By Richard Derwent Cooke
These days it seems every mother's son is a coach, and this reflects the huge growth in the acceptance of coaching in business. However there is always a certain level of resistance both from the "What will I/we get for our money?" and "What good will it do me anyway?" perspectives; so I thought it might be useful to take a pragmatic view of what coaching can bring to the table.
1. Novel Inputs: One of my key observations, having worked in the 'change game' for over 15 years, is that in order to change a system, you have to introduce something new. It is much easier to do so from the outside. So if a person or situation is stuck (and don't we all get stuck sometimes?) then an outsider can bring in something new.
2. Independent Perspective: When everyone you talk to is part of the same system as you are, you all share common perceptions, assumptions and perspectives. An experienced outsider has seen many different organisations and many ways of doing things and can offer these alternative viewpoints. I often find that with most bright executives, this is often all they need to move ahead.
3. Techniques & tools: Sometimes what you need is just that doohickey that gets stones out of horses' hooves, and if you don't have it, life is so much more uncomfortable. A good coach has a trusty toolkit (s)he has acquired over the years that can often make light of intractable problems. Adding these to your personal toolbox broadens your range of responses in the future.
4. Time to reflect: I sometimes think this is the most valuable gift of all. The executives I work with usually have their diaries overfilled and thus have little time to sit back and reflect. Putting a couple of hours in their diaries once a month to sit back and consider things would be hugely beneficial, with or without any of the other valuable inputs from the coach.
5. The AhHa moment: When trying to explain a knotty problem to someone else, it is very common to hit that golden moment when you suddenly see it clearly for yourself. Of course this process is much aided by good questions and effective listening skills.
6. Options: After discussing things with an good coach most executives feel they have more and better developed options. If you can only see one or two options then this is a sure sign you are triggered by your fight or flight mechanism. Helping you out of this place is another key contribution.
7. Contracting: A good coaching session should end up with a clear set of actions, and often if these are just items on a personal 'To Do' list they can slip, but if you have agreed to do them with someone you respect, it is more likely that you will do them!
8. Investment: All good executives are keen to see a Return on their Investment and if they have input both valuable time and money into a session that is a pretty good reason to make sure they use what they got from it, which is a further spur to both action and change.
9. Clarity: I usually find that my clients feel very much clearer about:
o Where they should be focusing,
o What their priorities are,
o Potential pitfalls,
o Enhanced options,
o What they feel and why
10. Support: It is both tough and lonely at the top and it is great to have someone who is safe to talk to and confide and on your side.
11. Self Belief: All of the above not only result in increase effectiveness and confidence but improve performance which in turn enhances self belief.
12. Coaching Skills: As you are coached, so you improve your own repertoire of coaching skills which enables you to be a better leader and mentor to your team.
I hope this helps you evaluate whether you should be making this investment both in your own and your team's success.
Richard Cooke is managing director of management consultancy I-Change,working with leaders to clarify, develop and implement their plans and bringing a strong, practical, supportive approach to implementing Change. For more information visit www.i-change.biz or email firstname.lastname@example.org.