In principle, three different levels of coaching may be distinguished:
1) There is a very basic (or 1st) level of coaching which mainly addresses the problem and is in many respects very similar or possibly even identical with what a consultant or mentor would be asked to do. Even though the coach asks many questions (as he should do), they mainly serve to find out what the problem is and to gather information which the coach may need in order to find a solution to the client’s problem. The client is mainly involved in describing the problem but is not required to do any (or much) problem solving.
This kind of coaching can produce positive results for the client-the client gets an external view, helpful proposals, and some feedback on the client’s own ideas which may add value. However, the solution found does not come from the client and the client does not grow/develop/learn to solve his or her own problems.
2) The 2nd level of coaching aims to facilitate the problem solving capabilities of the client by asking questions that invite the client to think through the problem him-or herself and gain own insights for (new or better) options, choices or solutions for the problem. Ultimately, the client’s ability to solve problems so advances and expands.
This is real coaching, not mentoring or giving advice generally. It is probably the most common form of coaching. It comprises what coaching conversations should generally be like and offers immediate benefits to clients. However, the person of the client only grows incrementally but is not really changed or transformed (which in many cases may not be necessary anyway).
3) There is another, 3rd level of coaching: where coaching the person to (learn to) solve a problem is not sufficient. Transformational coaching as the highest level of coaching may be needed. This may require that inside the client changes occur and the coach helps the client to experience the necessary internal transformational shifts. They could be a change of attitude, giving up old beliefs and adopting new beliefs, seeing oneself differently, developing and setting new boundaries and/or being motivated to pursue changes.
Transformational coaching often is a part of life coaching but may also be required in business coaching to achieve lasting and sustainable results.
4) All three levels of coaching may be relevant in a coaching relationship. In any coaching session both the 2nd and 3rd levels of coaching may become relevant. But if the client does not have enough background knowledge -for instance, how an organisation is structured, what its key elements of culture are or how it works – at times the 1st level of coaching may need to be applied as well.