Career Coaching: Part II – so you want to be a leader?

Written by: Rob Moore
Published on: 7 Jun 2015

Following last week’s introduction to the subject of career coaching, where I likened it to the benefits you can get from employing a personal trainer, I was intrigued to see an article in one of the Saturday editions of a major newspaper, a full page piece extolling the virtues of a trainer with the unlikely name of, and I kid you not, Fabrice Le Physique, who charges £1,000 an hour.

The good news is that career coaching, even, I suspect, with the industry’s top gurus, is not going to cost you anything remotely approaching £1,000 an hour. Moreover, whilst yielding to no-one in my admiration for the benefits of being fit, you do not need pectorals and a six-pack to command the heights of industry.  Yes, being fit helps, especially as most successful people do work longish hours, but there is far more to business success than your ability to burn the calories on a treadmill for four hours.

That said, there are similarities in the approach.  A good personal trainer will, of course, start by assessing your current level of (un)fitness.  Similarly, every career development programme should start by assessing your personal levels of business and management ‘fitness’.  In other words, we start with a review of your career to date, what you’ve done, where you’ve done it, what qualifications you have, what your aspirations are and how best to match the coaching to your own personal circumstances.

This bespoke approach is essential.  How often have you taken part in a company scheme where you are stuck through a Myers-Briggs or other psychometric test, assigned a label and then feel stuck with it?  You may, or may not, be asked about your career to date, but there is a good chance that the real reason you are taking part in the programme is because someone ‘up there’ wants to evaluate you against your peers, partly because it’s the done thing and partly because they want to see who is going to help develop the company further.   Note, it’s not your choice and your aspirations that are being considered here, but your employer/boss’s.  How much better would it be, and how much more would companies get from such exercises, if each individual’s goals were genuinely considered?  In this way, by focusing on the person and where they want to go (and where they are capable of going), it is far more likely that the firm will get more out of these people than if they perceive they are part of a wholesale exercise to separate the sheep from the goats. 

I have a friend who went through exactly just such a programme with his company.  All the board were put through it, and each given one-to-one sessions with the coach.  However, while they found it interesting and valuable, they all felt that they were being evaluated by the CEO rather than being genuinely helped to develop. 

This is where individual coaching, the business equivalent of our friend Fabrice above, is far better.  It is focused on you: the person who really matters.  It allows you to consider your position within your organisation, dispassionately and with expert outside advice, and then it’s you who can control and make the decisions that matter to your career.  It may well be that this includes sticking in with your current employer and using your new found skills to move to the next level before moving on, or being headhunted in recognition of those enhanced skills.  But, as stated above, the first thing to do is to review your career and set your objectives. 

Rob Moore, MD, The Career Management Organisation