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Your career could benefit from a coach

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Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, 9:17 p.m.

Imagine you are called into your boss's office and are told that you need to work with an executive coach. How do you react?

If you are like most people, you probably behave somewhat defensively. You might wonder what the real reason is for being chosen for this experience. You might even argue about it, or refuse to go.

Do you think that kind of behavior could be a mistake?

Of course it is.

People are asked to work with a coach for many reasons. Admittedly, many years ago, when coaching got its start, the process was often remedial, meaning someone needed to be “fixed.” But today, according to the seventh annual Sherpa Coaching Study, coaching that is intended “to solve a specific behavioral problem has dropped from 40 percent to near 25 percent.”

The study further found that in 2012, “the majority of coaching is designed for leadership development, with the balance of coaching split pretty much equally between transition and problem solving.”

Regardless of whether the coaching is actually more remedial than developmental, you and your career will benefit from wholeheartedly buying into the process. With that in mind, then, what should your reaction be if you are asked to work with an executive coach?

First, be appreciative. Regardless of the reason you have been chosen, your employer is investing a sizeable amount of money in you, so let your boss know you appreciate the investment and will show a return on that investment.

Second, control your urge to be defensive. Calmly and objectively discuss the reasons for the coaching. Even if you disagree with some of the points made, hold your tongue. You will learn more about yourself as the coaching process unfolds, and you will probably realize there is truth to whatever your boss has said.

Finally, even if you are feeling reluctant, be wise enough to behave as if you are looking forward to the coaching. Promptly schedule the first meeting with your coach. Arrive prepared with your questions and concerns. Establish goals for the coaching and determine how you will work together. The more open you are with your coach, the more the coach can support you, guide you, and help you develop in the directions you have chosen.

Be candid with your coach. Like psychologists, they've pretty much heard every story, so don't be afraid to be forthcoming. One of my clients, for example, was a hoarder who was embarrassed that she had to rent space to store her overflow belongings. Another was gay and feared being “outed” at the office. Another owned two homes, both of which were in danger of foreclosure. These are key pieces of information for the coach, because they can profoundly affect the client's perspective and behavior. As with any professional relationship, confidential information discussed in coaching is never revealed to others.

At the conclusion of your coaching, wrap things up by demonstrating to others what you have learned and by expressing to your boss your appreciation. By following these steps, others' estimation of you will grow substantially and surely your career will benefit.

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job,” available on Email your questions to her at

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