How Important is Coaching in Professional Development?
ABEING a communication skills coach, I was recently asked by one of my colleagues how important individual coaching attention is for someone to learn and grow at any stage of their career. Of course, this is like asking a baker if the bread is worth baking.
I have seen many moments of breakthrough when people from all walks of life set their sights on developing new thoughts, actions, and behaviors. So, I would say that teaching is very important, both when we are young and when we are adults. This is the reason: none of us can see ourselves as others see us. We always look at our beautiful, natural gifts (and each of us has them, even if we don’t realize it). We can also cover some weaker points that we will benefit from addressing soon. Looking outward from the inside of our bodies, we see the world but cannot observe the effects of our own energies and attitudes on others as easily as people who pay attention can see. to us.
In my book Communicating with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome Four Hidden Challenges, I shed light on the obstacles that hold most of us back at some point in our lives and current methods of overcoming them. The “big four” in my experience includes:
- hide: Fear of exposing our supposed weaknesses
- explanations: Putting too much stock in our assumptions, being quick to judge
- rationalization: Relying on pessimism to protect ourselves from taking chances, engaging in conflict, or taking other scary but potentially rewarding actions
- SETTLEMENT: Stop at “good enough” instead of aiming for something better in interactions
It is always useful to ask others where they see us paying in communication or in life rather than progressing to reach our potential. We can choose to open ourselves to others and invite them to share their observations, feelings, and opinions about us and the way we interact as we move around the world.
Sometimes that feedback comes from a mentor or a formal mentoring relationship, and other times it’s family, friends, or co-workers who can illuminate a path forward if we make them feel that safe to do so.
One-on-one coaching (or executive coaching) is tricky territory. Some people who want to share advice or questions for us to ponder do not have our well-being at heart. It’s possible that they care more about themselves and what they get out of the interaction than what we get out of the communication. Some people appear to us that they are able to guide us fairly and competently, but they are not qualified to do so or may be blind to their own limitations.
So, buyer beware. Don’t be too quick to believe praise OR criticism unless you’ve considered the coach’s skills and motives. Choose someone you trust – which involves risk – and who you trust is:
- know their own strengths and limitations,
- experienced in guiding others through the challenges you face, and
- brave to shoot straight but never funny or condescending in their communication.
I have taught many adults who did not have role models in their youth and many who did. Nurturing self-learning is possible at any age and it is possible to find teachers if one is willing to do some hard things, such as:
- Discover information about a person’s strengths and how, when overused, they can become weaknesses,
- welcome both objective and subjective data about oneself (objective data can be personality or performance assessments, subjective data can mean asking others how they experience you),
- place trust in a competent guide for the discovery process.
You asked for a sample goal. Here are some that people in jobs ranging from nursing home administrator to mechanical engineer are working this week:
For the client who is looking for their voice – join every meeting you attend for a month; for someone who has trouble focusing – document and prioritize a task list, then share it with your boss to be more aligned. For the client who feels overwhelmed – create a self-care menu and use one entry per day; for someone managing a large team, document what impresses you about your employees and where they need to improve to facilitate giving feedback at performance review time.
Some coaching clients receive recipes to try to help them give stronger praise, use more skillful delegation, or approach a conflict in a better way. We all have different growth needs. We always have growth needs. As long as we are breathing and learning, it is never too late to make a positive change.
Michelle Gladieux is the President of Gladieux Consulting, a Midwest-based team known for the design and presentation of seminars on communication and leadership topics throughout the US He conducts strategic planning and executive coaching for clients in a variety of industries, governments , in non-profits, and in academia. He has 18 years of collegiate teaching experience at three universities in his home state of Indiana, accepting his first faculty position at the age of 23. He has worked as a Human Resources and Training Director in cold storage, robotics, and construction industry and enjoys visiting conferences as a keynote speaker and workshop presenter. He is the author of Communicating with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome Four Hidden Challenges.
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