What does illuminative coaching really look like in the workplace?

I use the term illuminative coaching as that is what I’ve termed my particular style of coaching which is underpinned by positive psychology. Illuminative as a term can mean to ‘shed light’ but can also mean to ‘light up’, which can be what people do when they find they have gained or regained their place and meaning within work.

Being a coach is not about bringing along a carrot and stick to gee up the workforce and make them work more productively. Rather it is a uniquely placed position where you help people to find solutions for themselves, re establish why they wanted the job and shake out any problems that are holding them back.

Illuminative questions

Questions I hold in my mind when I work with someone are ‘do they feel heard?’ ‘Do they feel acknowledged for what they bring to the team?’ ‘Do they feel any sense of team at all?’ ‘Are ideas or innovative brainwaves celebrated?’ ‘Is home life allowed to reflect at work?’ And ‘are they expected to hold back in the face of challenge and pretend that nothing is wrong?’

As a coach if I can shed some light or illuminate what might be going on unseen or unacknowledged within the very fabric or personality of a business, I can help that company to flourish. This is especially important if there is change happening within that business.

Your home life is still a big part of you at work, your triumphs, your joy, your hard times and every occasion in between. When that ‘you’ is also allowed into work, it helps with authenticity. Unless you truly need to compartmentalise home/work life balance, then don’t. (This doesn’t however give free licence to talk all day about your puppy, or how many teeth your baby has now!)

Workplace dynamics

Sometimes not feeling stretched can lead to lack of conviction at work, which also comes about through trust: I.e do you feel that your manager places enough trust in you to allow you to do your job? Nothing feels worse than a manager who’s people skills are not enabling but instead facilitate resentment because they don’t trust you to get on with your job without micro managing you. As a coach I may need to observe the dynamics within a team or company and give voice to what appears to be going on, and even if there is a need to verbalise smoke and mirrors, then personally this is what I do.

I may need to provide anonymous feedback to management about the culture of the company, as this is something that can actually make a real difference moving forward. Trust is something that is vital to growth, flexibility and feeling not just heard, but valued. Conversely lack of this leads to shut down, irritability, lack of cohesion and many lost ideas when people don’t speak up.


So many things can cause a person to feel demotivated and yet the irony is that as a coach I am not there to motivate at all. I use the term illuminative coaching for my company, because sometimes the lightbulb moment is all that is needed in order for changes that may be needed, to be recognised. Once this process has happened, this allows for people to take personal responsibility for what they want to see and also to visualise what their best self in work looks like. Once they hold the vision, they can be that person and work with passion.

Coaching typically represents helping people to find their goals amongst other things, but it is so much more than that. Illumination in coaching is not just about shedding light but is about helping people to find their brilliance. When you shine, whether as an individual or as a business in the larger sense, it gets you noticed!


Communication and giving voice not just to ideas but also concerns that will inevitably arise in a workplace, is vital. Knowing your role, and exactly what is expected of you is also something that allows for strengths to shine. Where there is ambiguity, either about ones own role, or even who we are answerable to, there is the capacity for languishing on the job as de motivation and lack of direction creeps in.

So a healthy place to work from consists of truth, illumination, trust and recognition for whatever you bring to the table but also recognises you for the person you are when you aren’t at work. Oh, and find or be a mentor, because not much beats that dynamic.

About the author: To find out more about Caralyn Cox MAPP, click here.


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

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