Monday, February 8, 2010

Selecting and determining the true value from your coach

Would you entrust the design and construction of your new home to an architect with no experience of having designed a house? And would the architect’s qualifications in print become a deciding factor for your selection or rejection? Or how about the chap who is keen to design your home however has only designed bridges all his life?

What about taking yourself or a loved one to a medical specialist – what would give you the confidence to choose one medical professional over another? And if a specialist has a couple of medical disasters to his or her credit and has great qualifications, how would that influence your decision?

Most of us seem to have within ourselves an innate ability to make these choices in several different aspects of life. Many would call it just plain common sense.

However, when applied to a career or professional situation not everyone seems to have that same innate ability and therefore find themselves in situations where the experience does not yield much value.

Take executive coaching for example. Try Googling ‘executive coaching’ and you’ll be amazed at the myriad of flavors, colors, shapes and sizes the coaching world has on display and offer. However if we go back and apply that fundamental question we started off with – would you entrust your career counsel to someone who has no experience, or relevant experience or a track record of shaping careers – even one’s own career? Wouldn’t the answer to these questions seem obvious?

The fact however is that there are thousands of dollars being transacted in the name of coaching every day, all round the world, with no true value being generated for the one undergoing coaching or for the business that is paying for it.

Some would argue there is no right or wrong for soft consulting – intangible pieces of advice backed by some form of accreditation that can never carry a guarantee.

But hang on, when that disease did not get cured, you could knock the door of your doctor again and again till you got somewhere. So why can’t one associate some sort of success to a coaching experience as well?

The fact remains, like any other professional service, coaching must deliver results – tangible outcomes.

In my two decades of courtship with the concept of coaching, I’ve gathered three golden nuggets about selecting a coach. This by no means is a claim for ultimate truth or the only set of selection criteria for a coach. This is offered in the context of assuming you know what coaching is and why it is needed – either by yourself or for someone else. More importantly this is the quintessence of what I could derive from years of observing exemplary coaches and from talking to those who attribute exemplary results from such experiences.

Criteria for selecting a coach:

1. Experience counts: Human experiences are unique –for every one of the six something billion of us on the planet. If a coach has a track record of creating positive professional experiences with a degree of consistency across many people, it is likely you would have a similar and positive experience when coached by such an individual. Experience does not make the coach a domain expert or subject matter expert in a particular area (although a coach may have such expertise) – it does however provide a level of expertise in the approaches used to solving problems, resolving issues and making things happen.

2. Acknowledgement of failure is a pre-requisite: Someone who has not survived through professional and personal failures may not be in the best place to coach you to deal with similar experiences. The one coaching you should have experienced and dealt with failures in areas more relevant to you. For instance if you are a business leader, the relevance of such experience could imply the coach has experienced success and failures with running a business or even in the same industry as yours. However what is even more pertinent is for the coach to acknowledge the failure as a part of his or her learning experience. Believe me, there are a multitude of coaches that boast a flawless, impeccable professional track record with no acknowledgement of any sort of failure. And they can assure you that it is possible for you to deliver a failure- proof professional track record. Acknowledgement of such experiences (failures and success) in life is a testimonial of the coach having had the courage and conviction to deal with it.

3. There is no “canned” solution: Another interesting feature on offer is the concept of tested solution. This particular coach has such extensive experience that he/she is now able to put the ultimate solution in the box just for you to unwrap and indulge in. Coaching IS NOT a product and human experiences cannot be put into a box. However, the process or approach could have some degree of predictability. One could also and arguably deploy and redeploy the same tools across several coaching experiences. However, these need to be restricted to bring some structure and clarity to the coaching process and not be treated as the true value of the coaching experience itself. The latter, has to be unique – every time and at both ends of coaching.

Coaching, like any other professional service, should deliver economic value to the individual and through the individual.

If you are about to embark or have embarked on this journey, I hope these nuggets of experience should assist you to make choices that will ultimately determine the true value from your coaching experience.

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