By Mike Cook
With apologies to William Shakespeare and Richard III: Is it just me or has it been raining coaches in the business world for about the past 15 years?
And they come with certifications in case you need one, from all sorts of sources: Coach U, Coach Inc., Center for Executive Coaching, International Coach Academy. Some of these programs are several months in duration, some offer ongoing support, some are available online and some even offer certification in as little as 16 hours!
I guess the familiar saying, “Let the Buyer Beware,” pertains no matter what the offering.
Coaches are now available on nearly every street corner and make up a large portion of the attendees at any local Society for Human Resource Management meeting or networking group. The rise of the coaches seems to be coincident with the proliferation of large-scale downsizings that swept through the country in the late 1990s following the first wave of reengineering initiatives, also known as “right-sizing” our organizations.
It has given individuals a low-cost avenue to get into their own business, provides a valuable service, can be tailored to support just about any lifestyle, and it is a rewarding profession.
While I am concerned for the proliferation of coaches and the quality of their training, I am more concerned for the continued absence of demand for coaching in general, most dramatically among many who ought to be involved in employee development—namely mid-level managers.
There are limits to everything in this world. Why lessen the chances for accomplishment by trying to approach tough challenges without support?
I am afraid that, as Americans, it is an affliction of our heritage. We have actually bought, hook-line-and-sinker, into the mythology of the self-made person or the ‘rugged individual.’ Asking for help, especially in the highly competitive environments of many of our commercial organizations, is often seen as a sign of weakness or insufficiency.
These American myths persist despite the fact that close examination of what might be interpreted as individual success can readily be understood as the
talents or vision of famous, heavily complimented business figures, and also supplemented by others around them far less visible, but nonetheless critical to the success realized.
As the English poet John Donne so rightly said several centuries ago: “No man is an island, entire of itself.”
It is easy to establish that there are plenty of available coaches and, quality issues notwithstanding, there are a good number of high caliber coaches. However, this is a case of supply waiting for demand to catch up.
There are numerous factors to account for the lag in demand, but I’ll venture that among them the foremost are the willingness to be coached, an openness to outside perspective and a recognition that anything truly remarkable or worth attaining will likely result from embracing the principle of interdependency.
For those among you that are up to something and might be ready to take the plunge into a coaching relationship, I recommend a baby step to get started.
There are many fine coaches today writing and making their insights, experience and wisdom available free of charge in the form of their regular blogs. A quick review of “leadership blogs” on the Web will yield an array of possible thinking that might appeal to you. It may be that you are more of a humanist or perhaps more a rational bottom-line thinker.
A review like this will give you an idea of who thinks along lines that might be parallel to your perspectives.
In addition to blogs, simply reading a variety of leading thinkers can stimulate you to realize what it is you are looking for. I can’t tell you how many times I had an itch but didn’t know where to scratch until I started searching. Just the simple act of looking helps you get out of your inertia and develop new vantage points.
If you think you can handle coaching or benefit from it, or if you like variety in your messaging, try the “buffet” that goes by the name Human Capital League.
Once you get an idea of the type or coach you are looking for, it is likely that there is someone close to home who can adequately provide the service you are looking for.
Can you identify your reluctance to asking for help or seeking a personal advocate to keep you at the top of your game? It will be something simple. Look for it first as an emotion, then as a statement of fact—a rule you have adopted about what it would mean if you needed help. Perhaps something you have come to by reaction without reflection.
Mike Cook is a management developer who lives in Anacortes, Wash. His columns appear on BBJToday.com every other Tuesday. He also publishes a weekly blog at www.heartofengagement.com.