Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to find a coach - if you really, really need one

In the Netherlands, everybody who is somebody nowadays has a coach. Even coaches seem to have them. When a government department was recruiting coaches for top civil servants, candidates needed to tell if they had a coach themselves. I didn't.
Most coaches are not coaches at all. Real coaches let you train till you drop and they decide in what role you are going to play  - if they let you play. The coaches we are talking about, can't do that at all. A personal coach is a combination of a personal teacher and a personal consultant. They may advise you what to do and preferably do that in a way you also learn how to do similar things in the future.
Advising and teaching in what? In my experience mainly with two things: politics and presentation. How to operate in internal and external force fields and how to sell yourself and your ideas. That is mainly useful in situations of strong competition, in conflicts and in crises. And in assuming new responsibilities and still finding your way. It is a kind of action learning outside the work situation.
Coaches have only one client per assignment. They work confidential, they are often invisible - if not for the accounting department. Their greatest advantage is that they can concentrate on one person, their greatest disadvantage is that they are, because of this, expensive.
Are they worth their money? Let's assume that a particular coach is a truly excellent teacher and a truly excellent counselor. He or she knows everything about how to be successful in organizations, in business, in adminsitration, in politics. Then the question is: why did that person become coach? As the old quip goes: Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach. Or they coach.
There may be good reasons for people to become coaches or consultants: having become older and wiser and less eager to do battle and join the fray; or being young and having a quick mind and a quick temperament and rather jump from one challenge to an other than stay long on one spot.
Many people that present themselves as coaches seem to overflow with positive energy. They are there to stimulate their fellow human beings, equipped with NLP and other workshop-wisdoms. But often they haven't been in the real-life situation of their clients - or they have withdrawn from that, sometimes for good reasons, but rarely because of an overdose of personal success.

Go for people who are practical, asking practical questions and giving practical suggestions. And are willing, eager even to hear how their suggestions worked out. Avoid people who are wholesalers in calendar wisdoms. If you want to be fired up, visit a motivational lecture or motivational workshop. Don't look for a motivational coach. If you need to be motivated all the time, you better spend your money on analysis or therapy. (How to find a therapist - if you really, really need one, is an other story.)

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