Skip to main content

What is mastery in coaching and how do I get it?

Henley Business School building 1024x681

Coaching over the past decade has come of age. More high quality research has been published in journals, there has been a growth in formal coach training and standards have risen in practice as a result of a growth in professional bodies. There has also been an increase in the number of university-based Masters programmes; all have helped to raise standards.

What makes the difference between a coach and a great coach?

Too often the title 'coach' means nothing and, in many areas, is little more than a word on a business card. Many coaches remain undertrained, without formal qualification or nationally recognised coaching qualifications. More worryingly, many do not understand the basics of what good coaching requires:

  • high-level listening skills
  • powerful questioning
  • the ability to hold people in a place of discomfort to optimise their reflection and learning

Jonathan Passmore, Director of the Henley Centre for Coaching and Behavioural Change, believes that these are the basics that completing a post-graduate qualification in coaching should provide – mastery requires more.

‘Over the past few years I have been researching how coaches move from a high-level qualification, which provides a platform for coaching, to turning knowledge into practice.’ Jonathan’s research into coach competences and the development of a behavioural anchored framework for coach assessment is just one of a number of models which have been developed to illustrate how coaches can assess their own journey to mastery.

The three elements to mastery

Mastery in coaching, written by Jonathan, draws together perspectives from a number of well-known coaches and provides an insight into how coaches can build their coaching skills, add to the models they use, reflect more deeply on their practice and understand the science of coaching.

‘What we can say from this work,’ says Jonathan, ‘is that mastery is not simply about the number of hours of practice, or the acquisition of scientific knowledge, or reflection on practice. Writers such as Miller and Hubble have provided some insights from other professions. Mastery requires all three of these elements. It require a sound foundation of knowledge … of what works and why. It requires a continual critical reflection on what we do and it requires dedicated practice. Only by encountering a wide variety of clients, presenting issues and approaches can the coach reflect on the application of their skills and themselves as an agent in the process, to better hone their skills. In short mastery takes dedicated practice and hard work. There are no magic formulas or models, and no short cuts.’

Jonathan concludes, ‘Coaching, like most skills, requires us to be in the moment. To be self-aware, to be fully engaged and to be in full service of our clients. This is something which emerges from training. It is the combination of who we are, what we believe and the application of these into what we do.’

Details of all of Henley Business School’s coaching programmes can be found at

Professor Jonathan Passmore

Professor of Coaching and Behavioural Change
Published 19 May 2017

You might also like

In the Hot Seat

29 October 2018

How influential are you?

26 May 2016

The modern challenge to HR

11 January 2016