Over the past 20 years or so, the field of coaching seems to have exploded. There are business coaches, executive coaches, personal coaches, and communication coaches. Why do managers and executives hire a coach? In every aspect of life, we at times find ourselves faced with a problem that we are not capable of solving on our own. Sometimes the problem can be with household plumbing, or a toothache, or a medical condition. Once we realize that we cannot address or solve the problem ourselves, we generally turn to a specialist, one who has specific expertise who can help us with the problem. Simply stated, that is the role of a coach. A coach is someone who can provide an objective assessment of the problem, and provide some solutions to fix the problem. Unlike the plumber or doctor however, coaches will not fix the problem…only you can do that, as we will learn below.
Coaching styles vary quite a lot. Some coaches will prefer to lead the horse to water, as it were. Others will write out a prescription for the “patient” to follow which will include a step-by-step approach to address the problem. If you decide to hire a coach, make sure you feel comfortable with the style, approach and personality of the coach. It is safe to say that many corporate executives and small business owners would not be where they are today, or would not have had the success they have had, without a coach.
Should you hire a coach? Well, consider the following questions:
- Would you benefit from someone who is an objective sounding board for your ideas, issues, troubles or concerns?
- Would you like to have objective clarification of your strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots?
- Would you like to enhance or improve your personal performance in such areas as organizational skills, time management, operating style, leadership, communications or technical expertise?
- Would you like some feedback from a trusted source with no agenda other than their genuine interest in your well-being?
- Do you sometimes need a sanity check on the things going on in your business or professional life?
What Will a Coach Do for You?
First and foremost, a coach will ask for your assessment of the situation. This is the same as asking for help with any other situation. When you call the plumber, he will ask you what the problem is and you will have to indicate where the leak is, or which pipe has just burst. When you visit your physician, she will ask you what hurts. The coach will do the same. They will help you diagnose the problem or issue.
Next, they will want to learn more about you, your background, your likes, dislikes, successes and failures. They will ask probing questions, then they will listen for your answers and perspective. (One sign of a truly effective coach is their ability to listen.)
They will suggest you take one or more assessment instruments to learn even more about you. This could take the form of personality profiles, questionnaires filled out by you and people who know you (commonly known as 360-degree questionnaires), interviews of other people you work with, observation of you in action, and an interview with your boss (or key members of the Board or others as appropriate). Once this assessment is conducted, you will be provided with the feedback of that assessment. This becomes the basis for developing a targeted coaching plan designed to address the specific needs you have. Going back to the plumber or doctor analogy, each will conduct an assessment of the situation, and provide a recommended course of action to address the situation.
Next, a development plan is prepared. Some coaches will prepare the plan for the client, while others will want the client to prepare the plan under the coach’s guidance and direction. Either way, what is important is that you, the client, buy into the plan. Without your buy-in, your motivation to accomplish the plan or change is significantly limited.
The coach will then work with you through regular contact (either in person or over the telephone) to discuss your progress with the development plan, discuss obstacles, and develop new plans or approaches and otherwise work directly with you to enhance your performance. Setting goals and monitoring those goals is important here. These contacts will generally be bi-weekly or monthly and can last for three to six to twelve months, depending on the extent of the development plan.
As the moniker implies, the coach will inspire, challenge, motivate, cheer, praise, chastise, inflate, deflate and otherwise facilitate your growth along the path of performance improvement. However, the coach does not work alone. You must be the one who wants to make the change. No one else can do that for you.