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How a Coach Can Distinguish You in the Workplace

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Having a personal career coach for C-level executives is expected as part of their continuing professional development and it also makes great business sense. Coaches can also be helpful for non executives in various stages of your career. A coach can help polish your communication skills, develop and implement effective leadership strategies in your workplace, and plan a road map for you to move forward on the promotional ladder. The coaching menu varies greatly and the research is showing that professionals who work with a coach are making great strides in the workplace that positively impact performance and results.

Some organizations provide coaching in-house, especially in the upper ranks of the organizational chart. But for those of you who don't have this as part of your workplace benefits package, seeking out career coaching on your own is a worthwhile investment to consider.

A Lesson from Athletes

For decades, professional athletes have utilized coaches to help them change behaviors, stretch their physical limits, and achieve performance goals. Career coaches utilize a developmental approach to help an individual reach their objective just as a major league baseball coach leads individual players to work as part of a team and win games.

But the professional sports teams take it a step farther and employ specialized coaches to tap into specific skill sets from the physical trainer and the sports psychologist to the pitching coach on a baseball team, each of whom serve a niche function. In the work world, coaches can help you develop new skills, communicate more effectively, and bring individuals on teams together to achieve greater performance potential, for example. Find a coach that specializes in exactly what you need since one size does not fit all.

Another added benefit is the opportunity to have someone provide regular feedback and champion your personal cause to optimize your success. But you must choose your coach wisely since this personal relationship is built on trust and will only work with open lines of communication. Check references, ask for referrals, and always test drive since a reputable coach should offer a complimentary consultation.

Personal Guru

While having a personal career guru may not seem financially feasible for those at beginning or mid level careers, consider utilizing a coach only for very specific workplace challenges. To avoid Laurence J. Peter's famed principle that in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence, you might seek out a coach if you find yourself in a new leadership role without the skills or experience to effectively lead your team.

Instead of floundering as a new leader with added responsibilities and no clue how to manage and inspire your flock, seek out a leadership coach who can show you how. Even a seasoned leader can seek the help of a coach to get her team unstuck with behaviors or mind sets that are holding them back and preventing maximum results and performance.

Coaches can also help prepare you for a new job opportunity, polishing your professional toolkit from resume and cover letters to your interview skills. While coaches can be very useful in the preparation and execution of a job search plan, most are not recruiters who will help you find actual job opportunities so be clear about what you need and want before entering into this professional relationship.

Your Coach is Not Your Shrink

A coach should be an effective sounding board for your issues at work and often plays the role of the cheerleader to motivate you to implement your newly honed skills. But, a coach is not a dumping ground for your emotional baggage and should be viewed as a professional resource that can provide an objective perspective about complicated work issues as well as solutions. Although not a substitute for therapy, working with a coach can give you clarity to work through difficult scenarios on the job that may give you peace of mind.

Also called executive coaches, these professionals can help you put your goals into practice and effect change that has a powerful impact on your organization and your career. But don't fret if a coach seems out of your financial grasp since there are many ways to seek out free counsel from experienced professionals in the form of mentorship.

Mentors as Coaches

Everyone should develop a personal board of directors they can look to for professional advice. The best case scenario is to include professionals from outside of your current organization so they can provide objective wisdom and suggestions. Or, consider going outside of your immediate department at work to utilize the in-house expertise and institutional history within your workplace.

Whether you are a rookie employee, a mid level professional, or a seasoned executive, consider how you can pay-it-forward to others who need coaching in your network and serve as a mentor. If you have the wherewithal to hire an executive or career coach to help you achieve your maximum potential you are investing in your future success. Coaching in the workplace is here to stay so take advantage of this any way you can get it!

Caroline Dowd-Higgins pens a career transition blog called "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" (www.notthecareeriordered.com). She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.