The Peter Principle states that we’re all susceptible to the inevitable fate of failing to meet the high expectations of our organizations and those expectations we put on ourselves. As we rise in all areas of our lives, we enter new territory that will require skills and/or experiences we may not possess. As Marshall Goldsmith so eloquently put it, “what got you here, won’t get you there.”
Aiming for the next rung of any ladder in our sights requires considering how we will condition ourselves for that journey. I’ve yet to hear any gold medal athlete brag that they trained themselves. Homage is always paid to the coach who was charged with laying down the work plan that would allow them to increase their skills and acknowledge and work around their weaknesses in order to achieve their best. Getting to gold medal status in our business and personal lives requires similar effort. A guided plan paired with constructive and instructive encouragement from a coach.
According to the International Coach Federation, the worldwide revenue produced by coaching is $1.5 billion (USD) per year and growing. It seems the word is out on the value coaching can bring to our personal and professional lives, so the next question is: How do you select the coach that has the right qualifications to get you from here to there? Here’s the thought process that could get you a win along with some personal insights from my recent selection of the coach pushing me through my wins.
It all boils down to relationships: Rapport is probably the most important factor to effective coaching. Next to the relationship with your significant other and certain family members, this is going to be the most intimate relationship in your life. If you can’t see yourself getting vulnerable with this person, think twice. Do your due diligence and interview more than one person. As you do, pay attention to the following in your initial contact and decision making phase. How are their interpersonal skills upon first contact? What does your gut instinct about this person tell you? How are their verbal and nonverbal cues matching up? Are they listening to you? Do you feel accepted in their presence? How vulnerable are they with you? Do you have similar value sets?
I didn’t even know I was looking for my coach Doc Barham. We were connected through social arbitrage by a mutual friend who thought we should know each other. After our first interaction, I remember thinking, I like the way he thinks. When he invited me to an initial discovery session a couple of months later, we very easily shared conversation and hit on common values, passion points, and mutual interests. By the end of the hour, I knew without a doubt that this was the guy to guide my journey.
Do your homework:Educating yourself on the nuances in coaching credentials, fees and
styles will be important to your selection process and prepare you to make the best decision for your goal, budget, and time expectations. Some sites that can help in your learning, research, and referral process are:
One added value I benefit from with Doc’s service is connection and collaboration with his other clients. In a recent roundtable we all answered the question; “How did you find Doc?” Our answers ranged from introduction, to television, to Yelp.
Ask the right questions: Your coach should be willing to answer your questions directly and openly and perhaps even open up a bit about themselves. Ask questions about their depth of experience, qualifications, skills, and procedures. Here are some examples of questions to consider: How many clients have you coached, and how many are currently active clients? Tell me about your specialty and how long you’ve been practicing that specialty? What qualifies you to help facilitate my situation? What’s the average time you work with your clients? What does a typical coaching session include? Do you belong to any professional organizations? What ethical code do you adhere to in your practice?
In my experience, if the coach is on their game, you won’t have to ask many of these questions. I received all of this information and more (proactively) in my first session with Doc, all in service of making me feel as comfortable as possible with his capabilities.
Select for experience that meets your needs: The type of experience you’ll need your coach to possess will depend on your desired outcome. Experience in your field may not be the most essential element to consider. If your goal is specific to an industry benchmark, you may need someone who has ascended to that height and is prepared to give you the roadmap. However, everyone who’s gotten to where you want to be won’t necessarily have the interpersonal and/or emotional skills to coach you successfully. Perhaps those individuals would serve you greater as mentors, Lifelines or as part of your learning faculty.
A great coach will encourage you to use and develop your personal skills and expand your network to pull in the resources you need to achieve. For example, one of the “aha moments” in my decision to hire Doc had to do with his breadth of hard and soft skill knowledge outside of my professional domain. Skills I knew would greatly complement those I already possessed and/or evolve them to new levels.
Here there or anywhere: Location fortunately is no longer a deciding factor to meet your coaching match. Skype works wonderfully for those moments when you feel you need face to face contact and technology has made it easier and more efficient than ever to not only conduct those hour or more sessions but also to keep in touch between sessions. Follow-up contact and/or additional content via text, instant message, or through social media channels should be viewed as a rich supplement to your learning process and added value to your coaches’ services.
You will have work to do continuously: Effective coaching is not a couch session where you get to verbalize all your challenges while someone tells you what you should consider and then sends you on your way. The goal and marker of a great coach is that you leave each session with new skills to apply to resolving your own problems. Yes, that means you have to put in the work to facilitate your own change. Their charge is to provide options, tools, and resources for you to base decisions on that will propel you in the direction you desire. When does the work end? It’s really up to you but, consider the beginning of this article. As you evolve, the need for new skills to navigate new terrain will arise.
It comforts me when Doc speaks fondly of the coaches he employs in his life journey. Knowing that he is still pursuing new levels of greatness not only means more long-term value for me, but encourages me to continue discovering new ways to get better at being me.
Kibibi Springs is myGreenlight’s Community Director.