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I Have A Coach – Do You?

July 16th, 2007

Everyone Needs a CoachAt the network meeting that I sometimes frequent there is an accountability session where they ask a number of questions (how many interviews did you have last week, how many network contacts, etc.) One of the questions is “do you have a coach?

They make it clear that your coach cannot be your spouse. It has to be someone that “holds your feet to the fire” and “tells you how it is.” If you don’t have a coach it’s almost as if you aren’t quite serious about your job search.

Well, I finally got a coach. We’ve had two sessions and tomorrow we’ll have our third. I’m really quite amazed how these sessions have gone, and what happens between sessions. I’m drawing some parallels between business coaching (which is what I have) and job search or career or executive coaching.

As I’ve pondered the “it cannot be your spouse” idea I came up with three things that make a coach. I’d love to know from coaches what I’m missing, but for my simple brain this makes sense. I’ll elaborate on this more later… for now, a coach:

  1. Teaches/instructs/leads by principles. Coaches are not necessarily teachers (although they do teach), but the key here is that they understand and subscribe to principles. In my job search I was working off of my bad theories – if I had a coach he/she would have set me straight and not let me waste two solid months, 60 hours a week, spinning my wheels in ineffective areas.
  2. Provides accountability. I’m a big boy. I am very disciplined. And I don’t need a babysitter. I certainly didn’t want a coach watching over my shoulder (Did I mention that I’m a rather private guy? It may not seem like it but it’s true.) But in my job search I had 10 hours a day that I could do whatever I wanted… and no one would really ask specifically what I did because they didn’t want to insult me (I was already insulted enough when I was laid off). It’s almost like coming home to a messy house and asking your wife “what did you do all day?” Not a good thing! It is hard to describe the accountability I get from my coach but I’ll tell you, it is critical. I am held accountable weekly for “homework” from the week before, but during the entire week it’s on my mind!
  3. Has the right tools. In my job search I want a coach who says “You need JibberJobber because…” I believe it’s the best tool out there for maintaining relationships, for working towards that next promotion, for tracking elevator pitches, etc. The coach should recommend the best tools available for me. They should have some kind of system they use to keep track of our sessions, my assignments, etc. A professional coach needs to be empowered with software, training, certifications, etc.

Not only do I have my own coach but I have partnered with some coaches… some of which are job search coaches, others are career coaches, others are executive coaches. If you are curious about how a coach can help you, right now, check out my partners page to see the coaches (and resume writers) that I’ve partnered with.

I thought that coaching was for the rich and famous. Then, last week I went to lunch with a good friend of mine and we were talking about it… he said that he had a coach for a year and it was one of the best investments he ever made. I really respect this guy so I saw that there was a lot more to this coaching stuff than just elitist services (which is what I thought it was).

I’ll have more posts to share what I’m learning from my coaching sessions… but I’ll tell you, having a real, dedicated coach is really an amazing thing. And I’ve only had one for two weeks!

Do you have coach? Have you ever had a coach? If you are a coach, am I off-base?

17 Comments »

17 responses to “I Have A Coach – Do You?”

  1. Chris Cree says:

    Jason, I just started working with a business coach and I’ve got to say I’m a huge fan. As far as I can see you are spot on. (Especially about the spouse thing!)

  2. No, you are not off-base. There are people in every profession who guide others, keep them accountable for achieving their goals. They provide the requisite skills and resources to shorten the ‘curve,’ whatever that curve may be. I happen to help law students and new attorneys who want to make the jump into solo practice, an ocean many want to jump into but so many on shore (mainly Big Law practitioners, judges, and professors) say is folly and dangerous. Well, I did it myself, I teach it, I write about it and now I help others, too. The most important aspect is finding someone you believe can assist you and then committing to the work. You will see the end result as in anything if you do what is necessary.

  3. I had some business coaching for awhile. At the time I didn’t see much value.

    It could be that we didn’t click. I also think, that although we set up a plan with some goals, I was not held accountable to that plan. This was a two way – my coach let me go astray, and I did not have the discipline to focus, and went back to “current events”, issue that need handling now.

    How did you find and approach your coach? Did he set some condition from the start, or did both of you set a framework or ground rules?

    Very interesting.

    Gil

  4. Coaching is great is you’re at that point where you don’t have anyone to provide that kind of honest feedback to keep your goals properly aligned. But much of the benefit that you list above seems to be things that a healthy partner or peer relationship would provide.

    Of course, with that said, without a formalized relationship those more ‘casual’ business relationships are probably not as focused and/or efficient as they could be.

    How do you track whether the coaching relationship is beneficial? Number of new customers brought in using techniques detailed by the coach? Revenue increases through new techniques? Are you able to quantify the benefit? And will there be a point where you’ve tapped the brainpower of one coach and it will be time to try another?

  5. I think you have it understood pretty well. I’d add a few other things about coaches. A coach genuinely cares about you (the client) and is energized by your growth. The focus is on you, the client, and only on you. A good coach knows how to really listen, for deep understanding. A coach is 100 percent accepting of you. A coach expects your best and will push you to do more than you might have on your own. A coach will keep everything you say confidential (perhaps one of the key advantages over a partner or peer as coach). A coach acts as a mirror to help you see who you are.

    As to how you know when you are getting value from coaching, that’s one of the early questions a coach should ask you: “How will you know you’re getting more than your money’s worth in our coaching?” And that question should be asked regularly. In fact, I try to ask it at the end of every coaching session I do: “What are you taking away from today’s session?”

  6. Jason Alba says:

    @Chris – cool to hear you have a coach, that reaffirms the value (I have a lot of respect for what you do, and if YOU are getting a coach it shows that I’m on the right path!).

    With regard to a spouse not being your coach, there are a few really good reasons for this… even if you are in a job search, and you can’t afford a professional coach, the same rule applies… find a friend that can be your coach!

    @Susan – excellent additions to the discussion, thank you :) One thing I need to note, and I’ll blog about this later, is that a mentor is not a coach! I know you are not saying this at all (you don’t even mention mentor) but as I read your comment it makes me think “cool, I have three mentors, I’m on track for what Susan is saying!” but… a mentor is not a coach. A mentor is not a coach… a mentor is not a coach… (what Susan is talking about is a COACH, not a mentor) :)

    @Gil – aha, you touch on something that would keep me away from coaches! I’m sure there are a number of reasons why coaching relationships fail. Perhaps yours was too inexperienced, not principle-based, properly trained and certified, or just didn’t have the right chemistry with you. If you were not held accountable then I’d venture to say that you didn’t have a real coach (even though they billed you as if they were your coach ;)).

    How did I I find my coach? I’ll reveal later who my coach is… it will fit better in a different post. But this is someone that I networked into last year, we’ve maintained a very professional mentor-like relationship, we have mutual respect and admiration for one another (I think), we’ve exchanged dozens of e-mails and blog conversations over the year, we’ve talked on the phone various times and met in person once (but spent most of the day together). I already had a lot of trust. The relationship just happened to get more formal, which I’ll talk about later :)

    The conditions, framework and ground rules where definitely set from the start, and reaffirmed with a contract. It’s clear that there is a coach/coachee relationship, and I think these are critical factors to ensure that the time and effort spent by both parties is going to pay off. Very good questions, stay tuned, I’ll blog on this more.

    @Matthew – Matthew, I agree, I think this type of benefit would/could come from an awesome relationship with a “healthy partner or peer” … but I also need more from the relationships that I already have. My coach has the breadth/depth that I need right now, and the accountability became serious as the relationship became formal. My buddies would not hold me accountable like my coach does.

    I’m not sure how to track the benefits of this right now… we definitely talk about quantitative stuff, but really, to answer this question I’ll probably have to wait a few months. I can simply say (this would NOT fly in my MBA classes) that right now it feels like the right thing to do.

    I imagine that there will be a time when the brainpower of my coach is not sufficient… I think that this is going to be true with any coach. I specifically chose my coach with my very, very loft goals, and feel comfortable the he has significant capacity. But even the best athletes outgrow their coaches, right? (I don’t expect to outgrow anyone anytime soon :p).

    @Kent – thanks for the contribution … it’s interesting to hear your and Susan’s perspectives.

  7. Jason, you are correct…. a mentor is not a coach. In the legal profession we refer to mentors as more experienced colleagues willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes. They are not, however, a coach as Kent describes. So, you can have various mentors in different areas of law giving you help. A coach, however, is much more personal and driven to help you achieve your individual goals, and as Ken says, takes great joy in you achieving your success. Confidentiality is crucial.

  8. Jason:
    Great conversation going here. I worked with a coach for about nine months. Finding the right fit is the first step, but I missed that one. Instead, I signed up with a coach after a free consultation. My coach gave me confidence and helped me prioritize my goals, but my progress was more circular than linear. When I realized that I needed more structure, I paused the relationship. We’re now more at a colleague relationship level. Masterminding with others who are a few steps ahead of me helps me tackle specific issues now. A few coaching tips: take notes during your session and write down what you plan to work on; put some time into the call prep sheets – these drove our discussion and my actions; schedule an hour or two immediately after your session to take action – that’s when you have the most energy and excitement; and be prepared to fail, but do it quickly and keep going. Coaching, for me, was a self-directed process generated by my answers to the coach’s questions. I like Matthew’s questions about tracking results. Like every good relationship, you need figure out what you want to get out of it before you get into it.
    Barbara

  9. Eric Kramer says:

    My perspective is a bit different – I am married to a coach. My wife has been in the coaching profession for about 8 years now and she is on the faculty of a coach training school (ILCT), she mentors other coaches and she specializes in relationship coaching. I am a psychologist so I also have a clear perspective of the difference between coaching and therapy.

    Coaching is a terrific strengths based approach to helping people achieve their goals. Good coaches are trained to ask powerful questions and keep people accountable to reaching their stated goals. There are coaches to help with pretty much everything these days from job serach to small business to weight loss to getting a dissertation done. What distinguishes coaching is its focus on using the client’s strengths to achieve desired goals. Good coaching techniques include having clients committ to action and then reporting on the things they have done.

    As written above, there has to be a good fit between coach and client. Good coaches are very clear about who they are most effective with and will not take on clients they cannot be effective with. Each coach has a “model client” and that is the type of client they seek out to work with. A good question for a prospective coach is “what is your model client”. Once you get the answer see if you fit the model.

    A good coach is worth their weight in gold – at least my wife is :)

  10. Deb Dib says:

    Eric, you are so right – a good coach must be able to articulate to you the kind of client with whom he or she works best. And a good coach must be very willing to decline to work with you if you don’t fit that model.

    In addition, it’s important for you to know what it is you want from the relationship – do you want a coach who is a good listener who can ask the right questions to help you “see the unseen” within you, an accountability partner, a high-level trusted advisor (be aware that’s not as much about coaching as it is consulting / mentoring), a strategic partner, a cheerleader, perhaps all of the above.

    Do you want someone serious, humorous, calm, energetic, enthusiastic, thoughtful, tough? Chemistry means a lot in an effective coaching relationship.

    What are your goals for coaching – why are you looking for a coach? What do you want to achieve? Vague ideas are OK at the start, but specifics tend to (and need to) emerge as work progresses. Are you ready to take action – how much “pain” do you feel? Enough for you to move on items in your coaching plan?

    Hint: Ask your prospective coach if she or he has a coach and for how long? Most coaches have a coach themselves, because coaching works. I’ve had two coaches (still working with one), both of whom have been critical to my success over the years.

    Notice I didn’t mention certifications, credentials, etc. They are important, of course, but there are so many out there, that it is tempting to use certification as a guide. Certifications and experience are a good place to start, but chemistry, fit, and progress are often better indicators.

    Coaching can be a truly transformative and propelling experience, if you’ve got the right synergies with the right coach. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and dig deep. Ask your coach to explain her brand, her value proposition, her process, what excites her most about coaching. If your coach can’t deliver that information, that lack of clarity should give you pause. But if what she says gives you a shot of energy – a jolt of enthusiasm, then you may be set to soar.

    Deb Dib, CEO Coach, and coaching enthusiast :-)

  11. Was having “cookie problems” on this laptop so I’m hoping this comment makes it through….
    ason,

    Wonderful post! I am a coach and you are “spot on” in your post. Coaching is difficult for many to understand because many times, when coaching is described, it is all focused on the process. I believe this happens because many people are just now becoming educated on “what coaching is” outside of the sporting world.

    The ROI on coaching comes from knowing what you, the client, determine are the metrics to a successful relationship with your coach. For some of my clients, it is about accountability and holding the “vision” for them because of the “busy”ness of their business. For others, it is sales, numbers and percentages.

    Barbara is correct in her comment about there being a self directed process. Where have you been? How long have you been there? Where are you going? Questions that will help light YOUR path so that your coach can assist you to an successful results.

    For me, my clients are seeking solutions. Now matter what I call my business “coaching, consulting of anything, for that matter, they seek results. They are entrepreneurs and CEOs who I find want and need many things and yet are driven by the bottom-line.

    Shop for your coach and you would anything else. For like in ANY relationship, you’ll have to feel good about their character and competence before you can build trust. And, trust, is necessary to make any motion!

    Coach Maria Elena

  12. Bill Dueease says:

    Jason,

    Congratulations for not only engaging a coach, but for also having the courage to publish your perspectives.

    Trying to describe in words what the coaching process is like and understand, like Maria Elena wrote, is very difficult to do, and most often leaves the reader seeking more. People have to experience the feeling of working with their best-suited life coach towards their own coachable goals to really understand it.

    Just like it is very difficult to describe how skiing down a snow covered mountain (where your skis are covered in 2 feet of light snow) at a 40 degree pitch at over 45 miles per hour through hundreds of trees for over 1.5 miles can be exhilarating fun. Most people would consider this to be insane. Until, they experience it themselves.

    Yet, you have shown a talent for expressing what it is like to be coached from your perspective in a very clear and understandable manner. I commend you. Keep up your journal. We will all learn from you.

    However, I could not determine what your coachable goal was. The reason a person hires a life coach is to accomplish their coachable goals. The reason a life coach coaches you is to make darn sure you do accomplish your coachable goal. Thus, there is a definite conclusion to coaching that only you as the equal partner client will judge as completed. It will be your goal, not the coach’s

    A coachable goal is future place you want to be that will require you to grow and improve as a person to achieve it. Is your goal to get a better paying job? Or is your coachable goal to actually discover and get your ideal income position, the position where you will get to go to play every day (and call it work) and you will be so good at what you do you will produce excellent results, which will attract great rewards, both financially and otherwise? Believe it or not, getting another job is not normally a coachable goal. But getting your ideal income position definitely is.

    Your coach will become your equal partner to assist you to unravel the mystery of you so you will become “The World’s Leading Expert On You” so you will create the destinations that completely suit you. Yet, the coaching relationship has to be a very caring, very trusting and very honest on that is only focused on your success.

    I look forward to learning that you have accomplished whatever your coachable goal is, so we can all celebrate in your growth and success.

  13. I am a coach and have enjoyed reading and have agreed with most everything on this post and in the comments.

    I think one of the most important reasons that your spouse can’t be your coach is that your spouse has an emotional stake in the choices that you make. A coach cares that you make choices that are right for you, but she is a neutral, “objective” third party who does not have a personal stake in what you decide to do.

    One thing I consistently hear from clients is that they value the opportunity to look at all the options from all the angles, knowing that I’m not going to freak out, they’re not going to hit a “hot button” in our relationship (because there is none) and that I’m not going to say that it’s a dumb idea (all of which can happen (and maybe should happen!) with a spouse).

    Likewise when I hired my first coach (to help me decide whether to become a coach!) I know I found a perspective with her that I couldn’t have found with my spouse.

    My spouse is in career transition, and there is no way I can coach him, even if I wanted to. Every time he comes up with an idea I go right into “wife” mode. (“Self employment! Not two of us!” or “Why don’t you….?”) Not good coaching!

    I contend that it’s also hard have your coach be your good friend, unless you’re really good at drawing boundaries. (“And now we’re going into coaching mode…”)

    Heather

  14. Who does not need a coach? My take on this subject and great topic? It’s that if you want to be a top performer in any field you need coaching.

    Really, what top performer has no coach. Tiger Woods has a coach. Loren Ochoa has a coach. Michael Jordan had and needed a coach. Michael Phelps needed a coach. Lance Armstrong had a coach. All top performers have coaches. Top male and female athletes and executives have coaches. That’s because their performance matters and top performance may be a game of inches.

    On the negative side many kids who go the wrong way have coaches. Many of them hold them to negative outcomes and incentivize them to do wrong. Let’s not go there. The truth though is that a good coach vs. an evil coach if you will listens. They should be matched up with you in spirit and in values and proven themselves in this area.

    I do agree that spouses can be a great part of your team and should want the best for you but cannot be your best coach.

    If you are going for something more than a benign job then you need someone who will hold you accountable, perhaps through multiple jobs, throughout your path toward your worklife mission. I coach people to reach their worklife mission if I can. That’s something more than a paycheck. For that people pay me for the plan and path to take them their and that’s why I like what I do.

    I like the definitions you set up and they bear repeating and may I add one more:

    Teaches/instructs/leads by principles.
    Provides accountability.
    Has the right tools.
    Posssesses the case studies and the fruit on the tree to help lead you to your goals and dreams, making them concrete and achieveable.

  15. […] I’ve been really big on coaches since I really started to learn about them last year. As a job seeker we were told to “get a coach, not your spouse!” It was during the time when I was just figuring out the job search and career management thing, and as I learned more about coaches I kind of came up with my own thing – you can read the three things that a coach must have in order to really be effective here. […]

  16. Dave Kaiser says:

    One of the main benefits of having a coach is that a good coach will help you to discover your assumptions, beliefs, biases and how these are benefitting you (or holding you back!). For example, a client may think that s/he has to choose between making money and having a conscience, and so s/he finds himself / herself fighting an internal war over which was more important, money or ethics, instead of going out and looking for a job that pays well and honors ethics. Identifying and removing those barriers saves the client tons of time, energy, and money, and helps them to get a good job that fits their values and desires.