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A buyer's guide to coaching

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

New Year, New You! The boom in executive coaching - so the FT headline from early in 2020 goes. But what does that mean, what is executive coaching, and how do you know if a coach could help you?

What is coaching?

Per the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), the aim of coaching is:

"to produce optimal performance and improvement at work. It focuses on specific skills and goals, although it may also have an impact on an individual's personal attributes such as social interaction or confidence."

Coaching and mentoring are development approaches that are different, but in practice, the two terms are often used interchangeably. So what is mentoring? Again, looking to the CIPD, we get:

"Mentoring in the workplace tends to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague shares their greater knowledge to support the development of an inexperienced member of staff. It calls on the skills of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing that are also associated with coaching."

Sounds similar doesn't it, and the mentoring definition even refers to coaching skills. The best business coaches have the tools in their tool bag and the commercial acumen to provide both coaching and mentoring. Crucially the best coaches will focus on actionable insights and the outcome-driven applications of coaching and the most productive ways to get results for their clients without getting hung up on narrow definitions.

Do I really need a coach?

The 2017 TED talk by author and surgeon Atul Gawande, (over 3million views) has the title "Want to get great at something? Get a coach".

How do we improve in the face of complexity? Atul Gawande has studied this question with a surgeon's precision. He shares what he has found to be the key: having a good coach to provide a more accurate picture of our reality, to instil positive habits of thinking, and to break our actions down and then help us build them back up again. "It's not how good you are now; it's how good you're going to be that really matters," Gawande says.

The following six questions will help to provide clarity around your goals for coaching and whether you should find a coach and start your coaching journey.

1. What are the challenges and issues that you are facing?

Coaching is about creating change and action and accountability. There needs to be something that you want to change, be it to overcome an obstacle, solve a problem, develop new skills, take your career to the next level or another direction. What is the change you want to initiate?

2. What is the ideal situation for you?

If you had an unlimited budget or a magic wand, what is the outcome? This is what a coach will help you to achieve or at least help you to move in the right direction.

3. What has prevented you from experiencing these results in the past?

What have to tried before that hasn't worked? Or perhaps you didn't know any coaches, or even about having a coach. Often the timing hasn't been right in the past because of personal circumstances.

4. What is at stake if nothing changes?

Coaching is a commitment in terms of your time, energy, emotions and money. What if you embrace the status quo? Would that be ok as if so, what you are seeking may not be a coach?

5. What is your sense of urgency?

What is it that makes this important right now? If there is no reason to get started and challenge the status quo, then you may not need a coach at this time.

"The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now."

- Chinese proverb

6. What is the next step?

No explanation is necessary. A coach provides several crucial roles, including being a powerful independent sounding board, someone that will challenge you and hold you accountable. Someone that will give an outside perspective to raise your self-awareness, perhaps by saying things that others cannot say. Does that sound like someone you would like to work with - in an open, honest and trusting partnership?

"We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training."

- Archilochus (680-645BC)

Get in touch for a free exploratory call to see if working with me could help -

If you want to discover more about coaching, check out:


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