The Coaching Calculation

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Why you might (or might not) need a coach

Why do I need a coach when I am smart and successful all on my own?

Last week I spoke to a potential client. Referred by a trusted source, they were facing career critical issues. Eager to begin, they had time to work. I had space and was intrigued by their situation.

Naturally, I turned down the engagement. Why?

The coaching calculation. Sometimes it doesn’t add up

I asked questions that revealed the reason for getting coaching was wrong. They were not ready to look into their personality – and the behavioural defaults that come with it – long enough to try on change. To tweak it. To make it fit.

It wasn’t the desire to get six months of results in one month of coaching. They were not ready on a different, far deeper level. I did not lose a potential client, I saved one from failing. A client not ready to get coached. I told them why. Now I know when they call again they will be ready.

But what of the potential clients who don’t make the call. What keeps them from reaching out?

“I don’t need it. I’ve built my results and reputation with what I learned in schools”

One definition of an amateur is someone doing something until they get it right. By contrast a Professional is someone who does it until they can’t get it wrong.

Failure is not an option.

That is why accreditation bodies and standards exist for Accountants, Lawyers, Engineers and Doctors. Professionals have worked hard to acquire expertise and a status that recognizes it. They can point to their prowess – intellectual competence is displayed with gold letters hanging on the wall.

Technical certification is clear. But who issues certificates for self-awareness?

We are very familiar with our intellectual and rational capacities. Others pay us to benefit from them directly.

What about our capacity to mobilize our instincts and manage our emotions. To decode our perceptions and defuse our automatic responses. To relate, move people in our teams, to enthuse our partners.

Intellect is one part of the performance formula. Insight is the multiplier.

Never have so many sources of information been within our reach. The material on instinct, emotion and perception is boundless. But inversely, our ability to feel it and act on it has declined. Cognitive power still takes a disproportionately large share of our cultural scorecard. But other forms of intelligence are necessary to maximize its potential. Coaching magnifies the intellect by releasing your emotional limits and boosting your congruence.

There is no textbook with the answer to every question people in your career face. Answers comes from trying, failing and figuring something different to do next. That is what a coach comes in.

“To get further, I’ll do more of what I have already done”

Imagine being taxed 85% of every dollar you earned? Not nice, yet that is what you do with traditional training. A month after you finish, on average you will have 15% remaining.

Coaching is under-utilized as a method of turning class smarts into a consistent professional edge. Compared with sit down and study approaches, coaching takes less time but lasts longer.

Like a tailored outfit, coaching fits around what you need to reach out to the extremes; not just repeat the ordinary.

You are not ordinary, nor are you at an ordinary level in your career. So why accept ordinary ways of advancing.

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Most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. Combining the how with the why, facilitating a transition.

Moving away from the ordinary is an essential part of a leader’s development cycle.

“I’m a professional. How can I trust someone who isn’t?”

Before becoming a coach, I lived in each of the career quadrants above. I succeeded and failed in every one. Coaching is not theory; it is the embodiment of intelligence applied.

This is the question you have to ask of any coach

Where have you been and what have you done that should make me trust you as credible?

The coach cannot play, but they must understand the rules of the game. A good coach is a clear coach. They embody clarity and don’t hesitate to put it on display through their methodology, and the rigour in the way they measure results.

Real results.

The coach you will feel comfortable with will answer that question for you. You will know what are the objectives and which observable behaviours will change.

The 90/38 issue

9 out of 10 American workers who have had on-the-job coaching or mentoring say that it was an effective development tool. But only 38 percent have had access to any*

A shift from asking does coaching work to what makes it work has refocused research efforts to looking for the ‘active ingredients’ in positive coaching outcomes. The top 3:

1. Working alliance: the quality of the coach-coachee relationship predicts 30% of the variance in coaching outcomes
2. Self-efficacy: the client’s belief in their ability to perform certain tasks is the most common predictor of coaching outcomes
3. Context: what happens in the space between coaching sessions, clients’ social network and the organizational culture/environment can double the impact of coaching, or entirely undermine it.

“But If I get coached what does it say about me?”

So much effort goes into building a work identity. To get through the times when you had to dig deep, tracks have naturally formed around you.

But after a certain distance, those tracks can stop your wheels turning in any other direction. You cannot get out and take a wider view of who you are and could be.

The tracks have become a list of what you should or shouldn’t do, who you are and what others tell you that you are. Like a fish that does not notice water if floats in, your identity is both supporting and constraining you.

Who is driving – my professional perception or me?

Labels are good. They facilitate a sense of security, they help to simplify your life. But living within the label will eventually restrict, not reinforce you.

I coached a senior manager responsible for quality assurance – the ideal role for someone with a strong urge for perfection. But the situation deteriorated as support dried up. Imagine your boss suddenly indifferent, HR help with difficult choices fading away.

Soon 12-hour days became the norm “it’s up to me to make this work”. One person versus the world – can you guess who was winning? Our sessions slowly revealed the need for perfection was a personal trademark. A label that supported them no longer. Disentangled from perfectionist identity they now see what the system requires and rewards.

So before you ignore a call for coaching, take a moment to connect to your deeper sense. To hear the voice, often quiet, saying ‘this might not work, I feel nervous, I am not sure what my peers would think’.

Then listen for an even quieter voice, behind your identity and labels, that says ‘this might be just what I need, and who I need it from’. That is the Coaching calculation – does it add up for you?

* A survey of more than 1,000 U.S. workers conducted by Personnel Decisions.