BUSINESS COACHING -- A LEADERSHIP NECESSITY
By Suzi Pomerantz,
Successful professionals in every
industry rely on coaches.
supervisors and team leaders find that they must guide and lead their people
and projects with little or no preparation or support. In many organizations
politics guide a leader's decisions and actions more than vision. Who (or what)
is guiding you along your path to success? Do you find that your company or
industry is changing so fast that you fear you'll be left behind? Are your
daily activities so demanding that it is hard to focus on where you are going?
Is it difficult to motivate yourself consistently enough to achieve all the
goals you've set for yourself? Are your relationships at work powerful in terms
of communication? Coaching is a tool for business success
one that is
critical for powerful leadership.
WHAT IS COACHING?
Coaching is a profession that provides individualized consulting for people
of all ages, in all industries and professions, and of all positions within
organizations. In the early 1980s, individual business coaching was only
available to high-level executives. In recent years it has become increasingly
popular with professionals seeking a competitive edge over their colleagues and
co-workers. Basically, coaching is executive, professional, personal, or career
development, delivered on a one-to-one basis.
Work is organized around
projects. People set goals for the outcomes they intend to achieve, and use a
coach to motivate them, to keep them focused and on track, to inspire them to
excel, to enhance their personal or professional growth and development, and to
provide partnership for their ultimate success. Masterful coaches empower
people to identify how past behaviors, thought systems, and ways of being
produced unintended results and consequences and to transform these old systems
into more effective or more powerful choices. Armed with this knowledge,
clients use the coaching relationship to fundamentally shift their frames of
reference, thereby producing winning results in the areas of their lives that
they targeted with their coach. A coach is a visionary, a change agent, and a
person who enables others to exceed past performances and tackle their
challenges with freedom, creativity, choice, and power. It is continuous,
individual, change-management consulting rather than a one-time effort, quick
fix, or training session. Coaching is often used as executive intervention to
help executives change, improve their performance, and develop as leaders.
Coaching has gained media exposure: NBC Nightly news featured coaching in
February 1996, calling it the cutting edge in this country in business
consulting...to get ahead in the nineties, to get control... get a coach.
The Wall Street Journal (October 1995) stated that coaches number over 1000 in
the USA alone. There have been recent articles about the coaching profession in
most major publications and newspapers across the nation.
International Coach Federation offers the following definition of coaching:
Professional coaching is an interactive process that helps individuals
and organizations to develop. It is an ongoing relationship which focuses on
the client taking action toward the realization of a vision, goals or desires.
Coaching uses a process of inquiry and personal discovery to build the
clients level of awareness and responsibility, and provides the client
with structure, support and feedback.
DO I NEED A
Newsweek (Feb. 5, 1996) quotes a New York bank executive
as saying, In the next five years people are going to say Who is
your coach? not What is a coach? Star athletes, top
executives, high-priced lawyers, and performing artists are not the only ones
who improve with the insight, guidance, skill, and inspiration of a
professional coach. Something as simple as one coaching call a week for thirty
minutes can eliminate procrastination, sharpen your focus, enhance your
creativity, heighten your effectiveness, and increase your power to achieve
Coaching is a doorway to innovation and creative thought
that empowers people in all industries to exceed the limitations of what they
currently consider to be realistic and allows them to produce outstanding
results. It is an action-based, commitment-oriented partnership for
HOW DOES COACHING WORK?
Coaching is a relationship that is based on commitment. It takes place in
person, on-line in cyberspace, or over the telephone. Usually its
one-on-one, but occasionally there will be cause for a coach to work with two
people at once or groups (work teams, etc.). If you were to watch a coaching
session, what you would observe is talking and listening; a conversation.
Coaches are trained consultants from varied backgrounds: education, human
resources, change-management, organizational development, ontology, financial
planning, and others. Although some might have psychological training, it is
not requisite to the trade. Coaches are in the business of making a difference
with people by guiding them to make a difference within themselves. A coach is
a vehicle for you to achieve your grandest vision of life.
HOW DO I SELECT A COACH?
Heres the tricky
part. There are many folks selling coaching services who are not trained,
professional coaches. How do you go about choosing the right coach for you?
Here are twelve tips for selecting your own personal coach:
Ask the prospective coach about her philosophy of coaching. A good coach will
be able to express to you her values and core coaching philosophy. It should
include a commitment to integrity, service, partnership, and a fundamental
belief in fostering your independence. A coachs job is to be fully
committed to your commitments. She should be able to completely align with your
vision, and commit to doing whatever it will take to have you narrow the gap
between your vision and reality.
2. Ask for references and a
list of clients. What types of executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals has
the coach worked with? Check out how long it took, and what structure of
coaching was involved. Make sure your coach has a stable track record and
contact a few of these folks and get the honest truth about the impact your
prospective coach had on their lives, and in what domains.
Determine if the coachs style is one that will support you. Is she a
taskmaster, or a gentle nudge? How rigorous is she? How supportive, nurturing,
compassionate? Identify what style of support you need in order to fulfill your
goals. How clearly does the coach articulate the objectives and outcomes of the
process? Is she out to create significant change in your job performance?
4. Does the coach provide practices, projects, and assignments for
you, or will you generate your own? What assessment methods will be
5. What kind of accountability structure does the
coach provide for you? What format does she adhere to for helping you attain
your goals? What consequences (if any) are there for failing to fulfill a
promise to your coach?
6. Change takes time. What does your
coach recommend as the average length of a contract? Depending on your project,
three months is a healthy minimum and six months is a recommended acceptable
duration. You might question a coachs rationale for suggesting a coaching
contract in excess of one year -- projects usually do not require that much
coaching in order to be accomplished. Depending on the areas in which you want
to be coached, you might hire a coach to work with you daily, weekly, or twice
monthly. The coach should be willing to customize a structure to match your
needs. Ask how much time the coaching process will take and which coaching
methods will be used.
7. There are many techniques that are used
by the well-trained coach, and different methods work for different people.
Review these options with your prospective coach to determine what will work
best for you. Role-playing, written journal work, homework assignments, games,
charts, and other examples are worth investigating. Does your coach custom
design the client learning program, or does she rely on pre-packaged material?
In order to achieve lasting change, sophisticated methods are necessary.
Coaching programs often employ simulations, testing, teaching,
conflict-management training, problem-solving, and in-depth work in the areas
of interpersonal issues and relationships.
8. Most coaches
will not charge for an initial consultation. You can engage a prospective coach
in a brief coaching session that will give you a taste of what she can do for
you. If she is willing to do this, it is a good way to determine if a
particular coach is best suited to meet your business needs.
Inquire into the coachs personal history and training in coaching. Where
did she learn to coach? How many disciplines does she incorporate in her
coaching? Coaching is a holistic, interactive, experiential field. Find out
what she knows about adult learning and personal transformation. Find out the
credibility of the organization(s) that trained her. A coach need not have a
doctorate to be effective, but should have some behavioral training. The best
combination is a coach with graduate work in psychology, business,
organizational development, and/or education with special training and
certification as a coach and hands-on experience working within
10. Coaching is a relationship-based profession.
The most important factor is whether or not you like the coach, feel
comfortable working with her, trust her, and genuinely believe she has
something to offer you. The nature of the work coaches do is very personal, so
choose your coach carefully. Make sure she has similar values to you and that
she inspires you to be your most powerful self -- the greatest you
11. Coaching affects matters other than business.
Coaching relationships often uncover personal, vulnerable areas as the
conversations weave through the domains of your life and work. Your coach must
assure you of the confidentiality of your conversations. Trust is key. Coaches
coach the whole person, and usually do not separate the work you from the real
you. Thus, although it may begin as a business relationship, often times other
life issues come into play.
12. How much does coaching
cost? Some coaches charge by the hour with a minimum deposit. Others require
up-front payment. Others bill clients monthly. A six-month engagement could run
you anywhere between $750 to $5000. You can usually find telephone coaching for
as little as $50 a week to upwards of $250. Another option is to have your
employer pay for your coaching. Increasingly in the workforce, employers hire
coaches for their employees as non-monetary compensation. These employers
recognize the benefit: your productivity increases, and your increased
accountability contributes to the organization.
finding your coach!
Suzi Pomerantz, Master Certified Coach, consultant and owner of
Innovative Leadership International LLC, has trained and coached over 1000
clients in leadership development and personal effectiveness. Shes
available during business hours at (301) 601-1525 or by e-mail at