Finding the right leadership coach can be a difficult task. But, with some guidelines, the search time can be reduced, and the return multiplied. In this article I’ll give you some things to consider and examples of how I’ve used these things in my leadership development.
The first, and foundational question is “why am I seeking a coach?” This may seem simplistic, but it’s an important question. In my article 21st Century Leadership: Coaching and Leading are Indivisible, I make the point that the view of a coach held by many is that of a sports coach. However, the service provided by most sports coaches is not actually coaching, it’s teaching and mentoring. This should come as no surprise since most of us met our first coach in school and that coach was in fact a professional educator! As both a coach and professional educator myself, I am always careful to make it clear when I am teaching and when I am coaching. As someone seeking a coach, you should also be clear if you are looking for mentoring and teaching (getting guidance from someone else) or coaching (discovering the guidance you already possess).
I recently inquired about coaching from a writer who has ghost written many bestselling leadership books. Since he was advertising that he was now coaching, I was excited to find out more. However, when I spoke to his assistant, she informed me that I would have to pitch my book idea as if I were seeking a publisher, detail the book contents and focus, and discuss my publishing and marketing strategy. From this list of requirements, it was clear that this successful author was actually teaching and mentoring, not coaching. Anyone who evaluates your approach and gives you an opinion or direction is mentoring or teaching, not coaching. A well-trained coach won’t tell you what they think; they will ask you what you think.
Second, if you are not sure if you want coaching or mentoring, choose both! A coach is beneficial when you don’t know what to do. A teacher is beneficial when you don’t know how to do it. Frequently folks think they need a teacher when they only need a coach. As a leadership coach I’ve talked to several folks who thought they needed leadership education when they actually just needed some coaching to uncover what they already knew.
One man who really helped me with this is Eric Ring, a multimillionaire entrepreneur who spends a lot of his time helping folks uncover their undiscovered leadership ability. Two years ago I was volunteering on staff at Ultimate Leadership at Eric’s camp in Middleton, NY when a storm blew in with heavy rain and high winds. We had well over 200 people in camp and the sudden storm resulted in broken trees, downed tents, and the need for some immediate safety actions. As a combat veteran and experienced leader, I took charge of a small group and started directing activities. When I was able to get Eric on the radio he changed my whole perception with two questions (coaching) and a direction (teaching). Folks like Eric who can both coach and teach are rare, but when you find them, don’t let them get away!
Third, but perhaps most important, don’t procrastinate! Leadership is influence (John Maxwell) and every day you delay your leadership development is a day you delay your ability to influence the world around you and achieve your heart’s desires!
David is a certified leadership speaker, coach, and teacher who has over 35 years of leadership experience in government, industry, and the military. Visit him at http://www.davidlangleadership.com
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