Game Plan

By Hannah Wallace January 31, 2007

Say you're a mid-level bank manager who aims to be president or a real estate agent who wants to switch careers. Who do you call for help?

Just as people turn to personal trainers to get their bodies in shape, they're now turning to personal coaches when their careers need a boost. People are even using coaches for "personal branding," marketing themselves in the same way a product or celebrity is promoted.

Business coaching and its variants-executive coaching, life coaching or personal coaching-are relatively new fields and so far, they're unregulated. Coaches run the gamut from psychologists to former executives and entrepreneurs who decide they have what it takes to help others.

"Coaching is about helping you clarify your goals and developing a workable plan to achieve them," says Sue Engelhart, president of the Greater Sarasota Coaches Alliance, a two-year-old organization that offers networking and training to coaches. She says that includes "changing behaviors that may be holding you back."

Because anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a coach, professional coaching organizations are bringing training and certification to the profession to help coaches develop their skills.

Sarasota Coaches Alliance members shared the following tips for finding and getting the most out of a business coach.

Winning Strategies

1. Ask about credentials, references and fees. The National Coaches Federation and the Sarasota Coaches Alliance both offer credentials. Some coaches do face-to-face meetings and others work by phone or online, or a combination. Hourly fees in Sarasota range from about $60 to $150. "Look to see if they have a business background, have consulted or have a methodology they can articulate," says Richard Augspurger, a psychologist and owner of Human Capital Management Consulting. "They should be open about that."

2. Pick a coach you feel you can trust. "A coaching relationship, like any relationship, requires honesty and openness," says Ellen Brennan, who specializes in business and career coaching. To get the most out of this relationship, you must consider the ideas and suggestions a coach may provide. "Coaches may offer suggestions about trying new things, but they should not be telling you what to do," Brennan says. "Coaches can help motivate you while you are learning something new, but you are not making changes to please your coach."

3. Examine your assumptions. "You will get more out of coaching if you are willing to examine your ways of thinking, expectations and beliefs," says Brennan. Coach Elena Pell, owner of Equilibria, echoes that advice. "Oftentimes, issues are tied to other issues that you haven't seen yet. Marcel Proust said that success is being able to see the same landscape with new eyes."

4. Be patient. "Some changes occur quickly. Others take more time," says Barbara Somma, owner of Defining Destiny. "When you are trying to change, and you hit a roadblock, remember it takes 19 to 21 repetitions to create a habit." Somma says that rather than becoming frustrated, discuss what you are experiencing with your coach. "Then you can work together to identify what's hindering you and turn challenges into accomplishments."

5. Be accountable. "Your coaching experience will only be as strong as your willingness to be accountable for putting new behaviors and ideas into action," says Mary Wolf of Mary Wolf Enterprises. "It is an ideal time to explore parts of you that have gone untapped. Use this opportunity to learn and grow and be ready to create a new and exciting path for yourself."

For more information, visit

Filed under
Show Comments