What Others Tend to Ask
Here are the top 10 questions I receive from prospective executive coaching clients in non-profit organizations. If you have a question that isn't answered here, just ask!
When is a good time to start coaching?
What are the differences between executive coaching and psychotherapy?
Do you integrate 360 (or multi-rater) reviews into your coaching?
Are you a “touchy-feely” coach or more of a left-brained, analytic coach?
How do you physically do your coaching: in-person, by phone, Internet video chat, email, texts...?
How will I know if the coaching is working?
How fast does the coaching work?
Will you coach more than one person in an organization?
What does coaching with you cost?
What is the symbolic significance of the pictures of wheat here on the site?
Q. When is a good time to start coaching?
A. Many coaching assignments begin at a turning point in a career, or at an inflection point in the organization. For example, when someone undertakes a new role such as a promotion or change in responsibilities. Or when the organization experiences a change in conditions such as rapid growth, or a decline in revenues or staffing, or is embroiled in a crisis.
Some clients engage in ongoing coaching without a precipitating event. They simply want to keep their instrument in tune and skills at peak. Coaching serves as a point of leverage for greatest personal effectiveness.
Anytime is a good time for coaching. Some are just more critical than others. To start your coaching, go here.
What are the differences between coaching and psychotherapy?
A. The dialog between client and coach can look similar to that between a psychotherapist and patient. However, the intent of coaching is very different from that of psychotherapy which is a valuable form of treatment for psychic injury or dysfunction in mental processes or behaviors. The word therapy literally means to heal.
Coaching, by contrast, is designed as a mechanism to encourage and enable professional or personal growth.
A thorough explanation of the many clear distinctions between coaching and psychotherapy can be found in this one page table.
Q. Do you integrate 360 (or multi-rater) reviews into your coaching?
A. Yes, in two variations. First, if you already have results from a recent 360 report, we can review those results for their implications in our current coaching assignment. Second, we can consider making use of my SphereReview™ 360 process which is based on highly effective, streamlined interviews with individuals with whom you interact.
Q. Are you a “touchy-feely” coach or more of a left-brained, analytic coach?
A. I share the conclusions of the great 20th century psychologist George A. Kelly, who contended that there is an artificial distinction between thoughts and feelings when it comes to interpreting meaning distilled from experience. As a developmental coach, I work with clients to make sense and meaning from their experience and aspirations.
I usually start coaching in the logical domain (the metaphoric left brain), and subtly shift to the more affective, feeling dimensions (the metaphoric right brain, the heart, and soma or embodiment experiences).
In the process, clients intellectualize. They also laugh and sometimes cry and experience a wide range of human responses. (Table pounding has been known to happen.) The goal: make sense of human experience in a fully human way.
Q. How do you physically do your coaching: in-person, by phone, Internet video chat, email, texts...?
A. Yes to all of these means. All work just fine (though I am reluctant to coach only by texting). Whichever means you prefer is how we'll coach. We certainly can do a mix of all these, as circumstances dictate.
Q. How will I know if the coaching is working? How do I assess the impact or value of coaching?
A. You can and should regularly assess the progress of your coaching. Here are some ways to evaluate your coaching experience.
• Observe shifts in your attitudes, changes in your thoughts and actions. The impact of coaching sometimes shows up in unexpected ways. Clients have told me that they knew their coaching was having an impact based on how they responded while stuck in traffic, how they changed their responses to their children, how they surprised themselves by what they chose to say in meetings, how they modified patterns of interaction with co-workers, how they made decisions differently…
• Notice what others are noticing in you. Many clients, after coaching for a while, report receiving interesting remarks from coworkers, stakeholders, and others with whom they interact. They’re usually told, “something is different about you.” They may not name precisely what’s changed, but they’ll know that something about you has evolved, improved. You may even hear that from a partner or spouse. That’s when you know that the coaching has really taken hold.
• Assess the progress directly. Are you seeing the outcomes that you hoped would result from coaching? Look at your data and metrics. What difference is coaching making? Ultimately assess whether you are obtaining the results you intended to receive when you decided to begin coaching.
All these indicators can all be signs that your coaching is working. And, yes, there are ways to establish an ROI (return on investment) for coaching if you need to do that. (I have a worksheet for determining such an ROI, but clients rarely feel the need to perform such calculations.)
In a fruitful coaching relationship, routinely assessing progress is a central part of your learning and development.
Q. How fast does the coaching work?
A. One of the big factors, naturally, is the agenda for change. You could have a coaching meeting and take action five minutes afterwards with immediate results. But that isn’t the real objective for coaching. Building sustained new capacity is.
The length of that process is a function of how often we have interacted, and the conversations we’ve had during those meetings, and what’s taken place in between them. Broadly speaking, sustaining a shift in the way you view and interact with the world, will take about three months or so. And it may be about six months before the full effect is evidenced.
Coaching often works in a non-linear and unpredictable way. This is not surprising given the vagaries of humanity and the complexity of every individual’s differing circumstances. The upshot: Coaching tends to work cumulatively and apparently erratically — meaning there can be few signs of progress initially. Then some plateauing. Then what appears to be huge leaps of growth. Still, in other persons that pattern is basically reversed.
Such is the nature of human development. Not linear. Not predictable. Entirely individual.
Q. Will you coach more than one person in an organization? I understand that most coaches won’t do that.
A. For years, I ardently refused to coach two or more clients in a direct reporting relationship. That was so I could serve the best interest of one person in that organization. However, on occasion I have made exceptions.
Why? Because –– in the right group –– coaching multiple individuals in a group, and across an executive team, adds to my understanding of their complex whole. In turn, that adds to my understanding of how the individual fits and works within the organization which then helps me to help the individual.
The reason that is so: coaching to a client’s self-report ("my story according to me") is extremely limiting. One's own perspective on a large system (senior execs operate in and influence a large system) is distorted by the limits of self-reported data. This is why getting the perspective of others into the coaching mix is so attractive to add (even by standard 360s, for all their flaws).
I have strict requirements for coaching multiple clients in the same organization. In advance of the program's debut:
- Each client must know that I am coaching the others in their organization.
- Each must receive a written statement specifying the confidentiality of our conversations.
- The CEO (or other senior sponsoring executive) must publicly assure -- and thoroughly honor -- the confidentiality and integrity of the process.
Each client and the organization should benefit from this arrangement. By listening to issues up and down and across reporting lines, I gain a systemic understanding of both multiple organizational issues and perceptions of the individuals I am coaching.
Though coaching multiple individuals within an organization, my job as coach is still to focus on each individual person within the system. How does each see their circumstances? What does each want? What might each do? To what will each commit? And so on.
I interact with each person one at a time and work with (and champion) each one individually in their own confidential sessions.
This kind of arrangement — coaching up and down a reporting line, or across an executive team — is unusual. For it to work requires an enlightened organizational environment, a highly selective (and skilled) coach, and a very committed, supportive, sponsoring executive.
Q. What does coaching with you cost?
A. I offer a variety of coaching programs at different levels of investment (fees). One likely will work for you and your situation.
Q. What is the symbolic significance of the pictures of wheat here on the site?
A. As a kernel of wheat can be fashioned into a near infinite variety of life-sustaining foods, the potentials of a person’s life can be expressed in innumerable ways. At any moment, you are but the kernel of what you could become.
How a given person fulfills his or her potentials depends on many, many variables within the circumstances of the moment. Conditions change greatly over the course of one’s life. This is why coaching can be so useful. It can provide perspective on the current context, increase your understanding of your talents, clarify your objectives, sharpen your thinking, develop your skills, and help you to plan and shape your actions aimed at realizing the life you want to lead.