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Why I need a coach

Why I need a coach

by Guest contributor John Stepper on August 30, 2013

From the age of 5 to 23, I spent much of my weekdays with teachers. People I could learn from or rely on for help or guidance. Then, for decades after, I stopped.

As I struggled through some of the most difficult times in work and life, I almost never asked for help at all.

Isn’t that odd? Why would I get more instruction and assistance for trigonometry than for making work and life more fulfilling?

What is coaching, anyway?

For sure, there have been helpful people in my life.

My parents were supportive but lacked the experience to help me at work.

I’ve had the occasional good manager, but most lacked the empathy and emotional objectivity you need in a good coach. After all, you can’t reasonably expose your fears and weaknesses about work to the same person who’s paying you for that work.

If these people can’t coach you, who can? And what would they do?

Martha Beck, a popular life coach whose books I’ve found useful, described what she does in “Steering by Starlight”:

“I think of myself as the behavioral equivalent of a personal trainer. A therapist, like a physician, works with unwell people to restore them to health. I work with healthy people to help them achieve maximum “fitness” – that is well-being and quality of life.”

Some may shrink at the word therapist (pun, alas, intended) but that word feels right to me. It captures the listening, the questioning, and the objective support you need for helping you reach a goal.

Top Athletes Use Coaches. Why Don’t CEOs?

Just the word “coach” evokes images of grizzled veterans talking their charges through a situation.

Though I’m not a golf fan, I like these two photos of Tiger Woods with his coach Butch Harmon. It shows how he needed a coach as a college golfer and, notably, still needs one even after developing into one of the greatest golfers of all time.

Getting started

Getting started

Always getting better

Always getting better






Yes, we nod, of course athletes have coaches. And yet a recent article from Business Week noted the lack of coaching for executives.

“Nearly two-thirds of CEOs surveyed do not receive outside leadership counsel, but nearly all say they want advice. What’s stopping them?”

What’s stopping CEOs is what stops almost everyone.

We often associate coaching with remediation, with fixing something that’s broken. And who would readily admit to being broken at work?

Instead of that limited view, both Tiger Woods and Martha Beck would suggest coaching is simply a means of helping you achieve something you care about.

And whether you’re a CEO, a recent graduate, or a stay-at-home parent, we could all use that kind of help.

How I finally found my coach

To truly help you, the coaching relationship is necessarily quite personal. And that makes choosing a coach quite difficult. You often won’t know if a particular coach is right for you until you’ve worked with them a few times.

I met Moyra briefly during a work event. Then we exchanged emails related to that project and I found her notes smart and clear. I liked her thinking. So we arranged a Skype call and began reading each other’s writing.

I appreciated her questions and the way she listened. I valued her ideas and firm but friendly nudges. In short, I grew to trust her.

So when I began working on something I care about – something I’m afraid will fail but I’m compelled to try – the first person I reached out to was Moyra. Since then, working with her has made my work better and made me better.

Are you trying to accomplish something important? Who will help you?

Guest contributor John Stepper

John is changing how people work at Deutsche Bank using collaboration platforms, communities of practice, and public social media. He writes about making work more effective and fulfilling at and on Twitter as @johnstepper

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