Principles of Coaching - Stretch

“…by stretching yourself beyond your perceived level of confidence you accelerate your development of competence” - Tony Buzan

As part of our series on the key principles of coaching, we move to our next topic - stretch. In a nutshell, people perform at their best when they are challenged and stretched. Truly effective coaching involves moving people to the edge of their comfort zone, and often just beyond it (without moving into the anxiety zone - for further information, refer to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on 'Flow').

In coaching, I often use the analogy of a rubber band. Picture the action of stretching a rubber band so as to 'fly' it across the room. Too little stretch and the rubber band simply falls short of expectations. Equally, too much stretch and the rubber band breaks. The art is in knowing how far to stretch the rubber band so as to achieve the maximum distance without it breaking.

The art of coaching involves knowing how far to stretch people, so they achieve the greatest possible outcome, without pushing them so far that the outcome is unachievable and the coachee loses motivation. (To read more about Coach & Co.'s coaching methodology, click here)


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“If you put yourself in a position where you have to stretch outside your comfort zone, then you are forced to expand your consciousness.” Les Brown

It is a difficult proposition to change behavioral traits, particularly those that are embedded from years of repetition, to the point where that behavior becomes a habit. Think, for instance, of the person who has avoided confronting difficult people for most of their working life, but now find themselves in the position of managing several difficult people as part of their role. Their role requires that they manage these situations, however they do not have the skills to do so. In tackling this challenge, the person needs to venture to the limits of their comfort zone, trialling new behaviours and learning from the actions they undertake. Coaching supports the individual as they do this.

Many people spend their lives operating well within the limits of what they are capable of, both on a personal and on a work level. Stretching beyond those limitations is not an easy thing to achieve by yourself. In fact, stretching is an activity that appears far simpler when ‘pushed’ upon us by someone else, rather than voluntarily going out of our comfort zone.

Take, for example, the (relatively) recent phenomenon of personal training. The dozens of people I see attending ‘Boot Camp’ at the local park early on a Saturday morning (and I’m sure this is repeated at hundreds of other parks around the country) are testament to the power of an external party providing the stretch. Coaching can be seen as the personal training of the corporate world, stretching people to achieve far greater outcomes than would otherwise have been the case.

“What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.” Wayne Dyer

Self-Coaching Exercise
The following activity will help you learn about stretch. Consider your task list – think about how much time you would normally allocate to each task, then cut that time by 25%. Complete the task in the reduced time allocation and make some notes about what you notice. Did you achieve the same outcome? Were your preparations any different? Were you as easily distracted? Would it have helped to be accountable to someone?

"We are limited but we can push back the borders of our limitations" Stephen Covey

For more information about the Key Principles of Coaching, and stretch in particular, please contact Simon Altschwager on 1300 788 678 or, or refer to our website at

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