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Personal coaching is all the rage. Harvard Business Review reports that coaching is a $1 billion a year industry, but just what is a personal coach, professional coach or life coach, and why are so many executives and individuals using them to catapult their careers, to break free from 9-to-5 jobs and to create better, more fulfilling, richer lives?
First, what is a professional coach? The International Coach Federation (ICF) — the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches — defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
Second, whos using coaches? In a 2009 study of the professional coaching industry by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), they found that coaching was used by 90 percent of organizations surveyed, and that, even in the economic downturn, 70 percent report that they are increasing or maintaining their commitment to coaching. Coaching is clearly popular, but what does a professional coach do?
As with any growing profession, there can be a lot of confusion. To help distinguish fact from fiction, here are the top 5 personal coaching myths:
Myth 1: Personal coaches are professionals who can help you achieve your goals.
Fact: Some, but certainly not all, coaches are professionals who can help you reach your goals. One of the problems in the coaching industry is that anyone can call themselves a professional coach, life coach, personal coach, etc. Jennifer Corbin, the president of Coach U, one of the largest and oldest coach training organizations in the world, said, Technically, anyone can hang up a shingle as coaching is not regulated. Many people coaching have no idea what coaching is as they havent been trained or havent been coached by a professionally trained and credentialed coach. There are schools that will offer a credential after three hours of training, and people read a book or watch a TV program and decide, Im a coach! As a result, the quality of coaches varies dramatically. I strongly suggest working with a coach that has been accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF provides independent certification that is the benchmark for the professional coaching industry.
Fact: Coaching is as much a perk to your employees as their computers are. Employees may view coaching as a value-added benefit, but successful organizations see coaching as something much more than a perk. Done right, professional coaching can drive sales, employee engagement, creativity, workplace satisfaction and bottom-line results. Wellness programs have been shown to provide approximately a 300 percent return on investment (ROI). In other words, companies who spend $1 in a wellness program (e.g., exercise clubs, personal trainers, smoking cessation workshops) earn $3 as a result of decreased turnover, fewer sick days, reduced health insurance costs, etc. Its no wonder wellness programs have experienced such tremendous growth — it makes financial sense!
The ROI from professional coaching is even more astonishing. According to a Manchester Consulting Group study of Fortune 100 executives, the Economic Times reports coaching resulted in a ROI of almost six times the program cost as well as a 77 percent improvement in relationships, 67 percent improvement in teamwork, 61 percent improvement in job satisfaction and 48 percent improvement in quality. Additionally, a study of Fortune 500 telecommunications companies by MatrixGlobal found executive coaching resulted in a 529 percent ROI.
Myth 3: Personal coaches can only help you reach personal goals; professional coaches can only help you reach business goals.
Fact: A good coach is someone who is an expert at helping others create positive change in their lives. For some clients, the positive change they most want may be focused on personal goals such as relationships, time management, work-life balance, stress reduction, simplification or health, but other clients may be more interested in professional or business goals such as leadership, getting a promotion, starting a business, etc. An effective coach works with the client to help them live a better, richer life — regardless of their specific types of goals.
Myth 4: Coaching is for problem employees.
Fact: Coaching used to be a euphemism for, youre doing lousy work, but, before we can fire you, we need to show that weve done everything we can to support you so we dont get hit with an employment lawsuit. No mas. According to Paul Michelman, editor of Harvard Business Schools Management Update, Whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a 2004 survey by Right Management Consultants, 86 percent of companies said they used coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders.
Good coaching focuses on an individuals strengths and aims to help the client achieve what they want more of in life and at work. The goal? To help the client identify and achieve their greater goals and to help them live a better life. A good coach isnt there to fix anyone, but to help the client navigate toward a more engaged and compelling future.
Myth 5: Personal coaching takes too much time.
Fact: Professional coaching is a high-leverage activity. Clients can achieve remarkable progress toward their desired future in less than an hour per month of coaching. There is a wide spectrum of how coaching is delivered. Some coaches prefer to meet one-on-one with clients in an office, but most recommend telephone sessions for the ease of use, minimization of distractions, better privacy, greater efficiency, and for (yes, apparently) better connection to the client. Best practices in coaching call for between two and four sessions per month that last at least 20 minutes and up to 60 minutes. A sweet spot for many coaches and clients seems to be three sessions per month for 20 to 45 minutes a session — a miniscule investment of time for the results achieved.
(Robert Pagliarini is aCBSMoneyWatch columnist and the author of The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose and the national best-seller The Six Day Financial Makeover. Visit .)
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