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Coaching at Work:  All Coaches are not the Same 

Do you have a coach at work?  Do you think of your current boss or project manager as a coach?  Your direct manager is just one type of coach available to you in the workplace.  Yet there are many other kinds of coaches and types of coaching if one knows where to look.  Different people, particularly at different stages in their careers, can benefit greatly from different types of coaches.  

Regardless of the type of coach, however, all coaches share one goal: equipping people with the skills, knowledge, and opportunities that they need to develop their capabilities and achieve success.  The most common types of coaches that focus on individuals relative to their work are personal coaches, career coaches, leadership coaches, and executive coaches.  Each of these types of coaches varies by the business knowledge and depth of specific training required by the coach to perform effectively on the job, the formality of the coaching effort, and the degree to which the work organization is proactively involved with or interested in the outcomes. 

Personal coaches help individuals by sharing insights and lessons from their own life experience.  A personal coach is comparable to a mentor with one difference the individual who wants the help usually initially approaches the coach for help.  In contrast, a mentoring relationship can start with either the mentors initiative or the coachees.  Personal coaching helps to cultivate an individuals skills and may tap into their unused potential.  Personal coaches must build trusting relationships with their coachees.  This trust allows both the coach and coachee to share personal experiences, which often include success stories but also may include disappointment or failures.  This intimate sharing can serve to energize the coachee and give them the drive to succeed.  If an individual finds fortunate circumstances at work, a personal coaching relationship may be developed with a leader within his or her organization.  But if that relationship does not materialize, a personal coach may be found in other aspects of life, such as sports or community activities. 

Career coaches generally have strong expertise within an individuals chosen career field or industry.  Career coaches, as with personal coaches, may be found inside or outside of ones current organization.  For example, a junior finance manager might look toward a chief financial officer or controller to advise them on strategies to advance their finance career.  This senior career field coach might work in the same organization as the junior manager or could be employed elsewhere.  Career coaches may connect their coachees with senior contacts for networking purposes, or may provide advice on joining professional associations and obtaining valuable certifications.  This often occurs in career coaching efforts through outplacement firms. 

Leadership coaches focus on developing the management and leadership skills of an organizations high potential talent.  Leadership coaches may either serve as team leaders actively mobilizing a work team toward common goals, or may serve as a leadership coach through a formal leadership-coaching program.  Leadership coaches develop their coachees by serving as a model for individual accountabity, inspiring trust, and leading-by-example.  Leadership coaches strive to provide real-time feedback regarding their protgs management style and tactics, so that the coachee can adapt quickly to different situations.  Leadership coaches also typically schedule formal feedback and development sessions with their coachees throughout the year.  Leadership coaches serve as a growth engine for the next generation of organizational leaders.  Leadership coaches primary duty is to develop the bench strength of capable leaders at every level of the organization.  Formal leadership coaching programs exist in several major U.S. Corporations.  Successfully executed leadership coaching programs provide the human talent for corporate succession planning efforts.

Executive coaches work exclusively with senior leaders and their teams to build individual leadership competencies and to promote effective working relationships that improve overall business performance.  Executive coaches focus on developing strategic thinking skills, broadening emotional competencies, expanding coalitions and networks, and building organizational culture through living the corporate values.  An executive gains the greatest benefit from an executive coach if that executive becomes self-aware.  Self-awareness suggests the executives willingness and ability to look at his or her strengths and liabilities and to seek help where there is need to compensate for what is lacking.  During the process of executive coaching, the executive comes to understand what they do best and also where they might benefit from coaching.  Many CEOs pride themselves on being master coaches of their managers and promoters of company values.  They tend to support the use of external and internal coaches in their organizations to enhance executives development and achieve business results.   

When an individual or company begins to looks for coaches, the best outcome is likely to be achieved when there is a match between a companys desired involvement in the coaching effort, the formality of the process, and the purpose of the coaching effort.  In particular, leadership and executive coaches require greater business acumen, a broader understanding of the organizational context in which an individual works, and more rigorous training in leadership skills development, group dynamics, behavioural change and organizational culture and performance.  Industrial and Organizational Psychologists are specifically trained in understanding, measuring and motivating individuals in the context of work.  Please refer to the Consultant Locator section on the SIOP website (www.siop.org) to find the right coach for your needs. 

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