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Coaching is a complete entrepreneurial support practice that contains advice, training and learning (Wu, 2016; Devine et al., 2013). There is no universal definition of coaching, however, most commonly, it is defined as “a managerial, cognitive and informational process combining knowledge, methods and ways offered to an individual or a group in order to detect opportunities and to assure their continuity and their efficiency” (Peterson and Hicks; 2006, p. 14).


Audet and Cauteret (2013, p. 2) define coaching as “an individual support that targets entrepreneur of new start-up or a growth company aiming to meet a particular need of acquisition, development and skill’s improvement”. This great variety of definitions testifies how coaching is a multidimensional concept. There are in fact many types of coaching: psychological, professional, supportive and emotional coach.

During the research conducted for the development of this methodological guidelines, it was detected that coaching is usually intended as a formal or an informal process:

  • formal coaching desires the presence of protocols, structure and plan: professional coaching is required in a formal relationship.
  • informal coaching requires especially the acceptance between actors: emotional and psychological coaching is required in an informal relationship.

The type of entrepreneurial coaching proposed by the WECAN project is an informal one, as previously illustrated, but it includes some aspect most commonly associated to the more formal kind of entrepreneurial coaching.

The initial task of a WECoach is to shape the relationship with the coachee. An important aspect of the WECAN coaching relationship is that the relationship has a dyadic structure made of female coaches and coachees. This kind of bond increases the level and frequency of interactions among the parts, which is an important feature of a high-quality relationship.

Getting ready for the journey

Before kicking off the journey, WECoaches need to prepare themselves. A starting point is for them to be familiar with:

  • adult learning techniques,
  • how to handle specific types of questions;
  • how to determine competency gaps,
  • accelerate knowledge transfer,
  • address problems in coaching relationships.

By possessing these abilities (most of them have been addressed in the first chapters), WECoaches will be able to design a successful coaching by establishing outcomes, an agenda and the roles of the involved participants but also by determining internal processes and customizing the communication among the two parts.

It is important to underline that technical and professional skills are not all that matters to be a WECoach, in fact the coaches will choose a coach who has the personal traits and the communication style which inspires more trust. As stated in the previous chapters, the WECoaches need to bear in mind that more experienced does not automatically translate into good coach.

The engagement stage

The initiation stage is the engagement phase in which the coach and the coachee establish and forge the relationship.

In this initial phase the coachee may be wondering what to expect from the coach and both parts will have to be open to know each other and learn how to know each other. The engagement is particularly delicate since it represents the moment in which both the persons involved need to explore themselves and the current challenge they are to undertake. It is a discovery moment surrounded by uncertainty and the fear of embarking on a risky journey. Coaching is about a dual interpersonal relationship in which two unknown individuals learn to know each other by deeply listening to each other and by becoming more aware of their wishes and goals.

In this phase they both discuss about their goals, values and expectations. A coaching journey is first and foremost a “communication relationship”. For this reason, the WECoach and the coachee need to define their roles from the very beginning to clarify and establish the objectives of the relationship. The successful outcome of the coaching journey can only be guaranteed if there is an easy and smooth communication among the parts (See chapter 3).


In order to clearly define the roles in the coaching relationship, it is important to understand that the women who will start the coaching journey will do so voluntarily, moved by an inner motivation and necessity. Thus, the WECAN coaching methodology is an informal relationship based on trust among the parts. Openness and honesty are fundamental to establish a trustful bond (Peterson, 2006; Peterson & Hicks, 1996). If the WECoaches’ role will be to support the coachee in finding their own solution to solve the entrepreneurial questions or overcome obstacles, the coachee needs to place confidence in the coach and let her guide her in this process. The WECoaches do not only offer advice and opinion but also prepare and help the coachee for the entrepreneurial world.

A coaching journey is especially useful when an individual recognizes that she needs to develop professionally and personally and thus needs to reach personal and work-related goals. In the case of the WECAN project, the WECoach will support the coachee encouraging her to overcome a standstill or an obstacle to achieve her entrepreneurial goal and will help the coachee figure out the individual path that will lead her towards the entrepreneurial objective. The WECoach will motivate and encourage the coachee in removing all those attitudes, assumptions and prejudices that impede her entrepreneurial development.


The relationship coach-coachee is a peer partnership between two women who are willing to start a journey together. Although the seniority level will be different – in fact, the WECoach will have more entrepreneurial experience if compared to the coachee, the relationship will be among peers. In the WECAN project context, peer learning is an informal way of learning, controlled by the involved individuals.

The coach-coachee relationship is an ongoing evolution, in fact the coaching journey changes with the passing of the time. The women involved in the relationship will soon create a deeper bond that can last for a long time and can become friendship.

Setting an agenda

When initiating the relationship, the coach and the coachee will schedule an agenda that can suit them both. They can opt for a more informal and open timetable with meetings that can take place as and when the coachee needs some guidance or they can choose a more structured plan and schedule the meetings on a regular basis. But it is important to set a clear agenda since a successful coaching process involves planning and detailed design of the steps to be taken.

The agenda needs to be set by the coachee with the coach and has to be suitable to the goals they will set and to be adapted to the specific entrepreneurial skills development of the coachee.  Thus, it is necessary that the planned agenda focuses on the specific goal of the coaching journey.

When planning the agenda, both the coachee’s professional development and the personal sphere need to be taken into consideration. The two spheres are usually interconnected and separating them can be particularly difficult, especially when undergoing a coaching journey. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2017/2018 states that among entrepreneurs, women are one-third more likely to be necessity-motivated when starting up a business. In the innovation-driven economies this tendency is even higher, women are even less likely to participate in entrepreneurship compared to men but when they do, they are a slightly higher likelihood of being necessity-motivated rather then opportunity-related. This means that among those women who participate in entrepreneurial activities many of them do so out of necessity or as a last resort. Thus, combining the development of entrepreneurial-related competences with skills linked to the personal areas, such as self-awareness, behavioural attitudes and time management, is the most feasible way forward for women at the early stage of their entrepreneurial career.

The WECoach journey does not focus on a specific length of time, it rather concentrates on a broader view of the coachee professional and personal growth. The coaching relationship that the WECAN project aims at is not time-bound – it actually centres its attention on the professional/personal development of the coachee.

The setting of the agenda is a crucial moment for the relationship. The agenda represents the base for a solid start: the coach and the coachee will share personal values, visions and purpose while committing themselves to a set of encounters which will help the coachee progressing towards her goals. A coaching journey needs to contemplate an action plan in order to determine goals and evaluate what’s working and what doesn’t along the path. The aim of the agenda is to facilitate the setting of goals and the identification of the actions an individual needs to take next. A predefined agenda confers accountability and frame the relationship in a well-defined setting: in this way both the coach and the coachee feel secure and engaged in a shared programme.

Setting goals

Setting goals is actually a crucial task in a coaching process since it is the only way to guarantee a successful assessment of the coaching learning outcomes. The most relevant literature regarding coaching strongly suggests to set objectives and reach a shared understanding of what needs to be addressed (See Setting an agenda) in coaching relationships. If the relationship is goal specific, action and performance oriented and objective, the coaching process can be measured and evaluated without major problems (Carter, 2006)

WECoaches need to bear in mind that goals and objectives can change during the coaching journey, but it is still very important to consider them and agree on a shared understanding during the initiation stage. When setting the goals, WECoaches will then need to define the success criteria linked to the final evaluation (See Separation stage).

Setting goals in coaching is important for the coachee in order for her to have an idea of what she wants to achieve or do. Coaching relationships need to be goal oriented because without having a compelling need to achieve something, the coachee can easily find an excuse for not achieving her goal. Each person finds motivations in different ways and the coach needs to help the coachee find motivational strategies. So each coachee has to clearly state what she wants and how she will achieve it; it is the coach’s role to help her identify the motivations behind her goals and to work towards their achievement (Brause, 2004).

WECoaches need to remember to help the coachee to enjoy the journey and to focus on the process too, not just on the goals. In this sense, the GROW model explored in the previous Chapter, can help the WECoach on how to review the whole coaching process with the coachee.

Neuro Linguistics Programming suggests to use the well-formed outcome which means to see the goals in a broader context. This means that the goals need to be stated positively and realistically and that the process towards their achievement needs to be pictured in a feasible way as well.

When setting the goals, it is also useful to take into consideration what are the losses and gains depending on their achievement. The coachee should also estimate the resources she needs to invest (physical, financial or emotional) and which are the consequences for the persons who surround her. The next question to pose to the coachee is: What is the first step you will take? (Brause, 2004)

It is recommended for WECoaches to document the achieved goals together with the coachee in order to keep track of the accomplished results and understand whether adjustments are needed when no progress is registered. Goal setting is also a dangerous task because focussing too much on goals can lead to dissatisfaction if the coachees don’t achieve them.

It is the role of the WECoach to detect what kind of approach the coachee is taking to achieve her goals – a coachee could be only goal oriented and underestimate the importance of the process and the little achievements she reaches or she could rush towards her goal, without taking the right time to understand the achievements and actually adopt them. WECoaches should support and encourage the coachee in keeping her goals in mind, but the role of the WECoaches is also to help them set milestones along the way.

So, what does a WECoach need to do to help her coachee set a goal?

  • Understand the approach adopted by the coachee to achieve her goals – the major outcome of the coaching process;
  • Help her set the milestones that will help her achieve the ultimate objectives of the journey;
  • Let her see the right approach to the tasks she needs to undertake to reach each milestones – the process;
  • Support her document the attainments and to set dates and revise regularly her timetable;
  • Keep track of her attained goals to give continuity to the sessions and to set/adjust the way forward;
  • Create rewards when milestones have been accomplished;
  • Make her visualise how achieving the end goal feels and tastes to give her the sensory glory needed to motivate her.

The process that a coachee uses is her process and works for her. Her process will keep her motivated and there is no standard process or task valid for all coachees. Setting goals is not a standalone task but is part of a more complex process and without the entire process, the chances to accomplish the goal are reduced.

Kicking off the coaching journey

After having established the coaching relationship, the parties involved will have a clear view of the expectations and the schedule of activities. Starting the relationship means defining the goals and the success criteria the coachee wants to develop during the journey. This first stage will help ensure mutual understanding between the involved individuals.

In order to kick off the coaching process and proceed to the next phases, the WECoaches need to have clear in mind which are the most relevant aspects to be considered and checked to ensure the success of the coaching journey. Preparing a checklist of tasks and aspects to be considered is always a good exercise that helps visualising and prioritising:



Is the coachee comfortable?


Do you agree on the level of participation needed to fulfil the goals of the coachee?


Are there any concerns that disturb the coaching experience of the coachee?


Does the coachee share the same understanding of the coaching process?


Do I have clear in mind which are the expectations of the coachee?


Do I fully understand the coachee’s needs and expectations?


Do the expectations of the coachee match with what I am able to offer?


Do we agree on the number, frequency and duration of sessions?


Do we agree on venue(s) for coaching and method of communication between sessions?


Do we agree on how to recognise and communicate with one another should one or other party feel that the coaching relationship is not working at the optimum? Do we agree on how to resolve these issues?


Are the goals and success criteria well defined?


Do you agree on how to terminate the relationship?


This table is a non-exhaustive list of questions that can accompany the WECoaches during the coaching journey.

When starting the journey, it is important that WECoaches are prepared for the journey. Coaches need to possess a wide range of skills and attitudes in order to help coachee in successfully reaching their goals:

  • The coach needs to know how to listed with an open mind and how to suspend judgements,
  • She needs to be able to see issues from a different perspective from the coachee,
  • She has to identify those behaviours that obstruct the path of the coachee towards a successful implementation of the coaching journey,
  • She will need to be able to recognise the individual strengths and areas of weakness of the coachees,
  • Provide constructive feedbacks,
  • Another important aspect is the ability to clarify so both parties have a shared understanding and can together overcome obstacles,
  • Last, but not least, the coach needs to be able to help the coachee evaluate the undertaken journey and recognise what could have been done differently.

Project Coordinator

Centre d'Information Europe Direct

47, rue du Coq, 13001 Marseille, France
+33 4 91 42 94 75

Charlotte Perault, EU Project Manager

Hélène Seigneur, EU Project Manager

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