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What Can Coaches Do

To understand what they do to merit that money, HBR conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches and invited five experts to comment on the findings. As you’ll see, the commentators have conflicting views about where the field is going—and ought to go—reflecting the contradictions that surfaced among the respondents. Commentators and coaches alike felt that the bar needs to be raised in various areas for the industry to mature, but there was no consensus on how that could be done. They did generally agree, however, that the reasons companies engage coaches have changed. Ten years ago, most companies engaged a coach to help fix toxic behavior at the top. Today, most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. As a result of this broader mission, there’s a lot more fuzziness around such issues as how coaches define the scope of engagements, how they measure and report on progress, and the credentials a company should use to select a coach.

Do companies and executives get value from their coaches? When we asked coaches to explain the healthy growth of their industry, they said that clients keep coming back because “coaching works.” Yet the survey results also suggest that the industry is fraught with conflicts of interest, blurry lines between what is the province of coaches and what should be left to mental health professionals, and sketchy mechanisms for monitoring the effectiveness of a coaching engagement.

Bottom line: Coaching as a business tool continues to gain legitimacy, but the fundamentals of the industry are still in flux. In this market, as in so many others today, the old saw still applies: Buyer beware!

There’s no question that future leaders will need constant coaching. As the business environment becomes more complex, they will increasingly turn to coaches for help in understanding how to act. The kind of coaches I am talking about will do more than influence behaviors; they will be an essential part of the leader’s learning process, providing knowledge, opinions, and judgment in critical areas. These coaches will be retired CEOs or other experts from universities, think tanks, and government.

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Do You Need a Coach?

Ever since Machiavelli first advised a young prince, leaders have sought the counsel of outsiders. After all, it’s lonely at the top. At many small companies, chief executives are the only people who truly understand their organizations, and every major decision falls on their shoulders. And since the CEO is the one who signs the paychecks, it’s tough to find employees brave enough to provide honest feedback. Seventeenth-century merchants turned to “cunning men,” or wizards, for guidance; entrepreneurs today turn to their more modern counterparts: executive coaches.

Executive coaches are not quite business consultants, whom you’d hire to address a particular operational or technical problem. And they’re not psychotherapists, whom you’d tap to work through emotional issues. Coaches generally focus on one thing: improving your performance as a leader. They do this in much the same way sports coaches work with athletes: by helping you make the most of your natural abilities and find ways to work around your weaknesses. A good coach will make sure you meet your commitments, behave like a grownup, and otherwise stay out of your own way–things nearly all of us can use a little help with.

There certainly is no end to the number of people promising such greatness. The ranks of executive coaches have swelled from 2,000 in 1996 to some 10,000 today, and sorting through them is not easy. Different coaches work in different ways. Some work only over the phone; others come to your office; and a growing number work in group settings, coaching dozens of business owners simultaneously. Some provide tough love; others coddle and cosset. There’s no standard fee structure, either: Rates can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars an hour, and a few coaches will even ask for a piece of your business. Some demand a commitment of a certain length of time, others are pay as you go.

Adding to the chaos is the fact that despite a few noncompulsory credentialing efforts, the coaching profession is completely unregulated. Anyone, with any amount of experience, can crown himself coach and start offering advice. Hairstylists face more stringent licensing procedures.

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Counselor vs. Life Coach

The relationship between professional counselors and life coaches is sometimes akin to that of stepsiblings. They are loosely connected because they share the same family name — “helping professional.” And because of that name, those outside the “family” sometimes link the two (like it or not).

However, like stereotypical stepsiblings, although counselors and life coaches are familiar with each other and even share some similar traits, they are sometimes prone to less positive feelings of competition and, at times, distrust.

There is, however, often a larger divide when the discussion turns to how coaching and counseling are defined and what each profession offers.

Coaching advocates say they provide a distinct service that helps clients work on their goals for the future and create a new life path. They say counselors spend more time examining the past, looking for solutions to emotional concerns and seeking a diagnosis required by insurance companies. Coaches suggest that the relationships they establish with clients are also more collegial in nature. Coaches and clients work in a less structured environment as a team rather than setting up a “doctor-patient” relationship.

The International Coach Federation (ICF), which claims to be the largest coaching credentialing and support organization in the world, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives. Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources and creativity that the client already has.”

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Being a Life Coach

Responsibilities to Yourself

As a life coach, you are solely and completely responsible for your life. It must be authentic and well ordered. Your own life absolutely must be in order for you to be an effective coach. If you are coaching someone on how to keep her or his office in order, yours cannot be a study in messy chaos.

Do you hold yourself to a realistic standard? This means that you need to be reasonable in your expectations of yourself. By setting impossibly high standards, you are bound to fail and you will discover that your clients will fail, too.Your responsibilities to yourself include your vision to be larger than just yourself and your life. Most of us are caught up in day-to-day living without any clear sense of a purpose, a calling, or a passion.

You must evaluate what gets you excited and enthusiastic. There is a saying that you should find what you would like to do for the rest of your life without making money at it. Many volunteer programs are successful for this very reason. People volunteer because something about the cause speaks to them and they are willing to do big jobs without money. Not every volunteer experiences this, but put a volunteer to work using his or her specific talents and abilities appropriately and you will have given that individual a very powerful start on life.

What would you do if you never had to worry about money ever again? Look beyond the obvious answers like travel, a new house, car, or boat. The novelty of material things eventually will wear out. Here is the question is to ask: “What would you do?”

If the answer is to coach people, you are in the right class.

If the answer is to coach people, you are in the right class.

You have established that you have an overwhelming need, passion, and desire to coach. What do you need then to bring to your coaching clients?

A coach must be cheerful, encouraging, and optimistic. You have to be able to put your own worries aside, even pretend that you have no worries, so that you can really be present to your client.

Of the characteristics needed in a coach, being attentive is the most important one. Being attentive to your client means you must clear your mind of absolutely everything that could interfere with the coaching session. You cannot think about what you are having for dinner tonight, whether your husband is irritated with you, or whether that check is going to clear.before or after a payment goes through.

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Awesome Responsibilities

Responsibilities to Yourself

As a life coach, you are solely and completely responsible for your life. It must be authentic and well ordered. Your own life absolutely must be in order for you to be an effective coach. If you are coaching someone on how to keep her or his office in order, yours cannot be a study in messy chaos.

Do you hold yourself to a realistic standard? This means that you need to be reasonable in your expectations of yourself. By setting impossibly high standards, you are bound to fail and you will discover that your clients will fail, too.Your responsibilities to yourself include your vision to be larger than just yourself and your life. Most of us are caught up in day-to-day living without any clear sense of a purpose, a calling, or a passion.

You must evaluate what gets you excited and enthusiastic. There is a saying that you should find what you would like to do for the rest of your life without making money at it. Many volunteer programs are successful for this very reason. People volunteer because something about the cause speaks to them and they are willing to do big jobs without money. Not every volunteer experiences this, but put a volunteer to work using his or her specific talents and abilities appropriately and you will have given that individual a very powerful start on life.

What would you do if you never had to worry about money ever again? Look beyond the obvious answers like travel, a new house, car, or boat. The novelty of material things eventually will wear out. Here is the question is to ask: “What would you do?”

If the answer is to coach people, you are in the right class.

If the answer is to coach people, you are in the right class.

You have established that you have an overwhelming need, passion, and desire to coach. What do you need then to bring to your coaching clients?

A coach must be cheerful, encouraging, and optimistic. You have to be able to put your own worries aside, even pretend that you have no worries, so that you can really be present to your client.

Of the characteristics needed in a coach, being attentive is the most important one. Being attentive to your client means you must clear your mind of absolutely everything that could interfere with the coaching session. You cannot think about what you are having for dinner tonight, whether your husband is irritated with you, or whether that check is going to clear.before or after a payment goes through.

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Lessons from a Life Coach

Life coaching is aimed at helping people meet goals in their personal or business lives by guiding them in the right direction — much like a sports coach might do for a sportsperson — although the methods used by individual life coaches will vary greatly.  

It might seem that the concept of turning to a coach outside of a sporting context is something that many people would shy away from — but the more you think about it, the more you may realize that people have been turning to friends and family for help and guidance for years. Life coaching is just a professional extension of that help.  

Life coaching is a form of counselling…to help people solve their problems and achieve ambitions.

Steve Mitchall

Life coaching is a form of counselling which uses a series of individual sessions — which are sometimes carried out over a telephone or even via e-mails, as well as through face-to-face sessions — to help people solve their problems and achieve ambitions. It draws from a number of disciplines, including sociology, psychology, and numerous forms of counselling.

While life coaching is frequently associated with the business world, there are also coaches who deal with individuals and their personal lives by helping them to explore the underlying causes of their problems as well as helping to find routes to success. This more personal kind of life coaching is frequently done face-to-face.