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Chris Posti: Get most from career coach

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If you authorize coaching in your organization, would you like to know what you can do to increase the success of that coaching? I'm sure you do, because coaching is a substantial investment of time and money. Here are ways to maximize it.

Before bringing in a coach, consider whether there are internal options that could achieve the same results. If you are the person's boss, are you capable of devoting the time and do you have the skills to coach the person yourself? Is there someone in your human resources department who could? Does your company offer training that directly addresses the person's needs?

If internal capabilities are lacking, look externally to find a coach whose style and capabilities match the needs at hand. Even the best coaches are not right for all assignments. Are you looking for quick results, or are you willing to provide as much as a full year of coaching? Should the coach have experience with a certain industry, function or job level? Meet with a few coaches and talk with their references.

Next, you and the coach must determine whether the coachee is willing and able to be coached. Both qualities are essential. I remember coaching a sales executive who persuaded the company president and me that he was willing and able to achieve the coaching goals. Shortly after we began, he shared with me that he was going through a bitter divorce. The president mentioned that alcoholism was probably the main reason for the divorce. It became apparent that the sales executive was willing to change, but was unable to do so. We stopped the coaching and sent him to an employee assistance program, where he got the help he really needed.

At the outset of the coaching, have a definition of success that realistically can be achieved, written in plain English so that there can be no spin or misinterpretation. The definition of success must be one that everyone — the boss, the coachee, the human-resources liaison, and the coach — agrees on. Wildly diverse objectives lead to disappointment.

One of the best definitions of success I ever encountered was from a woman who was talented but rubbed people the wrong way. She wanted to move into a different department but was blocked by her personal style. She had this statement as her goal: “No one is complaining about me anymore.” Soon after the coaching, because of her improved working relationships, she achieved her ambition of moving into the department .

It's important that you tell the coach inside information and dirty little secrets. What are the challenges of the business? How about other personalities and political agendas affecting the coachee? Are there personal issues in the coachee's life? If the coaching is remedial, or the last chance before termination, let the coach know that. Agree upon how you and the coach can work best together: how often should you two touch base? Would you like to connect over the phone, or is email better? Who else needs to be in the communication loop?

Be open to challenges to your assumptions about the person being coached. Be willing to change your behavior, too. You are part of this tangoing duo, and if you are open to change, it will benefit you, the coachee and your organization. In fact, maybe you will want to get a coach for yourself, too.

Chris Posti is president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at 724-344-1668.

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