • I experience the same emotions towards a team colleague that I felt towards my brother, with whom I competed

  • My current work situation feels just like a traumatic period at school in my teenage years


  • Giving longer sessions than is useful to the client

  • Never challenging the client for fear of losing her love

  • Avoiding confrontation out of her own fear of anger

  • Unconsciously using the client’s dependency to feel powerful

  • Fulfilling her needs for intimacy

  • Giving unnecessary advice out of a need to be an authority

  • Overvaluing the client’s progress for her own success

(See references 1 and 2)

Most research on this topic comes from psychotherapy, where the way of managing transference and countertransference would be to bring it into the room, and use it as part of the therapy process.  There is also some research relating to mentoring, for for example where separation anxiety occurs for the mentor as their mentee reminds them of a time when their own opportunities for promotion were blocked (3).

Research in coaching focuses on transference occurring by the client rather than by the coach, but it can also occur between the coach and client or the client/coach and something or someone in their wider system, be it an individual or an organization.  In team coaching, the challenge of managing transference and countertransference is increased, as the relational spaces in which it can occur are clearly multiplied.

The focus for most of the literature on transference and countertransference in mentoring and coaching is on identification that transference and countertransference is occurring, rather than on methods of managing it.   

Practical ways to help manage transference and countertransference

From a review of the literature and my own interviews with some coaches, it is clear there are a number of ways to more actively attend to these processes, which increases the coach’s choice about how or when to manage them. The factors that help manage countertransference in psychotherapy (but I suggest are as relevant to coaching) are:

  1. Empathy

  2. Self-insight

  3. Conceptual ability

  4. High therapist self-integration (i.e. the less unresolved inner conflicts the therapist has)

  5. Low therapist anxiety

Below is a summary of three practical steps a coach might take to attend to these:

Step 1: Increase your own awareness of when it is occurring

  • Ensure you are aware of own countertransference

  • Attend to client transference patterns from the start

  • Notice resistance to coaching

  • Pick up on cues that may be defences

  • Follow anxieties

  • Spot feelings and wishes beneath those anxieties

See references, point (4)

Step 2: Reflect

Self-reflection, the development of the inner supervisor and coaching supervision all increase coach self-insight, resolve inner conflicts and reduce coach anxiety.

Research shows supervision in particular is an important method in increasing awareness of the coach. In psychotherapy the counsellor must have worked on their own psychological history in order to be clear what is their own response and what is their client’s. In coaching, this may not be part of the supervisory relationship as it will depend on the skills of the supervisor. In a survey of 376 coaches, 70% had discussed unconscious processes in supervision (5).

Step 3:  Develop your ‘in the moment’ techniques

If noticed during a session, use presencing or centering techniques, such as mindful breathing to reduce the likelihood of countertransference occurring.   


  1. Thornton, C. (2010) Group & Team Coaching: the essential guide. Sussex, UK: Routledge.

  2. Whitmore, D. (2014) Psychosynthesis Counselling in Action, 4th Edition. London: Sage.

  3. Mcauley, M.J. (2003) Transference, countertransference and mentoring:The ghost in the process, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 31:1, 11-23.

  4. De Haan, E. (2011) Back to basics: How the discovery of transference is relevant for coaches and consultants today. International Coaching Psychology Review, 6(2); 180-193.

  5. Turner, E. (2010) Coaches' views on the relevance of unconscious dynamics to executive coaching, Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 3:1,12-29


Our 2014 executive coaching survey: some key findings

Earlier this year, The Performance Coach undertook an executive coaching survey in order to provide some up to date market “intelligence” on this area, and also provide us with a foundation upon which to refine our Executive Coaching proposition.

The survey was completed across the multiple sectors in which TPC operate. Some key findings from our survey are as follows:

  • as demand for executive coaching has increased, its uses have also become more refined – clients now no longer see coaching as a means just to solve problems, but as part of a broader leadership development / coping-with-transition strategy
  • team coaching is a particular area of growth 
  • experience, reputation and academic certification continue to be the things that clients look for as the hallmark of a good coach.

The full findings, with detailed supporting analysis, are included in the full report. If you would like a copy of the report, then please email or call us:
Phone: 0203 637 0970 (Steve Blackwell)

In light of the findings, at The Performance Coach we are currently undertaking a full review of our Executive Coaching proposition and intend to launch a refined offering later this year, drawing heavily on the needs of clients, as outlined within the report.

In the meantime, if you would like a free consultation with The Performance Coach to discuss any aspects of your coaching requirements, then just get in touch using the above contact details.


What is coaching?

In this blog post Chris Sheepshanks poses the question 'What is coaching?', explains what it is - and isn't - and outlines some of the key benefits coaching brings to both individuals and organisations.

What coaching is...

Coaching has been described as ‘the art of facilitating the development, learning and performance of another’. It is a means of enabling individuals or teams to develop their own capabilities - and in doing so to maximise their potential. It draws from a range of disciplines, including education science, business science, philosophy, sports psychology, positive psychology and neuroscience.

At an individual level, coaching work is undertaken in service of the coachee’s own learning, performance and enjoyment – and systemically, in service of the learning, performance and enjoyment of those that an individual leads, manages and works with and the organisations and communities they serve.

The coaching process itself is framed around a ‘conversation’ with your coach. Your coach, through strong listening skill, effective questions and the appropriate deployment of a range of concepts or techniques, will aim to raise your awareness, widen your perspective and increase your understanding about how you are engaging with your objectives.  They will use their skill to provide a safe and trusting environment for you to freely explore the topic that you wish to discuss, providing supporting challenge, feedback and stimulation to your thinking process.

Effective coaching is strongly associated with the identification of clear objectives, the building of greater awareness of self and of others. It is often aimed at enabling individuals to become more authentic leaders of themselves and others and create greater choice and flexibility in the leadership style they wish to deploy. Good coaching also focuses on increasing personal responsibility and as a result, requires ultimate authority for action, transformation and change to remain with the person being coached – or the ‘coachee’.

The content of each coaching session is strictly confidential – but if appropriate, includes transparent and mutually agreed contracting and review mechanisms with the organisational representative who has commissioned the programme – otherwise known as the ‘sponsor’. The view of this ‘sponsor’ is often important, in that it clarifies the organisational objectives for the coaching and provides the coachee with clarity of the organisational or a line manager’s expectations. These are often framed in what are described as ‘public goals’ for the coaching programme. When openly discussed, explored and understood as part of a ‘contracting session’ these can inform the development of the coachee’s own objectives for the coaching, framed in ‘private goals’, which remain confidential between the coach and the coachee.

What coaching is not...

  • Coaching should not be confused with mentoring, which usually involves the transfer of relevant knowledge, experience information from an ‘experienced’ to a ‘less experienced’ person. As a result your coach will not ‘tell’ what you to do and will resist responding to requests for ‘advice’!
  • Coaching is not a form of counsellingwhich can have clinical overtones. While the coaching process can be ‘therapeutic’ it is not a form of therapy. As a result – while you may explore some very personal issues with your coach, this will only be done in service of your self-awareness and understanding so that you can more effectively achieve your working objectives. You coach will not act as a therapist.
  • Coaching is not a form of assessment or appraisal of the coachee’s skills. While 360 feedback mechanisms are often used within coaching, these are always mutually agreed between all parties in the coaching relationship. You coach is not there to judge or test you – but to provide you with a safe environment in which to explore how you wish to be even more effective in what you do.
  • Coaching assignments are not remedial in tone. Your coach is there to support your development – and however clichéd the expression, to support the development of your potential. In doing so however - and as appropriate - they may provide you with a high level of supportive challenge in service of you reaching that potential.

Finally – it should be made clear that executive coaching is not a substitute for the complementary skills of good and effective management and leadership – though it can support and enhance both of these qualities.

Who is coaching for?

Coaching is of particular value to individuals who:

  • have moved into a new role or are facing a specific challenge
  • recognise they need to perform or work more effectively   
  • are trying to generate a change in their organization
  • are working towards becoming a more complete leader
  • are currently challenged by audacious or stretching objective.

What are the key benefits of coaching?

For organisations:

  • Coaching gives highly tailored and individual support within the boundaries of a supportive environment. This develops and supports individuals during times of stress or challenge, allowing them to generate the ‘space’ with which to gain a deeper understanding, wider perspective and greater clarity of the issues which face them.
  • Coaching asks individuals to set stretching and personally challenging goals, and then think creatively about ways to achieve them – in service of their own learning and performance, and of those whom they lead and manage.
  • Coaching can lead to the alignment of individual and organisational needs. All too often developmental interventions can cater to the individual need at the expense of the business or organisation objective. Coaching programmes explore the recognition of the need to align a coaching intervention to an organisational need, while ensuring that it also relevant, focussed and of practical importance to the individual.

For individuals, coaching can provide:

  • new solutions to existing problems, generated by challenging thinking and encouraging creative responses
  • greater self-awareness both of how they personally operate and the impact of this on others - together with a greater awareness about specific work- related issues and the factors which surround them.
  • clarity about job roles and objectives and the creation a personal learning and development plan to help achieve them
  • success and enjoyment, which develop as the coachee understands themselves and their challenges in greater depth - and grows in confidence in their ability to shape and influence their work environment.