A few years ago, I got myself into a tricky situation. When I was leaving work, I entered the parking garage and realized it was going to be impossible to enter my car. There was less than an inch between my minivan and the neighboring cars, both on the driver and passenger side. I had parked in a hurry that morning, and as a result, not well.
I managed to enter the van through the tailgate and climbed ungraciously over the rows of seats toward the front. But the real trouble started when I tried to back out of the stall. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t back out without fear of denting both my car and the neighboring cars. Panic started to set in as I envisioned explaining to my spouse why our van had an enormous scrape along its side and explaining to the owner of one of the neighboring cars, why there was a matching scrape on their car.
At that moment, when I was stuck contemplating my options―none of which seemed good―a kind person appeared in the parking garage and asked me if I would like some help. Patiently, she guided me out of the stall, letting me know how far I could turn my wheel to exit at the perfect angle, and when to straighten the car out, so that I could back out of the space. I thanked her profusely.
I also left work that day thinking about how valuable her coaching had been to me and how we all need help from a coach at some point in our work lives.
Coaching can be useful in many situations.
In a jam or a difficult situation, expert coaching can give us an outside perspective. Sometimes we’re too close to a situation or our perspective is clouded by emotion or past baggage. A coach can help us reframe a situation and think of appropriate responses. (Without the outside perspective of my coach in the parking garage, I might not have gotten out of that jam unscathed.)
If we’re doing something new, like starting a new job or learning a new task, a coach can provide critical support. They can connect us with valuable resources, provide guidance in practicing new skills, build our confidence by reminding us of our strengths, and provide a much-needed sounding board.
When we’re wanting to improve an existing skill, coaches can provide important feedback about our performance and suggest steps that will help us be the best we can be.
How do you find a good coach?
Many of us find good coaches in our managers and supervisors. They are invested in our good performance and are often able to help us succeed. We can also find coaches in our colleagues. We can connect with peers by:
- Joining a networking group or professional organization in our discipline
- Meeting with someone who does our job in another institution or organization
- Searching out coworkers who have a certain skill we want to learn or information that we need
More and more, in the workplace today, professional coaches are also being used to help employees succeed, especially during times of transition into leadership positions.
Coaching is an excellent tool to increase your self awareness and leadership effectiveness. If you’ve used a coach before, I encourage you to share what have you learned as a result. If you haven’t, what areas of your work or life might benefit from some coaching?