How to become a Coach


How to become a Coach
How to become a Coach

The purpose of this document is to provide a useful reference text in support how to become a Coach.

If you are reading this then the chances are you are an ADI looking for ways to implement client-centred approaches to your lessons as you have a new standards check letter in your hand and are in a cold sweat wondering how you might do it!

Alternatively, you may just be looking to develop these areas of your teaching to enhance the experience for you and your pupils.

The information contained in this book is the result of my journey seeking answers to the same questions you are likely asking yourself. I read many articles on coaching and attended quite a few seminars and training courses, and it all seemed to make perfect sense in a comfy chair with no learner driver beside me. As part of my role as instructor support and development manager, I needed to find a way of implementing these approaches that made sense to all 400 of my ADIs in their everyday working lives. My mission (if I chose to take it) was to develop a common-sense coaching approach.

My research took me to the European Union’s High impact approach to enhancing road safety through the more effective communications (HERMES) project and their work developing the goals for driver education (or GDE) matrix. This matrix showed that we as driver trainers were tackling things on the lower levels of this matrix, which were car control and traffic skills. The work of the HERMES project indicated that there were higher levels such as learner drivers evaluating their own risk-taking tendencies and their influences such as peer pressure and social and group norms which were not being addressed in driver training. The final report of the HERMES report suggested that this was the reason behind so many young novices (mostly male) drivers being involved in fatal crashes. The accident data would certainly seem to suggest that it was indeed poor decision-making that was causing these issues and not necessarily car control skills. Young drivers were driving whilst tired, under the influence of drink or drugs succumbing to peer pressure or their own risk-taking tendencies.

The HERMES report has formed the basis of most of the coaching or client-centred courses and books currently available to ADIs and has greatly influenced the great and the good of the coaching world. It would be very foolish to argue against the accident statistics, however, there is little or no evidence that these approaches have directly affected young driver fatalities. Such research may soon become available though.

I see the merits of the GDE matrix and the ideas behind it, but I feel that some Trainers have become obsessed with it and cannot see past it. Young males are indeed killing too many people including themselves and we need to do something about it!  But isn’t it simply they are making bad decisions?  If this is the case (and I believe it is) then why not simply create better decision-makers by teaching them the process of decision-making. We do not have to focus on anything other than that, by having the learner fully engaged in the process and learning to evaluate the situation ahead and weigh up the potential options will make better decisions. A driver who makes good decisions is a better and safer driver because of it.

In my role speaking to and delivering CPD courses I have spoken to a great many ADI’s who have attended courses, seminars and workshops and they leave full of enthusiasm but this soon fades and they revert fairly quickly to what they did previously, as they are then on solid ground. Making the change to coaching seemed to be difficult for the average ADI.

The results of all of my research led to much experimentation, captured on video (Published for the world to see on YouTube) which charted my experimentations. This formed my personal coaching approach I now use as standard. This research and development also formed the content of my one day workshop and one to one in car standards check training. I am told by those who attend that it all makes sense to them, and my discussions with them following the courses seems to indicate I have found a way of making it work for the ADI in the street!

From the early forays with learners where I attempted to get things to happen without any instruction, through to attempting to get maximum involvement by the learner, and ultimately attempting to get the pupil to do absolutely everything for themselves,  which worked but proved difficult for someone like myself, from a traditional instruction background.

I developed a hybrid approach which seemed very easy for working ADI’s to adopt and develop further as they gained experience with it. Everyone who attended the coaching workshops I ran (over 1000 ADI’s now) became part of the development team and helped me to put together a common sense approach that really worked, you don’t have to abandon instruction overnight, this is too big a step to take!.

To date 80% of attendees of workshops and training who have sat their standards check have scored an A and I have successfully turned around the fortunes of quite a few who had failed twice before attending.

There is no huge secret to learn, or huge change to be made, other than developing 100% belief in your raw materials – THE LEARNER!

What is it all about?

The most important aspect of coaching I feel, is that the training is geared to the individual learner, identifying and meeting their needs, putting them at the heart of everything. Making them feel confident about having control of things.

Following the publishing of the final “High impact approach for enhancing road safety through more effective communication skills” (HERMES) report in 2010 there has been a push towards utilising coaching approaches in driver training. The reasoning behind this being that if we help new drivers to make meaningful decisions based on a thought out driving plan that they have developed themselves then the roads will end up being a safer place. The majority of deaths among young drivers are not the result of a lack of skill, but a lack of good judgment. They make mistakes due to  driving whilst tired, or under the influence of peers, they succumb to their propensity to accept a higher level of risks than would be safe.

We cannot fix this issue with instruction, instruction merely becomes “things they forget” over time, replaced with their own ideas and processes that they develop as they gain experience. Therefore we need to have them build their ability to become better decision makers. This is achieved by engaging with them on equal terms, them being the centre of any activity or dialogue and helping them to evaluate the outcomes of plans or actions they have laid out, evaluating the appropriateness and effectiveness of these decisions and thus develop better road strategies, keeping themselves and all around them much safer.

Early forays into the world of coaching were not really successful as ADIs believed it was about letting learners do whatever they wanted to do, which of course we cannot sanction as we are responsible for risk management as part of the process, transferring that responsibility to the fledgling driver over the period they are in our care. Coaching also got off to a sticky start as the industry was told we were “doing it all wrong” and in reality this isn’t a very coach like approach, and unsurprisingly the approach was met with resistance meaning the message mostly fell on deaf ears.

We must therefore develop strategies that allow coaching to happen and development to take place in small, easily manageable steps to facilitate learning in a safe learning environment. This helps coaches and coaches alike as they dip their toes into this new water. We must actively involve the learner to a high degree, preferably having them feel complete ownership of the process and provide the right environment for this to happen. Our aim should be to  help the learner take more control of the learning process. As we try to develop our coaching we must be forgiving of ourselves as we make mistakes, we must also not get frustrated if we find ourselves instructing, it is, after all, the most familiar thing to you at this point.

Trainers traditionally have directed and controlled every aspect, although some trainers utilised a practical training technique called the “Coaching Cycle” (also known as the “Practice Cycle”) which was more of a shared learning approach rather than one being totally owned by the student.

The belief was that we had already provided the method to actively involve the student as much as was practically possible during the learning process. The reality is that human beings possess massive potential and can achieve things in a much more fulfilling and timely manner if supported effectively using a Coaching or client centred approach.

If you want to be the best trainer it is possible for you to become then this article should hopefully help you to move closer to that ideal.

We need to look at what coaching is, and also, very importantly, what it isn’t. This will help us see when we are coaching and when we are not. Many new coaches force the issue and try to insist on their learners (coaches) taking a more full role. this can be counter productive if they are not ready or are not willing to take part at that level, so we need top develop their confidence and ability to take this leading role. there will be much resistance, borne of fear of judgment, fear of failure and indeed just fear in general. this reticence cannot be turned off, we must help them to learn to trust us and trust the process.

Explaining to a new learner that “we will be using coaching and you will make most of the decisions” can seem very frightening to them. I see this mistake made constantly when I observe lessons, all it serves to do is slow the process, the learner sees it as threatening. It is much better to investigate how they like to learn and what works best for them, explaining you will constantly try to adapt what you do to fit their needs. this is much less threatening and will likely result in better buy in from the learner.

An ancient poem, very relevant to the coaching process

This 200 year old poem by Soren Kierkegaard a Danish Philosopher. It speaks to what we hope to achieve and demonstrates the flaws in traditional training methodologies. The Poem is as relevant today as it was when it was written many years ago.

If we wish to succeed in helping someone to reach a particular goal we must first find out where he is now and start from there.

If we cannot do this, we merely delude ourselves into believing that we can help others.

Before we can help someone, we must know more than he does, but most of all, we must understand what he understands.

If we cannot do that, our knowing more will not help.

If we never-the-less wish to show how much we know, it is only because we are vain and arrogant, and our true goal is to be admired, not to help others.

All genuine helpfulness starts with humility before those we wish to help, so we must understand that helping is not a wish to dominate but a wish to serve.

If we cannot do this, neither can we help anyone.”

What is Coaching in driver training?

Coaching in driver training  is encouraging the learner to take control of their own learning. You will provide the environment where this is possible by allowing them to feel safe to do so. We must show them they are safe from harm and make them aware of how and why you may need to intervene and how you will go about it and what will happen following such interventions (a conversation to learn from such events rather than finding out who was to blame) The environment you create must be one of equals, with no hierarchy, free from judgmental language or behaviour. An environment where the learner feels free to express opinions and willing to try things without fear of getting it wrong, where they understand and are comfortable that there is no good or bad, just outcomes achieved and comparisons between what we wanted to happen and what we got, leading to plans being put into place to change what we got into what we wished for. New plans are then hatched  based upon your collective experiences and conversations on the matter.

Driver trainers often think of learners as empty vessels that are filled up with knowledge and wisdom by the instructor, this method works, but it is not really the way humans are designed to learn. Learner drivers are full of information and experiences they have developed over their life lived to this point. They have manual dexterity and spatial awareness developed to a high level and developed a great set of tools that they need to drive a car, but they developed these pre school, it is these pre existing skills we wish to harness and utilise.

They are expert in knowing what works and what does not in terms of personal development. They may feel that they do not have the wherewithal or the tools to take control, and this feeling is further fed by instructors exerting huge levels of control. We must help them see they have both the tools and skills to tackle things by setting small easily managed steps and encouraging them to take as much control as they feel comfortable with.

It is a fundamental mistake to think they are unable to do things “because you have not taught them yet.” We will look in great detail as we go through your coaching journey as to how and why it works. It is a huge mistake to see the learner as an empty vessel and all you have to do is pour your vast expertise and knowledge into them.

Human beings are incredibly smart and have an inbuilt ability to learn from experience. In fact it is how we are hard wired to learn, it is pre-programmed in us, driven by our incredible curiosity about the world around us. We are driven to evaluate things. An example of this type of curiosity manifests itself when we are faced with a situation where a waiter may place a plate on the table in front of us, warning us of how hot it is. We have evidence from the waiter and the fact that we observed him carrying it in a towel to protect his hands from the heat, yet we are driven to touch it. This is our hard wired curiosity at play, your brain wants to know how hot? Hotter than the last one I touched?

We simply cannot resist the urge to know. This curiosity is our best friend when it comes to facilitating learning, we can set up experiences for the learner that can be reflected upon, and learned from. Through our conversations with them in our non judgemental environment they are able to look at outcomes achieved. We set the experiences up with a clear goal in mind, put together a plan, execute the plan and then reflect and review. The outcomes are neither good nor bad, they are merely outcomes, we are always on hand to keep them safe and will have agreed strategies for safe execution of the plan). We then compare outcomes achieve versus outcomes expected and adapt our plans to make the required changes. They are placed in the role of leader of the process, the person calling the shots and making the decisions. Then through our evaluation of outcomes and developing new plans they evolve their decision making processes to higher levels, as well as taking responsibility for their actions. Their behaviour changes as a result of them thinking that change needs to happen, rather than doing it because their instructor says so. If learning is instructor led, it is weaker and the learning gets replaced by other learning gained through experience after they pass the test, observing other drivers behaviour. If we have them put together strategies based on their own evaluation of events this learning has more chance of becoming hard wired into who they are and are therefore creates permanent behavioural change.

Think of it as trying to get the learning out rather than trying to put the learning in.

What we want to develop are competent drivers who act responsibly. Responsibility and ownership go hand-in-hand. So if you want the learner to feel responsible for their behaviour (i.e. their actions) you have to let them decide and thus believe it to be the right choice for them – not for you or the DVSA or indeed anyone else – they have to own it. They do not require your experience to enable this, but experiences of their own. It is therefore your job as the client-centred trainer to help them develop these experiences through practice and discussion utilising real life examples, stories, scenarios or case studies along the way.

Not only does coaching result in more permanent it is also faster. The more the coachee is actively involved in the learning process, or better still totally owning the process the more rapid their learning happens and the strength and depth of the learning is also enhanced.

The journey from uncertain nervous early learner  to confident self assured and confident driver is very rewarding for everyone involved in the process. Coaching will boost the self-esteem and feeling of worth of both coach and coachee. It is also great for business as it will increase recommendations and learner retention, as well as helping to secure more business.

Once demand for your services outstrips diary capacity then this is the point where we would look to increase prices. You may have witnessed instructors in your area consistently charging more than others, high demand for their services is probably how they can demand and secure higher prices.

Often people doubt their ability to take ownership of the learning process and may have been conditioned at school and throughout life to just do as they are told – without question – to be passive rather than active in how or what they learn, People very quickly lose this self doubt when in a supportive empowering coaching relationship.

As children we seek attention from the big people around us, the big people reinforce this behaviour by responding in ways that make us want to please them more. We feel secure in this adult-child relationship[p. It is very easy for learners to slip into the role of child during driver training.

As we grow into adolescence we develop a desire to be our own person and to develop our own identity and to become more grown up. Being told what to do does not fit well with this. We are around the time where this change happens when we are seeking to gain our driving licence, so we can use this to enable them to take control. We may need to encourage them and to help them break down any barrier they feel in their way.

As a teenager if it is suggested we neither have the resources or ability to decide things for ourselves or that suggest they need to be told what to do can create negative feelings of inadequacy and resentment, meaning they may withdraw from the process, become reluctant or worse still resentful and difficult. Not engaging in the process and becoming difficult to teach. In the mind of the instructor.

The adult-child hierarchical relationship inherent in “instruction” may be tolerated until they get their licence but it really does nothing to open the learner up, allow them to take ownership and develop their critical decision making skills vital to the production of safer drivers.

It is no surprise then that one of the most important things to enable you to coach them is to develop a different kind of relationship with the learner than can be achieved from instruction. We need an environment and a process that develops self worth, self reliance, independence and personal growth. We need an adult-to-adult relationship of equals.

One of the most common things I hear from ADIs is “My learners won’t do that” whenever we talk about learners owning the process or making decisions or being able to self develop. The argument then is that coaching doesn’t work. The reality is of coaching isn’t working then the blame almost invariably lies at the door of the ADI.

Coaching effectively depends on having learners who feel they are in control, empowered, calling the shots and  using your expertise as they feel fit. You re a resource that the learner can utilie when they truly feel they need it. The environment need s to be such that the learner feels totally comfortable you questions and feeling they can express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment.

If your learners feel this empowerment and ownership they will develop a sense of self worth, with higher levels of self efficacy and become easier and easier to coach as a result. They will soon begin to love that they now have the ability to figure things out for themselves.

Things we discover for ourselves are hard wired into our “map of the way the world works” and are rarely forgotten. We believe they are the right thing to do, not just for the test. So you are not only facilitating the development of knowledge and skill but are also developing their  values and beliefs in relation to the world of driving and their part in it. We didn’t tell them what they should think or feel but by let them draw their own conclusions from their own experiences and those shared with you.

“The only kind of learning which significantly influences behaviour is self-discovered or self-appropriated learning – truth that has been assimilated in experience.”  

Carl Rogers (A way of being)

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

One can apply some of the coaching principles and therefore be administering some of the coaching principles. What we wish to achieve is to develop the ability to become a coach, making it the way we are all of the time. In this way you will achieve greater levels of empowerment and self efficacy in your coachee as well as developing your own levels of self efficacy and self worth. This coupled with the potential for more monetary rewards as well as the contribution to our own well being make the journey one worth taking.

To become an effective coach we need to develop three main areas on our journey.

  • A way of being
  • A set of coaching skills
  • A coaching process

We will look at these three areas in some detail in the following pages.


We have already looked at needing an adult to adult relationship of equals free from hierarchy and judgment. This creates the right environment for facilitation of learning.

You may have experienced such a relationship in your lifetime. Think about those people in your life to this point that you respect or who have and who have influenced you greatly, what behaviours were best used to describe how they were?

The chances are it will be most if not all of the behaviours, or ways of being on the list below:

  • they treat you with respect
  • they didn’t judge you
  • they listened to you
  • they were interested in you
  • they didn’t tell you what to do
  • they asked you what you wanted to do
  • they accepted you for who, what and how you are
  • they were always honest with you
  • they gave you their time and their full attention
  • they trusted you
  • they made you laugh and smile
  • they were patient and understanding
  • they appreciate you for you
  • you felt their empathy for you

Are these not the traits and the behaviours we should be demonstrating? Do we want our learners to feel the way the above behaviours made us feel? How much trust did you have with the person/people you were thinking of?

Treat your learners as you would wish to be treated, help them to feel safe and secure, able to take ownership of the process by treating them as;

  • a valued customer
  • a welcome guest in your work environment
  • an equal partner on this journey of learning

We refer to this as establishing an equal relationship, meaning it should be one that is;

  • Respectful
  • non-judgmental
  • non-hierarchical
  • authentic
  • honest
  • trusting
  • showing an unconditional positive regard for the learner

The learner will only be open to engaging fully and without inhibition in the coaching process if they have faith that the relationship is what it seems to be and it may take a little time to develop it. As you gain experience and confidence in your own abilities you will be better at creating this environment.

Once they  believe the relationship with you is truly equal they will fully engage, if they don’t feel it is real you are more likely to hear what the learner thinks you want them to say rather than what they actually think – which is not coaching!

So we should be striving to provide an environment that means;

  • an emphasis on learning rather than on teaching (i.e. getting learning out not putting it learning)
  • the learner being encouraged to develop their own tools, processes and resources to direct their own learning and aid their own personal growth in bite sized chunks
  • the trainer following the learner’s interest by helping them to clarify and home in on their goals and their choices
  • the trainer inspiring self trust within the learner and helping them to increase their awareness of what is, without judgement
  • the learner being encouraged to give preference to learning methods that actively involve them to a high degree and promote independence
  • the trainer being open and transparent about their role and responsibility as a facilitator of learning and guardian of safety
  • the trainer sharing the responsibility for the management of risk with the learner
  • the trainer tailoring the session to the learner’s goals and needs

Without the equal relationship a coaching approach to learning simply cannot achieved. However, this doesn’t always mean the equal relationship will exist from day one, it may take time for the learner to trust you and see that you are genuine so be patient and they will eventually respond in kind.

Naturally, before you can even start to build a relationship you first have to build rapport (i.e. make a connection and being “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom you are talking). Some of us can do this with ease while others may need a little help in understanding how we should ideally meet and greet someone with a view to developing the right rapport.

Our “way of being” is about exhibiting humility and wanting to be of service rather than getting people to think like you. This means you put the learner’s interests first continually trying to see things from their perspective. To have faith in the learner’s ability to make the right choices for themselves and to believe everyone is of equal value and has talent. To have an unconditional positive regard for the learner. Not surprisingly, if the learner believes you feel like this about them the chances are they will respond in kind once they are certain this is the case. Saying and doing the right things can give this impression and thus create the relationship necessary to facilitate effective coaching by being what you might call a professional but think how much easier this would be if you actually believe this and want to genuinely interact with people in this way?

Telling somebody what to do step by step or picking someone up on their mistakes does not give the appearance of a non-judgmental relationship so we need to leave our instructor inputs to those required to keep everything safe.

The truth is we cannot always be equal and there will be times when we have to exert control and authority particularly in matters relating to safety. Indeed, there will be times when your learner would absolutely want you to take control and this is when it is OK to change the relationship temporarily and exert 100% control. This would be followed by a chat about what can be learned from the experience rather than a discussion apportioning blame or telling them what they should have done. We need proper reflection, if you like, a genuine performance review in order to make sense of the outcomes we have and a setting of plans to change those outcomes to ones we desire.

How do we create the environment free from  hierarchy and judgement?

Nobody likes the feeling that someone thinks themselves a superior or better than anyone else. Therefore, it is important that you consider how you are relating to your customers. Are you portraying someone who could be seen as thinking they are superior, even if unintentional?
The chances are, if you are, you may be communicating this fact by the signals you are giving off and the way you are dealing with them which might manifest itself in

  • the tone of your voice
  • the words you use
  • what you say and how you say it
  • your body language

Even the clothes you wear can communicate this, I’m sure you have heard the term ‘power dressing’. Telling people what to do and criticising them also contributes to you coming across as  superior and generates a hierarchy even if it is meant with good intent.

Talking about criticism nicely brings us onto being non-judgmental. What does this mean?

You are being judgmental when you say a behaviour is good or bad, positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong, nasty or nice, brilliant or stupid.  Immediately, you judge someone you are creating a hierarchy as you sit on your high horse in judgement. The problem with making judgements is the emotions they can create, the feeling of superiority in the person who claims to be right and the feelings of inferiority or failure in the person who is allegedly wrong.

Negative emotions are particularly associated with such words as fault, error, mistake, failure, blame and so on particularly if they are accompanied by a smirk, ‘I told you so’ expression, raised eye brows, rolling eyes, tutting noises etc. This is why you need to be careful about the words you use and the body language you exhibit when intentionally or indeed unintentionally giving feedback to the learner.

Similarly, it is important for the learner to be non-judgmental about their own performance – it is what it is – neither wrong or right. It may have been different to the outcome they wanted. Thus you might ask what might they do to change the outcome next time – not what they could do to correct it or to improve it (although the latter would be preferable to the former). Do you think it is natural to expect a perfect performance of something as complex as driving with just a few early attempts? Clearly not, so what purpose does the learner feeling bad about it serve? Judgement implies fault and blame and can trigger a negative unwarranted emotional response.

We live in a very judgmental world and it is surprisingly difficult to avoid using judgmental language or indeed overly judging ourselves when trying to learn something new. We look at ourselves judgmentally and in that act become doubtful and tense and end up getting in our own way. We end up more worried about the embarrassment or shame of getting it wrong. As a coach you should do what you can to stop the learner wallowing in self-judgement and regret by helping them to focus on what can be rather than what was while being careful not to add to these negative thoughts through the language (both verbal or non-verbal) used. The use of “outcome” is an easy way to avoid negativity. By asking the question, “Did that match the outcome you were expecting?” you can avoid judgmental language and thoughts. It is then easy to ask, “How might you achieve the outcome you want based on the experience you just had?”.

What is building rapport?

Building rapport is about relating to someone on their terms in a way that will make them feel comfortable with you. We feel most comfortable when we are dealing with someone we perceive as being like us. This would include appearance and clothes, body language/physical gestures, word use /language, tone and accent of voice, beliefs and values. There are a number of techniques that are beneficial in building rapport such as matching/mirroring

  • body language
  • word use
  • voice – speed/tone/accent
  • maintaining eye contact (or indeed not if this is not culturally acceptable)
  • and even matching breathing rhythm

However, be careful this needs to be done in a sincere way otherwise the person may think you are trying to make fun of them or that you are being disrespectful.

Most people who are good at dealing with people build rapport automatically without thinking too much about it. Never the less it is good to reflect on how you are developing in this regard as it can make a big difference to how quickly you are able to develop the equal relationship so necessary for effective adult learning to take place. Did you appear welcoming, warm and sincere?

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” – Socrates

Human beings are very clever and have a natural capacity to learn things aided by, or in spite of, the teaching techniques you may apply. Learning is different from teaching. Teaching cannot make learning happen only the learner can do that. Teaching may aid the learning but it may equally impede it.

Learning can be described as a way of constructing a model of reality in our brain to give meaning to and make sense of the world around us, our place and purpose within it and how we can interact with it. It enables us to respond (physically, intelligently and emotionally) in an appropriate and an effective manner in pursuit of our interests, needs, desires or goals.

Learning happens naturally either as a conscious formalised activity or simply as we go about our everyday activities. We do it from the earliest days of life and we set about it with great gusto. The qualities that encourage learning are

  • curiosity about our surroundings
  • a sense of excitement at the new
  • a desire to explore and experiment

These qualities appear to be pre-programmed into our genes. Therefore, you don’t need to make it happen, just encourage your learner to engage in an appropriate activity and watch it blossom.

Belief in the above would mean that you should treat all your learners with an unconditional positive regard. This belief will help you to achieve that all important equal relationship covered earlier and inspire self-trust and belief within your learner – because they can see you believe in them.


The skills involved

This role is primarily about supporting the learner in self directed learning by applying a coaching process through a series of carefully crafted questions in combination with structured experiences. To be able to do this effectively you also need to be able to

  • Actively listen
  • Remain detached and non-judgemental
  • Give and receive feedback

Please note at this point in time, being very good at using the coaching role is not necessary to obtain a grade A in the Standards Check. However, I have no doubt that as time goes by the use of coaching will become more expected and appreciated by the DVSA.

Coaching using a questioning process

The coaching process is basically a conversation where the coach asks questions based on what the person wants and discloses with the purpose of evoking relevant thoughts, feelings and responses to enable the person to identify what is holding them back and in doing so discover a way to move forward. It is a form of discovery learning where the person being coached is attempting to learn how to achieve a particular outcome without being advised or told what to do or indeed what that outcome should be.

Therefore to be an effective coach does not necessarily require you to be an expert in what the person wants to achieve but rather an expert in helping them to recognise they have the means within themselves to achieve it. Therefore coaching is about self-help and empowerment. This is achieved through a coaching process which starts with the person having a goal or an outcome or something else they want to achieve.  Having validated what it is they want the discussion turns to what’s preventing them from making it happen with a view to deciding how these things can be overcome ultimately resulting in a plan of action to move the person forward.

The coach guides the person by questioning, clarifying, summarising and actively listening, to help them

  • better define what they want (i.e. the goal) and establish if
  • it can realistically be attained within their expectations and from their starting point
  • it is truly worthwhile to them
  • discover what is preventing them from realising the goal
  • discover what options they have to overcome these obstacles
  • explore how they might best apply themselves in this cause
  • establish whether they have the resolve to make it happen
  • develop a personal action plan and review process in pursuit of their goal

Various coaching models exist that encompass this kind of process. Two well known models are GROW and OSCAR which are acronyms for

Goal – what do you really want?

Reality – based upon where you are now is it realistic?

Options – what can you do to make it happen and what are the merits of each?

Will – what will you do to make sure it happens?


Outcome – what do you really want?

Situation – how does your current situation impact on this?

Choices – what choices are open to you and what are the consequences of each?

Action – what action will you take?

Review – how will you make sure it happens?

Most coaching models follow a similar pattern of questioning and discovery.

The coach is very careful not to hint or even suggest a course of action or solution of their own as part of this process – it is essential that this comes from the person being coached. This is where the coaching role is very distinctive from the advisor role – you don’t offer advice and you certainly don’t tell them what they need to do. Coaching is a very powerful process as it helps the person being coached to realise they have the answers and by engaging in a coaching process/conversation they can uncover/unlock those answers themselves and as such become masters of their own destiny. Therefore coaching is the ultimate client-centred learning approach as everything comes from the client. If you like it is – learning of the client, for the client and by the client.

What exactly are Coaching questions?

Coaching questions help the learner to consider/explore information or experiences which when examined in the context of the discussion or event help the learner to become aware of it’s relevance as an aid to making progress towards the outcome they desire.

The questioning process is similar to Q&A technique utilised in the instructor’s role. However, Q&A used in instruction in driver training is primarily used to

  • prompt a response from the learner
  • help them recognise certain connections to enhance understanding
  • assess their readiness in some way

As you can see the trainer has a very clear agenda in mind. Whereas coaching questions help the learner to reflect on what they have experienced and what they are looking for. As a consequence one characteristic of coaching questions are that they cannot be answered by the trainer because the trainer doesn’t have the answer only the person being coached has.

Another is that they follow the learner’s interests which basically means any question is formed as a result of actively listening to what the learner says and not what the coach thinks or feels. Active listening starts by emptying your mind and focusing on what the learner is communicating to you (either intentionally or not) rather them looking for confirmation to carry on with what you want to do or the point you want to make. It is about putting yourself in their shoes trying to see what they are saying from their perspective and following up with a response based on that understanding alone.

For example, after a very poorly executed roundabout, it is traditional to ask, “how might you have done that better?”

The person asking (i.e. the instructor) believes they know the answer (i.e. what was wrong and what should have been done), and as such the question doesn’t really help the learner other than to make them aware of the instructor’s disapproval and the need to figure out what the instructor thinks.

The coaching question might be “how do you feel that went?”

We must listen carefully to their answer and not start thinking either about our next question or giving asking further questions, this only clouds the issue. Once we hear what they have to say, our follow up questions should enable us both to make sense of the experience we just had, helping us to determine onward steps. They may be questions such as

  • can you remember when you started to feel uncomfortable?
  • can you put your finger on the trigger that caused this?
  • what might you do to prevent the same effect being triggered next time?
  • how might you go about that?
  • which of those would you like to try first?
  • would you like to do a review after that or move straight on to the roundabout again?

We must also demonstrate that the learners input is important to us, and one of the best ways of demonstrating this can be to summarise and paraphrase what the have converted to us by saying something like “so if I have understood it properly you would like to do x first to see how you feel before considering whether to have another go at the roundabout?

OK please feel free to move off when you are ready” and so on.

Notice how the questioning follows a coaching process of helping the learner to establish what they want to do or feel better about (i.e. the goal) in light of their experience followed by helping them to decide what stopped them moving forward or moving forward as quickly as they would have liked and how might they now move forward in light of that understanding.

Coaching using discovery learning

One of the few training methods truly compatible with coaching is discovery learning or natural learning because it is self-directed. However, as already stated, using this learning method is much more effective if it forms part of a structured experience as the chances of the learner discovering the things they want or need to discover are dramatically increased, as are the chances of a successful outcome. The learner gets all the benefits of natural learning without the potential drawbacks or risks of trying to bite off more than they can chew or the relevant learning situations never materialising. As a learning method it can be effectively utilised in either the advising or the coaching role.

Natural or experiential learning can fully engage both the conscious and the sub-conscious mind in harmony, dramatically boosting the learners learning potential. However, when incorporated into formal instruction led practice such harmony rarely exists. The Inner Game of Tennis book written by Tim Gallwey was probably the first publication to throw light on to this issue with conventional directive coaching (1970s). The book explains the importance of stilling the conscious mind so as to allow the much more powerful sub-conscious mind to learn through experience without interference from the former. This includes interference caused by the coach engaging the learner’s conscious mind through their instructions, tips, procedures etc as well as the interference from the learner’s own judgements and self-doubt. Tim is also recognised by many coaching experts as the founding farther of modern day coaching in all its various guises.

As stated in the previous role skills development typically follows a cycle of four stage as shown below:

1. Unconscious incompetence – we  are incompetent but we are blissfully unaware of the fact

2. Conscious incompetence – we are  still incompetent but now we are uncomfortably aware of the fact

3. Conscious competence – we are  only competent with a lot of conscious  effort but our performance is hit and miss

4. Unconscious competence – we are  competent with little or no conscious effort and cannot understand what all the fuss was about

Traditional training dwells far too much on the conscious aspect of learning a skill which to some degree creates the above cycle. We often learn skills best when we are not even thinking about them such as when we are playing.  Filling the conscious mind with a list of things to do or not, or how you will look if you fail all act as interference in Tim Gallwey’s model of:

Performance = Potential-Interference

Learning skills by experience, directed by the learner simply imagining or visualising the outcome without judgement, appears to potentially cut out or dramatically reduce the time in stages 2 and 3 of the cycle above. The more you involve the conscious mind in the development of a skill through theory and instructions the more it seems to interfere with our natural learning process of monkey see monkey do. Just visualise the outcome and how it might feel and leave the rest to learning through the experience of doing. The coach can help to set up the activity that the learner wants to undertake in pursuit of their goal but the exercise of learning should be directed by the learner themselves.

So the skill of the coach here is to learn how not to interfere, to keep quiet, to actively remove any support from the learner (other than to inspire self-belief and helping to direct the learner away from unhelpful thoughts or feelings) and ignore any attempts by the learner to be drawn back into the process.

It is also about helping the learner to find a suitable activity in which to engage i.e. the structured experience. Any such activity should be able to be performed by the learner without your support or interference and should represent a manageable step i.e. one that the learner is ready to take for which you can maintain safety. However, this doesn’t mean the activity should not be challenging, on the contrary, it should as this will create a certain amount of positive stress priming the mind and body to get ready for learning.

Any challenge should create a certain amount of anxiety and excitement but not so much that this turns this feeling into dread and fear otherwise the results could be disastrous resulting in a blind panic. You don’t want to put them off driving for life or give them a complex or indeed feed the learner’s own doubts.

Luckily, most young adults are naturally quite resilient. The buzz or the thrill the learner gets from being successful appears to cement the learning and boost motivation much more than would otherwise be the case. This only happens if the success can be attributed to the learner’s own efforts and for which failure seemed a real possibility (even though you realised the chances of failure might not have been as high as they thought). This is how natural learning works and is probably the most effective way for learning to take place with a full mind and body skill such as driving.

Depending upon the outcome of any structured experience this would nicely lead into a coaching conversation followed by another experience and so on.

Lesson planning, delivery and evaluation

The aim of this section is to help you compare how you might undertake lesson planning, delivery and evaluation in the coaching role rather than in the role of advisor or teacher.

Following a flexible course programme could be utilised in the coaching role but only if the learner had chosen to follow it in the first place as part of their solution to learning to drive. Therefore, at the start of the course you might use a coaching process (e.g. GROW, OSCAR) combined with your questioning and active listening skills to help the learner determine how they might best go about learning to drive.

The likely obstacles would probably be their lack of ability, experience, money and/or time and the options would be the way they might go about gaining those abilities and experience following either your learning programme or indeed one of their own. Indeed for coaching to be utilised the learner need only consider what the first lesson goal should be with future lessons goals being decided as they went along trusting the coach to make them aware of when they had reached their destination.

The only problem with not having a programme is the learner cannot track their progress as easily or know where they are in relation to the end of the process. Without a formal programme to follow the learner would need to rely on you as the coach to tell them when they were ready for the test.

Irrespective of whether you followed a programme or not every lesson would start with a coaching conversation to determine what they would like to do next. In particular, you would use one of the coaching models previously mentioned to help the learner

  • select a new goal(s) for the lesson,
  • recognise if the goal(s) where realistic taking into account the current situation (i.e. where they are now and other practicalities)
  • discover what obstacles they would have to overcome or new capabilities they would need to develop
  • establish what type of locations, training areas or routes or other resources would be useful, assess what options are available to develop the necessary capabilities and or overcome the obstacles identified
  • agree a plan of action to follow and a way to assess success

If the learner is very familiar with the training areas at your disposal they may be able to finalise a plan without your suggestions. Similarly, if they have a good idea about the activities they would want to perform your experience in this regard may also not be required. However, this would probably be unlikely in most cases.

The key is to encourage the learner to see you as a resource as well as a coach and thus save themselves the trouble of becoming an expert in these matters. In this instance you would revert to advisor mode presenting any possibilities as suggestions or choices.

Naturally if the learner knows the area well and can formulate a development plan of their own this would be fantastic. This might especially be possible if the learner reflects on the last lesson before you meet with a view to formulating a goal and developing a plan of action having checked out the practicalities first. In effect the learner would be developing their own lesson plan as a learning exercise in advance of each lesson.

Lesson beginning

As with the advisor role at the start of each lesson you should encourage the learner to think about what they would like to do, what they would like to achieve, how you might work with them to achieve this and what are the significant risks to safety of any action plan agreed?

As stated previously as part of the advisor role the best instructors know their training areas really well and know the importance of breaking the learning down into small manageable bite sized chunks. To utilise coaching effectively this skill is still very important, if for no other reason than to recognise whether a learner’s suggestions in this regard are viable. If not you would try to help raise the learner’s awareness of what would be viable using coaching questions rather then giving advice in this regard.

Therefore the type of questions that you might ask before you start any lesson could include

  • what would you like to work on today?
  • what would you like to be able to do or feel better about by the end of this lesson?
  • do you think you can realistically achieve this?
  • what type of tasks/activities, areas or routes (i.e. resources) do you need?
  • what might be a reasonable plan of action to follow?
  • what might be the risks/dangers of implementing this plan that we need to factor in?

and so on.

As you can see the questions are identical to the questions of the advisor role you would just resist giving advice and be more faithful to following a coaching model (e.g. GROW or OSCAR etc). These questions might be preceded by a reflective discussion about the last lesson with a view to helping them finalise what they wanted to do this lesson, or this would be covered as part of the Reality phase of GROW or the Situation phase of OSCAR. When the reflective aspect is discussed first it might better be represented by another coaching model TGROW where the coaching conversation starts with a general discussion around the Topic of the session.

This dialogue will also help you to establish if they are ready to undertake the proposed learning goals.  As stated in the advisor role there are three kinds of readiness that you (and the learner) are checking for. Firstly, does the learner have the necessary ability (i.e. knowledge, understanding and skills) in place to effectively undertake the proposed lesson. Secondly, does the learner believe they have the necessary ability to undertake the lesson and thirdly does the learner personally feel up to undertaking the lesson proposed (i.e. physically, mentally and emotionally). In a coaching scenario the readiness check would be posed as a set of questions which would get the learner to consider this readiness for themselves as part of either the Reality or Situation or Topic phase of the coaching conversation.

Lesson middle

Where you should be able to apply a coaching approach consistently is as part of a structured experience by helping the learner to determine an activity and thus a goal for which they can take full responsibility allowing them to benefit from the power of self-directed natural learning. You would avoid any directive support, especially during the activity (unless necessary for safety), and wait to be invited in if the learner clearly wants you to engage in a coaching conversation (e.g. GROW, OSCAR, TGROW etc) to follow their interests with a view to helping them figure out what is holding them back or what they would like to move on to next. Ongoing support should ideally be restricted to

  • inspiring self-trust
  • increasing non-judgmental awareness of what is

As the coach you should resist any invitation during the activity to give directive support and push any learner’s questions back to them – “What should I do?”…”What do you think?”.

Naturally, if you both felt a brief period of instruction would help them discover this then you would help the learner explore this, then switch back to coaching to ascertain what had been learned from the experience (remember, instruction can count as experience, just don’t get used to depending on it, as you will revert to using it more and more and the learner will become more passive, defeating the object).

In the coaching role the learner should ideally be the one who decides when to pull up to have a review, unlike in the advisor role where either party may wish to do this. These reviews are for the benefit of the learner to either sit in silence or to ask you questions or just to make a comment as the case may be.  In these circumstances the learner may want to stop but may feel they cannot do this without your permission – thus if you see this in their behaviour you might offer the opportunity by making a suggestion – “Would it help to stop and have a review?”.

You should always make it clear that the learner can choose to pull up and stop at any time as long as it is safe, legal and convenient. The learner may wish to give some feedback but it is more likely that they will be seeking feedback from you but be careful about offering your views or opinions, this is the path back to instruction! Try to be neutral and objective – possibly explain what you saw without any hint of judgement. Again see this as an opportunity to inspire self-trust to encourage them to evaluate things for themselves and express their own view in light of that process using a coaching conversation rather than giving feedback.

Lesson end

Following the learner’s interest and helping them formulate suitable activities (i.e. structured experiences) will continue to the end of the time available where the last task would normally be to drive home. Once home the end lesson process would be identical to the advisor role where the learner would be encouraged to assess their own progress overall, to look forward to the next lesson and to reflect on this lesson with a view to having a plan for the next lesson either within the framework of a formal programme or based on the realistic possibilities they identified.

Lesson evaluation

After lessons you should immediately update your reflective diary about how you felt the lesson went noting any key things you need to remember in respect to the learner for the next time. As part of this reflection you would also consider how effectively you used or applied your coaching skills. If you feel you need to make any changes to your delivery of the lesson make a quick note now and refer to it when you have more time to evaluate your performance in some detail.

Main responsibilities

As the coach it is your responsibility to

  • develop your ability to build rapport and empathy, ask questions, actively listen, remain detached and non-judgmental to such a level that you can effective apply a coaching process such as GROW or OSCAR to follow the learner’s interests
  • learner-directed natural learning through structured experiences wherever possible
  • know the training areas in which you work to such a degree that you can help the learner to develop a lesson or activity plan to suit their preferences and needs (within the boundaries of safety and practicality)
  • maintain progress records to enable you to have a good understanding of what your learner is capable of at any point in the programme and what remains outstanding
  • help the learner review their progress at the end of the lesson, set a provisional plan for the next lesson including any useful pre-lesson preparation and encourage further lesson reflection using a reflective diary with the purpose of developing a plan for the next lesson
  • help the learner structure any lesson or part thereof into a clear beginning, middle and end by discussing with the learner what they would like to learn, how they might like to go about learning it and how they would review that learning.
  • inspire self-trust and increase non-judgmental awareness of what is
  • reflect on your own performance and any lesson you facilitate


This coaching role is the ultimate client-centred learning approach but also is the most difficult to master. Therefore, while you should always try to lead with this role don’t worry about or be hesitant to fall back on the instructor role as and when necessary, especially when it comes to safety critical issues. Once you become proficient at coaching you will not need to use instruction very much, but you must remember this is a journey. One cannot flick a switch and become a coach overnight, it is a journey therefore it will develop over time.

So instruction may form a necessary tool from time to time until you become proficient in the coaching role. The more proficient a coach you become the less you will use the instructor role but it is unlikely to ever completely replace this role if for no other reason than you may need to move between these two roles until the learner totally buys into the full coaching process, which may take a period of several lessons to achieve on how to  Become a coach.

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