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Coaching in Software Development – Which Core Competencies are needed?

I’ve worked as a Software Developer, a Software Developer Manager, a Team Leader, and a Solution Architect across the world for decades. To do what I do for a living, I must be involved in activities that help develop and train others.

In this profession, there are numerous responsibilities and talents available, particularly in Software Development, where personnel is trained and supervised.

Coaching allows us to explore new ways of doing things while also letting go of old ones. With the help of coaching, different views and points of view can be moved and developed, resulting in more action opportunities.

Many of these positions are known as ‘Coach,’ ‘Agile Coach,’ ‘Software Coach,’ and ‘Personal Growth Coach,’ to name a few. The contrast between various types of therapy and their accompanying contexts and tactics is fascinating. It comes to reason that a software development trainer or mentor would need to have a high level of expertise in the software business to bring a student up to the trainer’s level. A life or career coach, on the other hand, is objective and does not have the essential skills or is already where the coachee wants to be.

The term “coaching” denotes an industry trend in and of itself. Individuals misuse this term to refer to a wide range of direct personal activities that have nothing to do with coaching. Activities include coaching, treatment, and counseling. Both training and mentoring happen in a similar setting.

For example, a trainer or mentor works on factual and abstract topics with almost fixed goals and, in most cases, a structured path and a systematic approach. However, therapy or coaching mainly focuses on things from the personal context. (Drath, 2013) From a different point of view, coaching and training are more geared towards solutions than conflicts. (Drath, 2013)


The Delimitation

Coaching is a vague term everyone understands or only uses because it has a positive tendency to it. (Backhausen, n.d.) Different contexts and, of course, business cultures in different nations have a significant impact on how coaching is perceived. It comes from the definition of the coaching requirement. On the other hand, the definition of coaching varies according to field and activity. For instance, a sports coach’s relationship with his coachee is distinct. It is both a constant coaching procedure on a personal level and a solid transfer of topic knowledge. Even in this situation, it is critical to acknowledge, for example, that a coach of a football team is not necessarily the best football player. Still, their expertise enables them to recognize how a player may perform at their best as an individual and a team member.

Looking back over the last 50 years, we can see that the “coaching kitchen” has only recently begun with its gourmet piece. Based on the United States and the United Kingdom’s success and drawn from the life coaching concept, Germany and other European countries began to shine in this field. (Drath, 2013)

Figure 1. Delimitation according to the method (Drath, 2013)

Coaching was first utilized in the early twentieth century. With his book “Adult Games” in 1970, Eric Berne established himself as a pioneer in coaching today. Companies began to offer coaching as a service years after Eric Berne was discovered.

Accepting that there is no proper definition but rather a helpful and workable definition is the most effective and most practical method to comprehend what coaching truly is. As a result, we are not discussing an accurate definition but rather a clear distinction from other methods.

From many references, we can define coaching as an external, professional form of individual advice in a professional context with a time-limited system. (Meier and Storch, 2013) (Drath, 2013) (Baxter et al., 2008) (Backhausen, n.d.)

Figure 2 shows the areas of tension in coaching. When discussing coaching in a non-private situation, it is essential to remember that the emphasis is not on private life and that the coaching activities may have various viewpoints. It is an element of the change process; it is a process in and of itself, including all facets of personal and professional life.

Figure 2. Areas of tension in coaching according to Berkhausen o.J.

Compared to psychotherapy and its methodology, which has existed for over 100 years (Drath, 2013), the concept of coaching can also be viewed as a confidential process-oriented method. However, the most crucial difference between these two methods is the psychological status of the target group. Psychotherapy is about focusing on a thought or behavioral disorder that needs to be resolved. There are several methods of finding the cause of the disorder and finding a helpful way to mitigate the effects on people’s behavior. The same methods are used in coaching, but with one significant fundamental difference. In coaching, we explicitly speak of mentally stable people. In addition, we do not focus on a disorder but on stabilizing the coachee’s behavioral pattern. (Drath, 2013) Coaching is helping people to help themselves (von Schumann, 2014). It is a positive process of change in a person’s behavior and thought pattern under consideration of the motivational forces of the past (Baxter et al., 2008). If anyone wants to change, these schemes need to be improved. (Backhausen, n.d.)

Coaching is not training either. The training aims to learn specific skills in a practice field for later use. (Wrede, n.d.) Coaching is not mentoring either because the purpose of mentoring is the exchange of ideas between an experienced person and a less experienced person. (Wrede, n.d.)

Problems are frequently unsolvable because the person in question is a prisoner of his limited thoughts. And it becomes an issue since the individual misunderstood and underestimated their talents as well as the scenario. As a result, an external mechanism is required to break this person’s predetermined mindset. Coaching is offered!

As Baxter says in his book “Coaching with a System,” coaching always asks about the scope. Coaching always asks what is still possible. (Baxter et al., 2008)

The coach must invite the coachee to a change of perspective and react to the reflection of questions and communication from the coachee and build the next step on this. In training or mentorship, the trainee usually follows structured guidance.

Figure 3. What coaching is not

As seen in Figure 4, coaching focuses on the present and the future. (Drath, 2013) (Lenz et al., 2007).

Figure 4. Delimitation according to the time orientation (Drath, 2013)

Coaching cannot just be a theoretical science because, in the economy, where coaching is mainly used, people buy what is understandable and works. (Drath, 2013) The right attitude is one of the core skills of a trainer.

When we talk about solving a problem, we mostly speak about divergent (many possibilities) and convergent thinking (one correct answer). The first way of thinking enables new ideas to be generated, and the second is to focus on the best. Creativity is there to combine these two methods.

Figure 5. Four basic principles of Learning to Coach (Baxter et al., 2008)

The right attitude is one of the core competencies of a coach. Coaching is not about commanding, demanding, instructing, or persuading (Lenz et al., 2007) but should be empathetic, appreciative, and congruent.

Thoughts on Machine Models

Machine models are based on a modular approach in which individual components are linked with one another, and a clear cause-effect relationship (causality) is always maintained. (Backhausen, n.d.)

In cause and effect theory, one process (the cause) is related to another process or state (the effect), with the first part responsible for the second and the second partially dependent on the first. (Backhausen, n.d.)

Individuals, teams, and organizations are regarded as non-linear systems, and there is no single solution for coaching with individuals. As previously stated, there is no correct answer; instead, there is just a reasonable and usable option.

The systemic-constructivist model

The constructivist model is a fundamental core competency of consultants, given the goal and increasing uncertainty elements.

The complexity of human existence and behavior leads to the conclusion that finding the most appropriate way to solve problems without in-depth scientific knowledge and without focusing on a mechanical solution necessitates a technique and an attitude to get the coachee to the level of awareness. It is the art of opening the door of the coachee’s homemade prison and allowing him to think about his thoughts and the consequences of his behavior. The coach should be able to reflect on the coachees’ behavior in a neutral, professional manner.

As a development manager in charge of a team of over 20 people from various countries and cultures, I must grasp the cultural barriers and the complexities of their behavior in their setting. It should be able to guide them without being a professional traveler with an extensive understanding of the culture in question. Every individual is unique and influenced by their country of origin, culture, and even language. They act differently because they think differently. They have various priorities and redlines while also understanding what is happening around them. I can’t function as a professional in any culture (there were more than 12 different countries and cultures). However, if you study the fundamentals of coaching with the appropriate attitude, it’s clear that the abstract coaching approaches operate the same in all human forms. If you’re attempting to listen and reflect on what someone believes and thinks, culture doesn’t matter. Because they believe in their way, guided by you, there is no judgment, no definition, and so no conflict.

Another lesson to be learned from a methodical, constructive technique is its application in various agile development methodologies such as peer programming and code review. It can be used to represent a team’s or group’s programming culture in order to increase quality without offending anyone or focusing on a single correct course of action for everything.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

John C. Maxwell


Backhausen, W., n.d. Coaching.

Baxter, R., Hastings, N., Law, a., Glass, E.J.., 2008. Michael Pohl · Heinrich Fallner Coaching mit System, Animal Genetics.

Drath, K., 2013. Coaching und seine Wurzeln Karsten Drath.

Lenz, G., Ellebracht, H., Osterhold, G., 2007. Coaching als Führungsprinzip, Persönlichkeit und Performance entwickeln.

Meier, R., Storch, M., 2013. Coaching mit dem Zürcher Ressourcen Modell – ZRM, Coaching.

von Schumann, K., 2014. Coaching im Aufwind, Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline 2015.

Wrede, B.A., n.d. Coaching für Industrie 4.0.


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