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Business Coaches Help Develop a Personal Game Plan

By Colleen Foye Bollen

Do you ever sit in your office wishing you had an impartial sounding board? Someone in your life who would listen to your ideas and ask intelligent questions that pushed you into a higher level of thinking?

Maybe it could be someone similar to a sports coach. A person who was in your corner cheering you on as you strive for greater achievements.

In the past several years a new profession has emerged to fulfill that kind of desire. They are called business and personal coaches, and they do just that: They coach you.

They are not therapists digging through your past to uncover hidden skeletons; nor are they consultants ready to tell you how to improve productivity.

Personal and business coaches don't have the answers. They use their knowledge and experience to help guide you to solutions that will work best for you.

Unlike family or best friends, coaches are not invested in the outcome. Therefore they can offer an objective perspective on your goals and dreams.

People hire coaches because there is a gap between where they are and where they want to be. Bridging this gap can mean making more money, getting more clients, developing solid friendships, focusing on spiritual development, or learning how to take time to enjoy life.

When Gregg Arnold, president of Rainmaker Marketing Inc., first heard about coaching, his immediate response was: "Sounds Like snake oil to me."

Putting aside his skepticism, he talked to Irene Leonard, owner of Coaching for Change in Edmonds.

"I am an independent consultant with 30 years of marketing experience and I was looking for someone to be my sounding board, " Arnold said. "When I talked with Leonard I was amazed at her insights. It wasn't just warm and fuzzy stuff. She definitely helped me refine my priorities."

How it works

Coaching is about change. Therefore, people need to come to coaching willing to make changes and prepared to work for what they want.

"It is about self-awareness and creating your own future, rather than just letting it happen," said Leonard. "You need to say out loud what you want and make an action plan to get there."

A coaching relationship begins with an intake session, where expectations for the coaching relationship are spelled out and an action plan is created. While most people come to coaching to work on their career, there are usually other aspects of their life that also need to be looked at.

After the initial session, coaches communicate with their clients on a regular basis -- usually a half-hour phone call once a week. The typical cost is $200 to $700 per month for weekly sessions.

Coaching relationships typically last a minimum of three months. The stated purposed of coaching is to get a person to the point where he or she doesn't need coaching.

Coaches do not need to have experience in a person's specific field of business to be helpful.

When looking for a personal or business coach it is prudent to ask about their training and to check references. To ensure that the public is getting quality service, the International Coach Federation recently took a proactive step and voluntarily set up a credential program.

Success stories

Georgette Miles (not her real name) practiced law for almost 20 years. Then she took off time to stay home with her son.

"After two years at home, I was a loose ends and didn't know what I wanted to do next. Nor did I have away to approach the question very well," said Miles.

At the suggestion of her husband, Miles signed up with a coach. "Through this process I have decided I am going to be serious about being a creative writer," she said. "I enrolled in the University of Washington extension program in commercial fiction."

Paul Townsend and Jim Peterson, co-owners of Old Mission Designs, moved to the Puget Sound area five months ago and immediately began looking for resources to get their fledging business off the ground.

"Leonard, our coach, helped us divide and conquer our business tasks," said Townsend. "We get so close to our work, we don't see the forest through the trees. She helped us to develop new ideas, encourage us to do active networking, and taught us how to attack gremlins, voices that say we can't do it."

All these clients concur: Their coaches helped them reach their goals by asking pointed questions and giving them specific exercises to work on. Each week they reviewed what worked and what didn't work with regard to meeting their goals.

Having someone in their corner, who held them accountable for their actions (without being judgmental), gave them the impetus they needed to make positive changes in their life.

Excerpts from the November 13-19, 1998. Personal Journal/Supplement to Puget Sound Business Journal and Eastside Business Journal. Reprinted with permission from Puget Sound Business Journal.