09 Jun Leadership Coaching: Is coaching for me?
By Katy Craig, Director of Strategic Initiatives
As you may recall, the Boettcher Foundation has launched a coaching program aimed at helping our funding recipients further develop their leadership characteristics. We believe that by helping our community of Boettcher Scholars and Boettcher Investigators become more effective leaders, we can help them make an even bigger difference in their personal and professional pursuits, enabling them to have an even bigger impact in our communities.
Eighteen months in, we’re gaining valuable insights not only into the impact our program is having, but also into why people choose to be coached – and why they might resist it.
For example, an informal survey of our coaching clients recently revealed more than 84 percent of those being coached say that coaching has helped them consider ways to intentionally navigate change, and 79 percent said they explicitly expanded their self-awareness.
But what I find more interesting is that when asked to talk about their experiences, those being coached talk about their questions and concerns on the front end, followed by what’s different now. Several clients, who have been pleased with the results of their coaching, agreed to share their insights so that others might get a better sense of what to expect.
One of the biggest questions most of them had before they began coaching was simply whether coaching was right for them.
That makes sense. There are a lot of misconceptions about what coaching is and who can benefit from it. Many people think that the purpose of coaching is to address poor performance. But, in reality, coaching can help anyone get more of what they want out of life, making them both more fulfilled and more successful.
“At first, I believed that something had to be wrong in order for me to reach out for coaching,” said Fernando, a 2016 Boettcher Scholar and coaching client. “As I was coached, I realized that I was completely wrong in my initial thoughts. In fact, coaching did not suggest any changes, instead, it served as a strategic platform for personal refection. I found that I was reaching my own conclusion after every phone session simply by answering my own questions. My coach provided the environment for me to be completely true and honest with myself.”
Others may worry that coaching is not for them because of their field or level of career. Sometimes they’ve heard stories that it’s too “touchy-feely” for business-minded executives or others who work in traditionally analytical professions.
That was true for Melanie, a Boettcher Investigator who initially thought coaching “wouldn’t apply to a scientist” but quickly saw the benefits to her career.
“I feel like I have been learning to be a coach, and am much more comfortable managing my own staff and helping them to reach their full potential, rather than me telling them what to do,” she said.
In fact, Melanie has found coaching so relevant and impactful that she’s talked to her division chief about bringing her coach in to meet with her group.
Another common concern among coaching clients was simply whether it will be weird. They worried that talking about themselves would feel uncomfortable or self-indulgent. Most wrestled at some level with feeling a little selfish for taking time for themselves through coaching, and worried that things they said would come across wrong.
“Before I tried coaching, I wasn’t really sure what to think of it,” said 2010 Boettcher Scholar and coaching client Lanna. “I thought, ‘Is this like going to a therapist? Am I going to be sharing my weirdest self with people I respect quite a lot (and who don’t know I’m weird yet)?’”
Once she tried coaching, though, Lanna realized she did not feel awkward at all during her time with her coach.
“My coach acted as a confidential sounding board for my ideas, concerns and goals, and helped me use my own introspection to guide action and results.”
Lanna also shared another common concern, which is the perceived time commitment. Many Boettcher community members have heard of coaching programs that require extra reading and work in addition to multiple sessions a month. That kind of commitment can turn away highly engaged individuals with already-full lives.
But here’s the bottom line: everything that you do (or don’t do) as a result of coaching is your choice. Those enrolled in the Boettcher coaching program sign up for two 45-minute coaching sessions per month at times and on days that work for them. Then they decide on their own action items at the end of each call, and these activities are typically carried out within their everyday activities. The opportunity is not to add something additional on top of your other responsibilities, but to approach your existing responsibilities differently because of coaching.
“The time commitment was minimal, and the results were absolutely worth the time I dedicated to the process,” Lanna added. “Coaching helped me distill from the chaos of daily life what was really important to me, and helped me make my goals tangible and ascertainable. I felt like a much stronger and more self-aware person after just a few coaching sessions.”
Jo, a 2014 scholar and client agreed, adding that “A couple hours a month with a coach was all it took to make a noticeable difference in my life, and I feel satisfied having spent that time working on myself because I see the benefits of it going into what I do time and time again.”
Such feedback from our coaching clients has helped to reinforce the value of the Boettcher Foundation’s investment in coaching for investigators and scholars.
Next month, I will share insights from coaching clients about the direct impact coaching has had on them. But if your interest is already piqued and you’d like more information or a free sample coaching session, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.