Coaching: The Next Step for Your Business & Life?

©2015 by Robert A. Isaacson, MA, MSS All rights reserved. Previously published by Main Line Times

  • Jane is the new CEO of a $7 million software company. She’s battling with her vice president of sales. He’s defensive, passive aggressive, and creates chaos. Jane has difficulties confronting him. She’s overly “nice,” nurturing, and a consensus builder. Jane wants to be more assertive, clearer, and direct about her performance expectations.
  • Overcoming poverty, Donna has built a thriving commercial cleaning company. She’s highly charismatic, a leadership role model for others. Sometimes she doubts herself, particularly her ability to make sales contacts to propel her business forward. Also, Donna’s management team needs help to work cooperatively as a team and get things done.
  • Mark is about to take over his family’s insurance business. A former Green Beret with strong leadership skills, John gives too many orders. He needs to relax, tune into the needs of his staff, communicative better, and sell more.
What do these 3 people have in common? They’re all successful individuals. They want to create larger, more robust businesses and resolve personal challenges. And they’re coaching clients. Perhaps you’ve heard about coaching. While a relatively new professional service, coaching has grown by “leaps and bounds” in the last 30 years. Financial planner Thomas Leonard created life or personal coaching in the early 1980s, when he found his clients wanted more than just financial advice. They were asking questions about how to lead their lives in better ways and Leonard wanted to help them find answers. He would later (in 1992) form Coach University, the first and today the largest coach-training program in the world. Fortune 500 businesses brought coaches into the corporate world during the 1990s. These coaches work with chief executive officers, top managers, and salespeople, helping to improve leadership skills, build more productive work teams, and sell more products and services. Today, there are thousands of executive, business, and personal coaches around the world, working with clients in hundreds of niche markets. The International Coach Federation alone (, a non-profit standards and credentialing body for coaches, has thousands of members, and 177 chapters in 31 countries. Thousands of articles and television segments have featured coaches and the work they do. Executive and business coaches focus on small business owners, corporate executives, or in specific industries such as real estate or manufacturing. These coaches work with individuals or entire teams of people. The number of niche markets for personal or life coaches is even larger. There are coaches for parents, for individuals with attention deficit disorder, for people making career transitions, and the list goes on.

Some Definitions

So what’s coaching anyway? The best place to start is with the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition. Coaching is…

“…an ongoing relationship or partnership between you and a coach that focuses on your taking action toward the realization of your visions, goals and/or desires. Coaching uses a process of questioning and personal discovery to build your level of awareness and responsibility. It provides you with structure, support, feedback, and accountability. The coaching process helps define and achieve (business), professional, and personal goals faster and with more ease than would be possible otherwise.”

Note the highlighted words in the ICF definition. Coaching is a partnership or trusting relationship between equals, an individual (or work team or business) and a coach. There’s no stigma attached to coaching. Clients are seen as wanting to achieve, grow, develop, and change, not as having “problems.” Some see this as a critical distinction between coaching and psychotherapy. Coaching is an action-oriented process that empowers you to do several things:

  • Generate a vision of success as you define it,
  • Clarify your work and personal needs,
  • Set goals, and
  • Develop unique, out-of-the-box, strategies yielding measurable results that guarantee a concrete return on the time and money you invest in them.

Executive and business coaches see your company’s success rising or falling based on how you manage the motivation, performance, and productivity of your greatest resource, your people. The Hudson Institute’s Workforce 2000 report rings true for coaches when it states:

“The foundation of national wealth is really people – human capital – represented by its knowledge, skills, attitudes, and motivations. The primary assets of a modern corporation leave the workplace each night to go home to dinner.”

How Does Coaching Work?

Initially, a coach will assist you and/or your business in completing a self-assessment. As an individual, you might discuss with your coach the challenges you face, goals you want to reach, as well as ways to track your progress in reaching them. Most coaches will work holistically with you, asking you to examine your level of satisfaction in all areas of your life and make changes you believe are important. If you ask a coach to work with you and your business associates, she may want you to convene a meeting of your management team to assess both their strengths and barriers to performance. Then she will help you collectively develop a plan of action to improve your team and your company’s performance. It’s common for a coach to work in parallel fashion with a group of business people and individually with an owner or executive. After one or more assessment sessions, many coaches work with clients on the telephone. Some coaches prefer face-to-face meetings at your site or their offices. Often a combination of telephone sessions and in-person meetings are used during the coaching process. Coaching can last from about one month to one or 2 years or longer. This depends on several factors, including the complexity of the challenges you and your company face, as well as your own pace of change. It’s wise to make at least a three-month commitment to coaching. This will allow you to develop a good “feel” for the process and determine if coaching can be a valuable experience for you.

What Do Coaches Say & How Do I Benefit?

Coaches help you develop a vision and reach goals in 4 main ways. They ask powerful questions that encourage introspection. They make compelling observations about what they see and hear, observations that should cause you to think about your life and business in new ways. Coaches will ask you to complete “homework” tasks between coaching sessions. These may be challenging and “stretch” you, but should help you learn and change more quickly and effectively. And finally, coaches will support your changing, and gently confront you and hold you accountable when needed. For your part, take control of your coaching sessions. Prepare for them by being clear about your agenda. Be honest with your coach. Tell him how he can best assist you. Confront her if she makes a mistake. Do your “homework” if you begin with a coach. If you’re not making at least some progress in 3 months, consider changing coaches.

How Do I Find a Coach? How Much Does It Cost?

To find a coach, ask around. Talk to business associates and friends. You can search two web sites. The first is a local coach association, ICF Philadelphia ( Click on Experience Coaching, then “Coach Referral Service/Find a Coach”). The second is the International Coach Federation ( Click on “Find Coaches”). Most coaches offer a complementary coaching session on the telephone or face-to-face. Take advantage of these. Ask the coach about herself, her style of coaching, her training. Talk to a couple of coaches and choose the person with whom you are the most comfortable. Be assertive in your questioning about credentials. There is concern the field of coaching is an unlicensed and unregulated professional service. There are voluntary certification programs such as the one run by the International Coaching Federation and there are in excess of a dozen coach training schools. You may want to hire a therapist or counselor, a person with at least a master’s degree in psychology or social work, as your coach. Many mental health professionals are developing coaching practices and bring excellent helping skills to the table. Coaching fees range from $400 to over $800 per month for a set number of hours. Companies pay fees for packages of coaching services, varying from $10,000 to $18,000 for 6+ months. On-site coaching or consulting services range from $1500 to $3000 per day. While not inexpensive, consider them an investment in you and your company. Happy coaching!