Business, Professional Coaching: Becoming Big Business

By Carol Angel, Washington Journal Profiles Editor

Seattle - If Irene Leonard has her way, more and more business and professional people will view having a personal coach as a status symbol. She hopes that when executives get together, one of the first questions they will ask each other is, "Who's your coach?"

Given the rapid growth of business and professional coaching in the past three or four years, Leonard and others in this burgeoning field appear likely to see that happen.

According to Laura Whitworth, a founder of the Coaches Training Institute In San Raphael, Calif., most Fortune 500 companies now use coaches - often on-staff - or their managerial employees, and the demand for coaches "is increasing exponentially."

"We have doubled in a year," says Whitworth, adding that since its start-up in 1992, CTI has trained 3,500 coaches and is moving toward 4,000. Only about 10 percent of those who complete the training go on to become certified, she adds. In coaching, the coach works one on one - often by telephone with people who are considering career changes, making job transitions within their company, trying to change their business strategies, or just seeking more balance in their lives.

Leonard, whose business is called Coaching for Change, is not the only coach in the Pacific Northwest who is bullish on the profession, but she is one of the few who are attorneys.

Others have come to the ranks with backgrounds in counseling and therapy, or from the business world.

For example, Vikki Brock of Call Me Coach in Bellevue has an MBA and worked for Boeing for 21 years. Linda Miller, whose business is Interlink Training & Coaching in Kirkland, was working in behavioral sciences before becoming a coach. Marsha MacInnes of Insight Career & Business Coaching in Seattle has a Masters degree in counseling and practiced counseling for 12 years. Jim Rohrbach, of Mentor Networks USA in Bellevue, was a consultant for mid-tier, entrepreneurial businesses. And Steve Troutman of Solutions Strategy in Seattle worked at Microsoft.

In the coaching relationship, notes Leonard, clients articulate and clarify their professional and personal goals, and steps are set up to achieve these goals.

The coach's role is to remind the client of their overall goals and refocus them toward actions the client holds important. Part of the power of coaching comes from the time spent with a coach, says Leonard, which provides the opportunity they want in their lives.

Methods vary, but in Leonard's practice, after the initial interview she has a weekly check-in with clients as to what progress has been made, and brainstorms ideas for improving various areas of their lives. Assignments are given that are to be carried out in between sessions. The process provides the follow up and accountability that are necessary to make changes.

Rohrbach says that building \up trust and empathy with the coach helps clients move forward and achieve their goals. "The coach listens and provides frank, honest and empathetic feedback," he adds.

The Academy for Coach Training in Bellevue, the only coaching school located in the Seattle area, began training coaches in 1997. According to President Fran Fisher, "We have students moving through at the rate of about 100 per year, in various stages. We're growing so fast - we've been doubling our revenue every year for the past three years."

Miller, a co-founder with Brock of the Puget Sound Coaches Association, says there are about 120 professional and business coaches locally. Forty of them are registered with the International Coaching Federation, the professional association for coaches, based in Angel Fire, N.M. The ICF's total membership has quadrupled form 500 to over 2,000 in the past two years.

Whitwoth believes there are many reasons for the growth demand: "Thanks to technology, there is more to do and less time to do it in. People want to get more order, consistency, and sanity in their lives, and to do it relatively quickly. And more people are coming to be trained in coaching skills because they find how much it helped them, and want to do it for a living.

The concept of coaching in the athletic arena has become very sophisticated, says MacInees, "and we translate that into the business world. As in athletics, someone is very good and wants to get better, and the coach helps them meet their objectives."

According to Ron Roesler, executive vice president of the Academy for Coach Training, personal coaching differs from therapeutic counseling in that coaching "comes for a place that says the person is already whole and has their own answers, and no one else can provide answers for their lives - whether it's career related if personal."

Coaching also differs from consulting according to coaches.

"My experience is that consultants tell people what to do, and that even though business and law firms hire consultants they don't often follow through on what the consultant tells them to do," says Leonard.

Ideally, she says, "A coach could work in tandem with a consultant, to help people discover for themselves what they need to do. When it seems like something is your own idea, you are more likely to carry it out that if it comes form someone else."

Clients fall into a variety of categories. In Rohrbach's practice, they may sales personnel who aren't doing as well as they would like; or people who have been doing technical work but who need different skills as they grow into upper management. Sometimes he is called in to help someone who is being downsized and out, or to work with a person fairly high up in the organization who is in "career derailment mode," to help them find their direction.

"The very skill sets that helped them get there are stopping them form making the next leap," he says. Often it's a question of helping the person let go of the need to micromanage and learn to delegate more authority and responsibility.

MacInnes says her clients "are professionals, well-educated, accomplished, motivated. They have fulfilled what they can do where they are, and are ready for a change. I specialize in those who are becoming, or are, entrepreneurial." About one-third of Leonard's clients are attorneys, the rest are chief executive officers and business people. Many of the lawyers, she says, are unhappy with their practices, and "bringing them back to what brought them to law in the first place."

Some coaches work intensely with one company. Microsoft is the primary client for Steve Troutman, who coaches teams that mentor 600 or so college interns who come to the Redmond campus each year; he also helps the interns manage that relationship for their side.

"Microsoft hires as many college students as it can, and this is one way to get them to fall in love with the company," says Troutman. "For the interns, there is a tremendous amount of value in teaching them how to use the resource that is their mentor."

Troutman, a former Microsoft employee, says that when he began at the company, "It was horrible to be new there, and others were having similar experiences. So I developed this program while there, and they asked me to continue it after I left."

Troutman's coaching at Microsoft is done in a classroom setting, and coaches who do executive training usually do it face-to-face.

But most other coaching is done by telephone, since that's the approach that often fits best with clients' busy lifestyles.

Some coaches, however prefer face-to-face contact. Marsha prefers doing her coaching in person. "I like my clients to get away from work. I do some by phone; but when we are being creative together in the same room, I like it better", MacInnes says.

Coaching is not cheap. Monthly fees range from $350 on up, for weekly or twice weekly half-hour sessions. On the plus side, coaches say most clients find three to six months of coaching is sufficient to get them well on the way to making the life changes they seek.

Just as coaching has gotten to be big business, so has the training of coaches. Training approaches and costs vary widely. Coach U Inc. and corporate Coach U International (CCUI), related schools located in Steamboat Springs, Colo., offer two types of training: live clinics using 200 facilitators worldwide; and a business coaching program done via teleconferencing. Tuition is $3,494 ($1,995 with discounts). Miller, director of clinic training for CCUI, says this year she will be holding sessions in Toronto and Queensland, Australia, and possibly Singapore.

California-based CTI conducts training programs in person in various cities in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Co-founder Whitworth says the course involves four weekend classes, then a full-day exam; the process takes at least a year. Cost of the program is $395 for the first class and $535 for each of the three additional classes. The certification program, which takes a minimum of another six months, is separate, conducted by teleconferencing, with weekly classes, supervised coaching sessions and special labs.

Brock, who teaches at the Academy for Coach Training in addition to having her own practice, says about 40 percent of her clientele are people who want to learn coaching skills. ACT, owned by the husband-and-wife team of Roesler and Fisher, has a program that involves five different courses and takes about a year; the cost is $5475.

Washington Journal August 2, 1999.


For more information about "Coaching for Change", contact Irene Leonard's website at www.coachingforchange.com or call (206) 723-9900.

Copyright 1999. Reprinted with permission from the Daily Journal Corporation.
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