Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do You Really Need A Coach?

Are you one of the many business owners or leaders wondering whether a coach is the right for you?   
The value of coaching has become widely accepted and coaches have become commonplace in US businesses. Successful senior executives rely on "confidants" to give them honest feedback - a critical element of good coaching.  Increasingly, they have invited executive coaches into their management meetings to make observations about group dynamics and their implication for performance improvement, strategic planning and organizational decision making.  Senior-level managers and small business owners who need highly efficient and creative performers and team members are using "business" or "growth" coaches. Career coaches are becoming a standard feature in the landscape of restructure, reorganization and mergers.

John Kotter,  professor of leadership at the Harvard Business School,  attributes the exponential growth in business coaching to the following: "As we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to we go from driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting on motorcycles...the whole game changes, and a lot of people are trying to keep up, learn how, not fall off."  He believes that coaches are helping leaders to stay on track and to "play the game" more effectively.

For the leader who is looking for a coach, a complicating factor is that there are so many types of coaches.  There are executive coaches, business coaches, career coaches, life coaches, and more...  And- the process, tools, resources and objectives can be very different for each "type".   The question may not be, do you need a coach, but instead what type of coach do you need.  Be sure when you are identifying a coach, that you select the tupe of coach most suited to your needs. 

What can you expect from a coach and how will you know if you have a competent coach?  If you are considering hiring a coach, then you should read the following attributes associated with competent coaches:

1) Builds Trust and Rapport

You and your coach don't have to be best friends.  Your coach must be able to perceive and appreciate the strengths, talents and unique gifts you bring to your work.

2) Listens, observes and analyzes

An effective coach is an excellent listener and observer.  The coach observes every gesture, tone, hesitation, choice of words, body language, motion, innuendo, tactic, decision.  A coaching session is not a casual "let's get together and chat." It can even be compared to receiving an MRI where you are viewed at every angle.  The effective coach will then closely analyze what s/he observes, help you to determine specific developmental or business objectives.

3) Provides insight and feedback

The effective coach will tell you clearly and precisely what s/he perceives about your behaviors and their effects on the situation or on others. The coach will choose one or two critical behaviors, skills or situations on which to focus- either changing,  improving, or enhancing.  A skilled coach will provide you with a different perspective or alternative views so that you can more clearly understand the impact of achieving the coaching objectives.

4) Encourages alternatives and options

The skillful coach will point out the potential outcomes of your current behaviors/actions/ plans. S/he will help you to consider possible options and the risks/benefits associated with them and help you as you develop your action plans.

5) Is honest and direct

The competent coach is not afraid to "push back" or to share developmental feedback.  S/he will encourage you to take action or make change, even when you resist. 

6) Can share a breadth of experience, skills and knowledge

 Look for a coach who has had business experience or who has coached others in similar  situations.  Does the coach have resources and tools?  Be sure the coach can help you to develop those skills you are lacking, provide input into the business challenges you face and is willing to coach you on where you can seek out information and answers. Coaches do not have all the answers, but they can help you to look in the right places.

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