Hey, Coach - How'm I Doin'? |
By Victoria James with Connie LaMotta
Direct, Dec 1, 2003
It takes good players to make a winning football team: reliable quarterbacks, sure-handed receivers, quick defensive players and steady kickers. But some argue that all that talent isn't enough; it's the coach who pulls it all together. The coach understands each player's shortcomings and inspires them to do their best.
But coaches aren't just for athletes anymore.
“A coach may be the guardian angel you need to rev up your career,” says Money magazine. Industry Week enthuses, “The benefits of coaching appear to win over even the most cynical clients within just a few weeks.”
Years ago, coaches were brought into an organization to help a “problem” manager improve performance. In the late 1990s, it became a perk for senior managers. Today, coaching is for all levels of employees in the workplace and for achieving other life goals.
Coaching is often described as a collaborative effort or partnership that builds skills and capacities for effective working relationships.
There are many types of coaching experiences, as noted by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Greensboro, NC:
Executive coaches work with the leaders of an organization. Last year Fortune magazine published an article titled “Executive Coaching — With Returns a CFO Could Love.” The piece noted that, “asked for a conservative estimate of the monetary payoff from the coaching they got, these managers described an average return of more than $100,000, or about six times what the coaching had cost their company.” Executive coaching is generally paid for by the organization and is frequently offered to the CEO and senior management team.
Business coaches work with managers on a specific developmental goal. They are used, for example, when managers are faced with a significant increase in the scope of their responsibility or if traditional managers want to move to a less dominant, direct leadership style. John Russell, managing director of Harley-Davidson Europe Ltd., says: “I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable.”
Business coaching is either done by an internal team or by an external group. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Generally, internal coaches have a better understanding of the specific culture and the organization, according to Lynne DeLay, CCL's manager in Europe. The downside is that the internal coach sometimes has blind spots. “Coaches hired from outside the organization have the advantage of offering an external perspective. They can sometimes be more useful in…challenging the status quo,” DeLay remarked in CCL's e-newsletter.
Career coaches help with such issues as business acumen, leadership and organizational abilities, social and communication skills, analytical and innovative thinking capacities, career guidance, developing executive presence, corporate networking support, work/home balance and prioritization.
A.R., a senior software engineer, says about her coaching experience, “Back in January I had no idea where I was going with my career and my outlook was pretty bleak. I felt like I had awakened and found myself somewhere I didn't want to be. My coach helped me look at these issues in a systematic way. When I wasn't sure what direction to start in, she gave me many options and asked me questions until the direction became clear. This process broke me out of my old habits and made me grow. My coach helped me empower myself.” She is now in a new job consistent with her inner vision for herself.
Life coaches assist with relationship issues involving family, friends and significant others, or with physical and wellness issues, self-confidence and self-esteem, communication skills, intended achievements or financial guidance. Life coaching helps people get from where they are in their life to where they want to be. It is the life coach's job to motivate people to achieve their desires by breaking down the barriers they tend to impose on themselves.
Mary Anne Fisher, principal of executive coaching consultancy Strategies for Life and Work, asks probing questions designed to draw out answers the clients are unaware they already have, and to bring new possibilities to light.
In a study by the International Coach Federation, the following outcomes attributed to coaching were reported by more than 200 coaching clients: a higher level of self-awareness, smarter goal-setting, a more balanced life, lower stress levels, self-discovery, more self-confidence, improvement in quality of life, enhanced communication skills, project completion, health or fitness improvement, better relationship with others, increased energy, more fun, more income and more free time.
How do you make the decision about whether a coach is for you? All the typical coaching materials caution you to recognize that coaching doesn't deal with counseling or therapy. Coaching deals with the here and now and is oriented toward your future achievements, whereas therapy tends to deal with the past and its barriers to creating a satisfying present.
Here are some questions that indicate it may be time to search for a coach:
Are you looking to change your life?
Are you interested in more satisfying communication with others?
Are you ready to move from thinking about problems to taking positive action toward solutions?
Do you want increased fulfillment and have a desire to understand the meaning of your life?
Would you like to gain better clarity and focus about what you want to achieve?
Did you ever wish you could shift from reacting to events to being proactive?
Would you like to set your priorities and get some support in maintaining them so that you have time to nurture yourself and others you care for?
If so, it's time to ask yourself if you're in the game or just on the sidelines. And a coach might be just the ticket to help you set up that big touchdown.
Victoria James is president of Victoria James Executive Search Inc., Stamford, CT.
Connie LaMotta is president of Workplace Strategies Associates, Upper Nyack, NY.
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