Driving your career by coach

16 Jun 2010

Using the services of a business coach can be instrumental in career development and identifying the right direction.

Just as athletes have coaches to help them increase their performance levels and up their game, the application of coaching techniques in the corporate space has being steadily gaining in popularity. As Timothy Gallwey, creator of the ‘inner game’ approach, says: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

Business coaching can be broken down into two main strands: executive or performance coaching, where the coach is employed by a company to work with employees; and career coaching, where an individual personally invests in a coach to help with their own career development or direction.

“Coaching gives you time outside your busy working world to work with somebody in a safe environment who will support you and challenge you to fulfil your potential,” explains Adrienne Davitt, managing director of Davitt Corporate Partners, which specialises in executive coaching.

She says executive coaches are often engaged to help professionals who have been identified as high-potential employees or leaders of the future, as well as those in leadership roles who need support to develop as effective leaders. They may also be brought in to help people moving into new roles who need to learn new skillsets such as managing and leading people.

Personality mapping

At the start of the executive coaching process, Davitt says psychometric profiling is instrumental in helping people map out their own personality, their self-awareness, how they behave, and how they impact others, manage relationships within the organisation and manage their work.

The coach will then work with the individual to identify critical areas in terms of achieving success. While the length of a coaching relationship can vary, Davitt recommends that it be at least six months, with a 12- to 18-month contract being standard.

The coach from within

Where people are moving into leadership roles within their organisation, John Fitzgerald, founder and managing director of coaching company Harmonics, says those who have been very task-focused up to now may find the transition a challenge. “When they move into leadership roles, the task becomes less of how they are rewarded. It’s a whole new skillset. That’s why coaching is so important to leaders.”

With young leaders often catapulted into a role because of their talent in a particular area of expertise, Davitt says a whole new landscape opens up, which can be quite scary and complex, especially in fast-growing firms. “It’s about being strategic in your thinking, taking time out to reflect on how effectively you are behaving and planning to be more effective and successful.”

Brand ‘me’

On the flip side, people who are unhappy in their current role, or in a career where they feel unfulfilled, choose to see a career coach to help decide their career direction, explains Paul Mullan, founder of the career-coaching firm Measurability.

“They could be in a profession that they are miserable in. They want to work with someone to help them understand how they can bring more happiness into the role they are fulfilling,” he explains.

For people who have been made redundant or who are changing jobs, Mullan says a career coach can help them look at how they market themselves on documents such as CVs, cover letters and social media profiles. “A growing area is around professional branding where employees are going about trying to develop their own brand within their own industry, within their sector,” he says.

Fitzgerald points out that in some cases people may have been in the right job but in the wrong organisation. “We help them to identify their skills – the skills that they love to use and the skills that stress them out. We help them to identify their interest areas, so that they can align a career or a company in that space. Then we talk about values. What are your most important values – are they being currently satisfied and how can we get them satisfied in the future.”

The key benefit of the coaching process, he says, is that it helps people focus on their individual strengths and make the most of their innate skills and talents. “It is about increasing self-awareness, understanding how others perceive you, building trust and building great relationships,” concludes Fitzgerald.

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