What is coaching?

Coaching involves a unique working relationship between a motivated client and a coach, aimed at defining goals, solving problems, designing action plans, making decisions, and reaching goals.

Coaches act as the client’s partner, champion, mentor, advocate, collaborator, cheerleader, personal radar, sounding board, and support system. They “stay with” (coach to)the client’s agenda. They help the client:

Define goals—business and life.

Implement action plans, working through the inevitable changes and obstacles.

Maintain a healthy balance between their personal and professional life.

Keep looking ahead to take advantage of opportunities that are just becoming apparent.

Bring out the client’s personal best, keeping focused on the client’s needs, values and vision.

The coaching profession has synthesized a lot from psychology, business, philosophy, spirituality and finance to benefit the individual, entrepreneur, professional and business person. As a coach, my role and duty are to:

Help clients set better goals—by their definition of “better”—and to reach them.

Ask my clients to do more than they would have done on their own.

Focus my clients on producing results more quickly, with less stress.

Provide tools, support and structure so they can accomplish more.

How is coaching different from consulting? Therapy? Sports coaching? A best Friend?

Consulting: Coaching is a form of consulting, but unlike most consultants, coaches stay with their clients to help them develop and implement the new skills, changes and plans necessary to produce results. Coaches often get involved in goal setting, and in areas of the client’s life beyond the “big project.”

Therapy: Coaching is not therapy. I don’t work on “issues” or get into the past. I leave it up to the client to figure out those issues, while I help him or her move forward and set personal and professional goals and take the actions that move them forward into the life they want. If past issues come up, I may make referrals to appropriate professionals.

Sports: Coaching includes principles from sports coaching like teamwork, going for the goal, and being your best. But unlike sports coaching, most professional coaching is not competition or win/lose based. I strengthen my clients’ skills rather than help them beat the other team (though beating the competition is often part of my business practice).

Best Friend: A best friend is wonderful to have, but few of our friends have the professional skills, training, time, or patience to advise us on the most important aspects of life and/or business to any degree of completion.

Who hires a coach?

Entrepreneurs, business owners, professionals, people in transition—really, anyone who wants to fix, solve, change, create or plan and achieve something personal and/or professional, plus those who are aware of. and want to close a gap between where they are and where they want to be.

Why is coaching becoming so popular? Is coaching effective?

Coaching is becoming popular because:

Many people want to improve their work, business, professional and personal lives and are looking for help in getting those improvements

It works

Many people are tired of doing what they “should” do. Many are tired of, “Same stuff, different day,” and want to set objectives that reflect their highest aspirations and move toward a life that is special and meaningful. Most of us have more choices than we are aware of. The problem is that many can’t see the choices by themselves, or if they can, they don’t see a way to reorient their lives around their values as opposed to what they’ve been doing by habit, or because other people told them what they should do or can’t do. Many are beginning to understand that a coach can help them get unstuck.

People who have been coached realize how simple it can be to accomplish things that some time ago might have felt out of reach, or a pipe dream. I am not a miracle worker, but I have a large tool kit to help the Big Idea become a reality.

Coaching is effective. A study published in the Manchester Review on executive coaching showed that companies that invested in executive coaching experienced an average return on the coaching investment of 545%. A study published by the International Personnel Management Association stated that training alone increased productivity by 22.4%, while training plus coaching increased productivity by 88%.

John Kotter, a Professor at Harvard Business School, who studies organizations, found that “performance enhanced cultures” (some of whom used coaching extensively) outperformed those without performance enhancement by every measure: over 300 percent improvement in sales growth, 1100 percent improvement in stock price growth and over 75,000 percent(!) improvement in net income growth.

Don’t be distracted by the fact that these data come from companies. Though we often forget it, companies are people, and it’s the performance of those people that makes these things happen. Coaching works.

In his book The Heart of Change, Kotter observed, “People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.” That’s what coaches do.

What is worked on?

The variety is endless. Here’s a sample:

Prioritizing goals, actions and projects.

Handling business or personal problems.

Making key decisions and designing strategies—personal, professional and business.

Doing the maximum at work.

Integrating business and personal life for balance.

Business planning, budgeting and goal-setting.

Catching up and getting ahead—at home and in business.

Training, developing and managing staff.

Increasing sales substantially or filling a practice.

Turning around a difficult situation.

Building better relationships with family and business associates.

Getting through difficult business and personal transitions: opportunities, losses, and other significant changes.

Why does coaching work?

Three characteristics of coaching give the coaching relationship the structure for success.

Synergy: Client and coach create a team that focuses on the client’s goals and needs, accomplishing more than the client would alone.

Structure: With a coach, a client takes more actions, thinks bigger, and gets the job done, thanks to the accountability the coach provides.

Expertise: Coaches are trained. They have a broad range of skills and techniques designed to help the client understand what is important to them, and to set and  achieve meaningful goals, working through blocks where necessary.

This structure brings out the client’s best. A coach believes the client has the answers and is trained to bring them out. Specifically, this is what I do with my clients during our coaching calls.

Listen. I listen fully. The client is the focus. I listen to what clients say, what they are trying to say, and what they are not saying.

Share. After they have communicated fully, I share with them my advice, ideas, comments and views on their situation, dilemma or opportunity. And I ask the next question, the one that leads into unexplored areas of opportunity—often to a breakthrough in understanding what’s holding them back.

Endorse. Anyone who’s up to something—an entrepreneur, a manager with an extraordinary objective, a professional filling his or her practice, a person in transition or facing a personal challenge—needs (needs!) an outside voice full of endorsement, compassion and acknowledgement, not as a “yes-type,” but as someone who knows what it takes to achieve something important.

Suggest. I want a lot for my clients. I want my clients to achieve their goals, and I also want them to be healthy, happy and successful in every role they play. I want them to be on a strong financial track, to enjoy their family and friends, to have a life that inspires them and others. Part of my job is to be at least three steps ahead of them, yet be with them. Consequently, I make requests and suggestions. The client is always free to accept, reject or modify them. The client’s objectives are what counts.

Coach Robert Goldmann