From humankind’s earliest days, mentors and coaches have been a significant ingredient in the careers of many accomplished individuals. As they reported in Fast Company in 2006, Jim Bolt and Brian Underhill conducted a study that found that 56 percent of surveyed companies emphasized coaching as a major learning method, and two years later, 51 percent of the same organizations said that the use of coaching had increased.
The investigators also discovered that coaching was no longer a “fix it tool” for leaders with problems and was instead being used to help high-potential leaders get even better. In fact, at the time of the second study, 43 percent of CEOs and 71 percent of senior team members in the surveyed organizations has worked with a coach. Sixty-three percent of the companies said they planned to increase their use of coaching over the following five years, and an incredible 92 percent of coached leaders said they planned to engage a coach again.
If you think that getting a coach is a good move for you, it certainly can’t hurt. Your first step should be to contact your human resources department to see what resources may be available to you for free. You can also ask your manager or a trusted mentor.
Those who work in smaller organizations may find that no coaching infrastructure is in place, but that shouldn’t deter you. Ask around for a referral or find one through the International Coach Federation. Before you sign on, review the best coaching practices on the ICF’s website to ensure that your coach is qualified and that you know what to expect from the process. Interview your prospective coach or ask for a trial session first so that you can determine if he is someone with whom you feel comfortable and challenged.
Give coaching the time and attention it deserves, and set concrete goals with your coach as quickly as possible so that you can begin feeling a sense of accomplishment. Don’t shy away from discomfort, and keep the lines of communication open so that your coach can help you work through emotional roadblocks that may arise.
Also, don’t forget to keep your boss involved. Alert her to the areas you’re working on and check in periodically to see if she’s noticing improvement. You can gain valuable insights from peers and direct reports as well – ask your coach to assist you in developing anonymous feedback surveys for them.
As the majority of coaching engagements last between six and 12 months, you and your coach should work together to determine an appropriate end point. If a coach has done her job well, then you won’t be dependent on her and will be able to continue working effectively on your own.