When you think of a “coach”, what do you picture?
Whether you’re an athlete, a fan, or neither - it would be no surprise if the first image that comes to mind is in the context of a sport. We’re accustomed to associating coaches with a man or woman in charge of leading an entire team towards a collective win. They serve as a figurehead for a group - setting the strategy, making decisions, and feeding pre-calculated moves across a team.
Coaches in any context are meant to teach and to train; they leverage a set of tools to help drive success in a given situation. However in life - unlike a game - accomplishments can’t always be measured by “winning and losing”.
Now unless you're a professional athlete, your career likely falls into this more nebulous area of achievement - therefore your coach will approach things slightly differently. Like an athletic coach, a career coach is trained to help you reach your greatest potential, however they emphasize a 1:1 professional partnership with you to help determine, navigate through, and reach your own professional goals. Whether you want to accelerate your existing career, change paths completely, or work through complex scenarios - a career coach focuses on empowering you and setting a uniquely personal strategy / plan to help you get to your next step.
If you're still asking yourself "but how can a coach benefit me in the workplace?", we’ve come up with 5 concrete examples to convey how powerful this professional partnership can be used for growing and taking your career to the next level:
1. Exploring New Opportunities
Ever thought about what your next promotion looks like and how you’re going to get there? What about how you’re going to take on a new workstream or responsibility while maintaining your current role? How about figuring out what it would take to transition into a new role entirely within (or outside) your company that doesn’t necessarily contain your skillset?
One of the main responsibilities of a coach is to help you explore new professional and personal opportunities. Anything outside your normal reach and on the horizon can naturally make even the bravest professionals feel some anxiety or uncertainty for entering a new space. Coaches will provide a platform to create and work through strategies for what next steps look like for stepping into unfamiliar professional territory.
Using techniques such as brainstorming and visioning, strategies are created together with your coach to diligently think through the “what” and the “how in regards to possible opportunities. Other techniques could revolve around positive psychology, where a coach will drive awareness to your strengths and how to tap those strengths to improve your chances of success. In addition to strategizing and strength usage, a coach can also actively support you in maintaining the right mindset, specifically a Learner Mindset, for creating more open-ended possibilities and win-oriented situations when exploring new opportunities.
2. Identifying and Tackling Challenges
When it comes to the workplace, there’s no shortage of difficulties that you can face. This could include managing difficult conversations, changing priorities, handling multiple tasks in a timely manner, presenting under pressure, and relationship and feedback management. For every challenge you face, there are inevitably roadblocks that can stand in your way of excelling in the given scenario, especially if you do not have the proper support in place to move through them. Coaching can serve as a powerful tool to help you identify what those roadblocks are – whether they’re obvious or blind spots. Experienced coaches even have the ability to quickly pick up on changes in tone or expression, probing at the “unsaid” in a situation, and discovering the true underlying issue of what could be causing internal tension.
Once roadblocks and underlying challenges are identified, leverage your coach for creating actionable plans that help you address and excel within these newly found development areas. Tackling aspects of your career in an unfamiliar territory can be nerve-racking and easy to avoid. Leverage a coach to not only greet these areas head on but to strategize how they can be tackled incrementally, realistically, and with confidence.
3. Acting as a Sounding Board
Working with a coach takes place in a judgement free environment. As a professional or a leader, sometimes you need a sounding board to get asked the right questions, solve your own problems, and become comfortable with the go-forward approach you’d like to take. This is one of the the benefits of having a coach: 10 or even 5 minutes of venting* while being asked powerful questions can help get you identify what’s in your way as a professional and help you to get back on track.
*Did you say venting?
Sure did - venting. We all need to the space to speak honestly in order to maintain mental composure. Venting can be an effective tool to speak your thoughts out loud. Expect your coach to ask you powerful questions to challenge you and help you grow as a professional as the relationship expands. These will include challenging and “difficult” questions - one that will get you to extend yourself and feel comfortable with thinking outside of the box.
4. Driving Accountability for Growth
Ever have those days where you give your word to something and don’t follow through? Tell your manager you’ll get a presentation completed by 6PM or that you’ll send your colleague the input he needs to keep his pipeline moving? It’s easy to compromise the integrity of your word in the workplace, especially as priorities get juggled throughout the day. A coach can help you to hold yourself accountable for commitments in the workplace and for other development areas.
During live coaching sessions, coaches typically will assign some sort of homework that will push their clients in one or more aspects of their career. For example, if networking is a development area of yours, your coach may assign you homework to initiate 5-minute coffee chats on a weekly basis to help build that skill and confidence. Think of homework as a personal and career development action item, one that you’re committing to completing with an actionable due date and time. Expectations for completing that homework will be set at the end of session with the coach holding you accountable for completing the respective action in a growth area.
5. Empowering Sustainable Growth and Independence
Client and coaching partnerships are recommended to last for at least 6 weeks to drive a lasting change and sustained growth. During your coaching partnership, your coach should arm you with a few tools and tricks to help set you up for success beyond your coaching sessions. These could be tools around coaching yourself to maintain the right mindset when facing new opportunities or challenges or how to leverage your strengths more consistently using techniques focused around positive psychology. Nonetheless, during stressful work situations, confrontational discussions, or challenges with managing or management, after working with your coach you will have the tools for maintaining the right mindset to drive successful outcomes and you’ll have clarity around how you can continue to grow into the future with confidence and courage for unfamiliar areas.
Remember – a coach should always be following your agenda, as you’re the expert of your own life, career, and the outcomes you hope to achieve. If your coach is truly following your agenda, then they’ll be working with you to meet your goals in an appropriate and timely manner. The best coaches will be aiming to support you in continual growth, enabling you to take bold and fearless action towards success.
Don’t wait until the fourth quarter, when you’re down by 20 and time is ticking to ask for support. Every success story is built on the team behind the individual. Are you willing now to take your career to the next level and discover the benefits of partnering with a coach? Perhaps it’s time that you got a big win.