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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting. With me is my co-host and dear friend, JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm.
Our topic today is coaching. Both JoDee and I do coaching as part of our HR consulting practices, and we did a JoyPowered® Workspace podcast on executive coaching that we made available back in December of 2018. We’ve gotten lots of feedback on that episode and some recommendations that we do kind of a coaching 2.0 edition. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to answer today some of the questions that we got from that first executive coaching episode and build on it and really kind of make this a sequel. So let’s start out with some background information.
The International Coaching Federation estimates that personal coaching is an – over a $1 billion business now and that it’s going to be nearly a $1.4 billion business before the end of 2022. JoDee, does that surprise you?
It does surprise me. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s going up, but I would never have dreamed it was a billion dollar industry.
Yeah, it’s huge, and it’s not just executive coaching anymore, right? It is coaching at all levels, which I think is so healthy. Well, marketresearch.com said in 2018 that there were over 53,000 personal coaches in the world. The coaching world is unregulated, you know, you don’t need to have a license. You don’t have to be certified. You can put your shingle out and say you’re a coach. Marketresearch.com says that there are over 500 organizations, though, that do certify coaches. So if you’re interested in getting a certification, you certainly can. Some of the organizations that will certify you if you just pay a fee and there really is not a lot of rigor about it. So I would just say to listeners, if you’re thinking about getting certified, really check out the firm that you’re going to get certified with, make sure it has a reputation for validity, reliability, and that people really hold it, you know, up so that you’re not wasting your money.
Because on the other end, some are very rigorous programs, they’re very expensive, they take a lot of time, you have to have lots of practice hours. So, yeah.
Find out what might work for you.
That’s right. A May 28, 2019 Forbes article that was written by Carley Sime entitled “How Does Coaching Actually Help Leaders?” cited an Institute of Coaching study that reported that over 70% say that they have improved relationships, performance, and communication after receiving coaching. 86% of businesses say that they recoup their investment in, when they hire a coach for employees and more than what they spend in coaching. So I find that, you know, really positive.
So JoDee, how did you get started in coaching?
Well, it’s funny, I would say officially, when I started my business Purple Ink 10 years ago, I remember talking to a mentor of mine, and he said, “Do you, you know, are you going to offer coaching as a part of your business?” and I immediately said, “Oh, no!” like, I haven’t done coaching before and I’m not going to start now. And he laughed at me and he said, after working with him for 15 years, he said, “You’ve been coaching for at least 10 of those years.” And I said, “Oh yeah,” like I guess I can’t, you know, I didn’t think of it because I was an internal organization. I didn’t think of myself as being a coach. And it really made me reassess where I was that, well, sure I’ve been coaching people. It was just a little more informally. But I have to admit it, it still really maybe didn’t take off for me until about three years ago when I thought, hey, I think this is something that I can be good at and I’m interested in and started practicing with a few people and, and then a little more fully launched it. So getting certified as a Clifton StrengthsFinder coach as well, although not all of my coaching is centered on, on CliftonStrengths®, that gave me somewhat of a framework and a tool and certification in that particular mode that helped as well. What about you, Susan?
You know, I, like you, I never pictured myself as a coach, but I will tell you that when I worked in corporate America, I was an HR business partner for many years, and in that role, you really are a coach, you’re a coach to your clients, you don’t have any, usually, people reporting to you, unless you become an HR business partner manager, which I eventually did and so on so forth. But you have to figure out how to get people to do things through influencing, and I think it’s a great training for coaching, right? How do you influence somebody to change behaviors? And so after I left corporate America and I went into business for myself, one of the parts of my practice was career coaching, and I worked for a couple of really large outplacement firms and there I went through a lot of training on career coaching, and from there, which, I couldn’t get over how much I loved it. I loved working with individuals and trying to help them get better at at finding a job and figuring out what they wanted to do and all that. So it really kind of ignited that fire. And then I started to have opportunities with clients that I was doing HR consulting with, different businesses asking me to coach employees that they had, usually high potential employees, a few executives who just had one, you know, issue that needed fixing or just getting better at, usually communication related or getting along with others, or whatever it was. And so I started doing that, and again, the fire got ignited. I really love helping people who are not looking for a new job, necessarily, but they are in the job that they want to be in or maybe that next job they’re hoping for in the, in the corporation, but they need to just enhance some of their skills or their readiness. So I don’t have, I’m not certified in any way, shape, or form. I always say, I’m very practical and tactical when it comes to coaching, but I truly love it, and it really happened, I think, by accident.
Yeah. And Susan, when, when you get a new client, a new coaching client, what is your approach to coaching?
Yeah, I kind of have a three step process to get started, and step one is I like to meet the client, the actual individual, and make sure that they are ready for coaching, that they’re open to coaching, because it is not going to work if they are being told, “We’ve hired a coach for you and we expect you to get better at, you know, A, B, or C.” I want to meet with the person to make sure they want it because if they don’t, it’s not going to go anywhere. Step two is I meet with that person’s boss, because I want to understand from their perspective or the organization’s perspective, what is it – the outcomes that they are hoping for, they’re expecting, or that they need. And then step three is I go back to that individual and I say, “Okay, what’s your understanding of the situation I’ve been brought in to help you with?” I share what the boss’s is, what the organization’s is to make sure they’re in alignment. Usually it’s no surprise to the individual, although sometimes it has been, and then at that point, let’s make sure that you’re, you really are open to this, and then I’m really ready to get started on on whatever that issue is, and what I do at that point is I say, okay, here’s the outcomes that you think are needed. Here’s what the company thinks. Here’s where we align. Let’s lay those out and let’s make sure there are no more than three or four major areas, because I can’t fix world hunger, but let’s focus on what are those three or four most important things and then let’s set up really practical, tactical action steps to get us there, and a timeline, so that we can reasonably chunk this up and hopefully start to see behavior changes. And then I meet with that individual, usually I’m going to say depends on the individual, sometimes it’s been every week. Some it’s been every two weeks. There’s been a couple that we did once a month, based on the issue, we were working on and based on the where they were in the, in the organization at the time, and we really, I work very hard to make sure that we see success, where we don’t have success we do some retooling, figure out different action steps, and then about halfway through, I Have a meeting with the person’s boss to see what behavior changes they’re seeing, if there’s anything that’s not going the direction we want it to go, any course corrections that are necessary. And then I do a wrap up with the individual and then also their boss to make sure everybody feels like we accomplished what we needed to. All in, I’m gonna say the average is about six months, but some have gone longer and some have been shorter. So all depends on the individual. How about you, JoDee? Do you have a process you follow?
Well, a couple of different ones, because a lot of my coaching has been centered around CliftonStrengths®, or even sometimes when people don’t necessarily come to me to say, “I want strengths coaching,” they’ll come to me with, to say, “Could you coach me on this issue,” or, “I want to be better at this. Can you help me?” a lot of times I will still encourage them to take the StrengthsFinder assessment so that I can coach them along in how to use their strengths to help them accomplish their goals. So, so I love it if a coachee is interested in using CliftonStrengths®. Now, from a career coaching perspective, sometimes we still use CliftonStrengths® as a part of that process. But otherwise, it might be a bit more tactical approach of starting with, what do they think they’re interested in, what, how can we help them through the process of a resume, a LinkedIn, profile, a, interviewing, cover letters, you know, a very tactical approach. Sometimes people need help with some of those and sometimes, just a few of those that people are looking for. So we jump right into those.
Well, I love that you mentioned StrengthFinders as one of the tools you use. I think there are a lot of tools out there that those of you that are listening are thinking, you know, what, I want to do more coaching, that you might want to look into depending on the need of your client. I love the Strong Inventory. I know that Purple Ink uses that sometimes on the career coaching, because you’ve had, seen real success with that, haven’t you?
Yeah, so what the Strong Inventory does is help people, I always say if you’re an accountant and you want to be an accountant, you don’t need to take the Strong Interest Inventory®. But if you’re an accountant and you think you don’t want to be an accountant anymore and you want to explore some other opportunities, then the Strong Interest Inventory® is a tool that you can use to help benchmark you against other people who are in different fields and and how you match up to them, do you answer questions like someone who is a librarian, or a speech therapist or an accountant or, you know, a florist, whatever that might be. But you also have to be careful not to take those too literally. Someone who matches up for a librarian, for example, it doesn’t mean you actually have to be a librarian, it means that some of the things that a librarian does some, some of the particular job roles might be something that are of interest to you.
Like research. Yeah.
Right, right. That’s a great example. So, any, any position that involves research, then, could be a fit.
When I take on a private career coaching client, I, and they don’t really know what they want to do. I always refer them to Purple Ink because you’re certified. I know your firm, you’ve got people on team, your team who are certified in that. So I think that’s wonderful. Other tools. I know, I love 360s and I find it helpful when I have a executive coaching client or someone inside an organization that they brought me in and they – I get the, their individual perspective on what’s not working in a particular area. I get the boss’s. But I love also getting their peers. I love getting their staff members, and so sometimes I do offer that as a component of my executive coaching and it just gives us a whole spectrum of different people’s opinions about that individual that I’m coaching’s behaviors.
Yeah, I love that, too. And I think even at a very small level, something you mentioned earlier about talking to their boss, so if you can get input from 360, all the way around it’s even better, but even really important I think, to get the input of their boss, when you said sometimes there’s surprises, right? The boss thinks there’s an issue, and they’re not communicating to the employee, and/or sometimes they might feel like they’re communicating it, but it’s not it’s not connecting.
Exactly. It’s not being received. You’re right.
Yeah. Susan, when a company hires an executive coach to work with a client, who is the client, and how do you manage confidentiality with what the boss tells you, and what, what the coaching client tells you?
I want to say that I really have a bias toward transparency. And I have had coaching clients say, “Listen, I want to share this with you, but I don’t want my boss to know it,” and I have to back up, and I say – and what I started doing now is from the very beginning of the relationship, I make it clear to the boss and to the person I’m coaching that we have to have open communications. I don’t want to know something that the other person doesn’t know. We’ve got to put everything on the table. And the boss is like, “Well, I don’t know. That makes me a little uncomfortable.” I’m like, I am not here to be just a sounding board to you. I’m happy to give you my advice. I’m happy to give you suggestions. I’m happy to coach you. But it’s important, because I’m going to leave in six months, nine months, however long, I’m going to leave, and what’s important is that the two of you have open, honest conversations. So if there’s something that you don’t think working, you’ve got to tell her or tell him. And I say to the employee, if you believe that there’s something that your boss is saying or doing or behaving in such a way that’s causing you to have these, this issue, it’s important the two of you work it out. I’m happy to help you have that conversation, I’ll prepare you for it, if you want me in the room, I’ll come, but I believe that when I get hired in, my client is the company and the coaching client. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that relationship is really healthy and it won’t be healthy if I keep things in confidence. But it can be sensitive, so I can appreciate that question. What do you think, JoDee?
Well, I totally agree, and I just think that it’s important to emphasize, of course, most of the times the coaching client thinks they’re our client and they are, but somebody else is likely paying the bill for it. So we are invested in, in the client or their boss is making the investment in this person as well, so, very important for everyone involved to understand that.
And sometimes during a coaching relationship, the boss will call me unexpectedly or send me a quick note to say, “Hey, I, some – this happened in the workplace yesterday,” or, “Here’s some behavior that I’ve noticed resurfacing,” or whatever. And they’re calling me because they want a course correction, or they want me to help process it with the coaching client. And so I do, if I ever hear from a boss I, the next meeting with the individual, or I call a meeting with the individual and say, I heard from Mary and sounds like something happened yesterday. Let’s talk it through. I just put it on the table. And I do think it’s healthier in the long run. Yeah, I’m working for both of them.
Right. Love it. Love that.
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So, JoDee, in preparation for today’s podcast, we’re already answering a lot of questions that we’ve been getting from people who are out there coaching themselves or thinking about coaching as part of their practice. But we thought it might be interesting to talk to some people who have been coached to get their perspective and sort of understand individuals who work for companies that their companies hired either us or some other coach to come in. What was it that they experienced? And maybe their feelings could help the rest of us who do coaching maybe get better at what we do. So why don’t we talk through the – what we heard from people that have been coached?
Yeah. So our first question we asked them was, “What led you to getting a coach?” And one of our clients said, “I was feeling very unfulfilled with my current role and there were not very many opportunities to advance. It was recommended that I get a coach to help prepare me for future opportunities.”
Now that’s really a fun assignment, don’t you think? So it’s somebody who’s obviously viewed as emerging talent. The company says, you know, we can see that she or he are getting – is getting frustrated. Let’s bring somebody in objective from the outside who can help make sure they’re ready for the next step. That’s a wonderful coaching assignment.
The second thing we heard from this question, what led you to coaching, client said, “My boss had success using an executive coach and then offered it to me when I was struggling with a work related issue.”
What an endorsement.
I know, and so nice, and so nice, for that – I think, a vulnerability of the boss in that situation to say, in effect, I’m not sure I can help you, but I’d like to give you help. You know, or maybe they didn’t have the answer or the best advice or felt like it would be helpful for them to hear it from someone else, an outside person, so.
Wow, what a way to build your trust with your staff member. Yeah, I love that.
Yeah, yeah, the third one said, “Our company decided to strengthen some of our core management team by having individual coaching for them, targeting areas that could foster teamwork.” Great answer as well.
I wonder in that situation if they brought a coach in for everybody on the core management team, I bet they did. And what a great way for all, everybody coming to the table to have some resource outside of that table to talk to and process and, and hopefully build skills. I love that.
So the second question that we asked former coaching clients is, “What did you get out of coaching?” You know, what was the wins for you.
The first one said, “Confidence is the number one benefit I’ve gained.” Love that. Sometimes we just need that reassurance, right? That, you know, maybe we’re doing the right things, or that we have a person to go to if we need help to know what to do.
Second answer was, “Having a coach who listened to me deeply and then either reinforced or offered a different perspective that was really quite life changing.” All right, that one gives me chills.
Number three, “I was able to get these things off my mind and into the open where my coach and I could dissect issues and think about solutions.”
Just to have a thought partner. Sometimes – I know that there’s times in my past where I really was struggling with something. I didn’t always want to go to my boss, because I didn’t want to have him or her perceive me differently, but I needed to have somebody I could really open up with. What a benefit that would have been, to have a coach at that time. Fourth response we got on this was, “I was able to identify a number of soft skills that I needed to work on and improve. I was also able to identify key strengths and how to leverage these strengths for success.”
“My coach was a valuable partner while working through the many details, steps, emotions, and progress of seeking a direction for my career.”
“My experience being coached was truly eye opening. It afforded many insights and tips for handling situations and people.”
“I learned some amazing things about myself, my life, and what makes me tick and how I am perceived.”
I do feel when I’m coaching somebody that I just, sometimes – I think I’m always kind, but I have to be super frank, and it’s interesting that, I think that when you’re really in the coaching zone and being coached that you, you crave it, you want frank, frankness. You want honesty and you can do it in a safe environment, so great answer. And then the last answer to this question was, “I learned how to alter my reactions to situations and people which led to improved outcomes of potentially volatile situations.” Nice.
So another question we asked, “When would you recommend coaching instead of other developmental activities, such as training programs, reading self help books, etc.?”
And the answers we received were, “I would recommend coaching when you need someone to help keep you accountable in that journey of self-improvement.”
Another one said, “I would suggest coaching when you need help analyzing your skills, talents, and areas of improvement. This is very difficult to do by yourself, and most people are not self-aware enough successfully – to successfully make changes on their own.”
And finally, “Sometimes when you are too close to a problem you overthink it, because you know the ins and outs and the people involved. Having a third party involved helps bring in new ideas and a perspective to see things differently.”
Yeah, I do think that’s really powerful. I think as, as an outside coach, you know, we can be very objective. And you might think it’s – some people might think it’s tricky that, well, you don’t understand how my organization works or how my team works, but there’s beauty in not understanding that.
Yeah, you could – you look at things from a little bit more object, objectivity, right? And I think it helps you get to a solution quicker. That’s good.
By the way, I love that question, but also to note, you know, I, Susan, I know you and I are both big fans, certainly, of training programs or books or podcasts or, you know, there’s lots of different tools that we could use to learn and grow from. And sometimes coaching is a good follow up to those, good follow up to a training program or – but that individual accountability is of course key to that.
Yeah, I love coupling training with follow up coaching, because, so that you really action the things that you learned or, you know, the light bulbs that you had. Good point.
That’s my favorite as well, as a follow up.
The next question we asked was, “What surprised you about your coaching experience?” And the first thing we heard was, “The impact it made in such a short time. I was feeling and experiencing changes within a few months.”
Yeah, I love this one. They said, “I was surprised by the sense of peace that coaching brought to me. The process has showed me that my original goals might not be what I want, after all. It gets you wondering, questioning, and challenging yourself to think differently and work toward different goals. What mattered to me before is different than what matters to me most now.”
The next person said, “I was able to take what I learned through the coaching experience and use it with my team. It’s really helped me – my already great team become more efficient.” I love that, you know, if you can coach someone to be a better coach, oh my gosh, it may, it may work you out of a job, but it’s so worth it.
Right, right. “I learned that some of the concepts of the world that I held near and dear were most likely not that healthy and could lead to disappointment on many levels.” Well, that’s some good insight as well.
Yeah. Next question we asked was, “Were there any drawbacks to working with an external coach?” Now, you have to remember we’re the ones asking it, so it was really hard to get people to give us something negative, but we got one.
Yeah, and someone said, “It can be expensive and it takes time away from work. Fortunately, my employer views it as an investment in me and so do I.”
Yeah, that’s nice. The next question was, “When would you advise against coaching?” and the first answer we had was, “I would advise against coaching if you’re not willing or able to change or to be even honest with yourself or cannot accept and act on constructive feedback.”
Yeah. Yeah. The second one said, “There are two major keys to making coaching work. They are both simple, but important. The person being coached must look at this as an opportunity and be totally honest about themselves, their relationships, and most importantly, being open to what they are told. And secondly, the coach must be a good listener, quick to understand your situation, and be ready to give information that is actually relevant to you.”
The last question we asked former coaching clients was, “Anything else you think our listeners should know about being coached?” And the first answer was, “You’ve got to be open to it. Be fully invested in it. Coaching will not have a full and lasting impact unless you’re first honest with yourself and then honest with your coach.”
Yeah, and secondly, “To get the most from coaching, you must have an open mind, be willing to have tough conversations, and be willing to change.”
Yeah. And then the final response we got, which is really similar to those first two, “The true key to this entire process is honesty. The client must be able to state everything in the workplace as it truly is, not try to please the coach.” Right. “They also need to be very introspective about themselves and be able to admit their own shortcomings and areas where they could use improvement.” Well, thanks to all of the former coaching clients who did participate in that survey.
Some great advice to everyone.
Our listener question today, “I work for a not for profit, and I’m responsible for HR as part of my other duties. We have about 75 employees, mostly full-time, and we’ve been around for about 30 years. And because we are all here, we are committed to the mission, we’ve never had a performance evaluation process, and our new executive director wants me to create and implement one. I feel like the trend is to move away from performance evaluation systems, from what I read. I’m reluctant to do anything that might increase turnover as it is very difficult to find talent in our nonprofit area. What do you think?”
First of all, thanks for the work that you do. Don’t know what type of not for profit, you’re in, but thank you for being in the service of others. I do believe that every employee wants feedback on their performance. And I think if you’re doing a good job, you want to know it. If you’re not doing well, you know it, and you want to know if other people know it, what can you do to improve. So I do applaud your executive director saying we’ve got to have some type of an accountability system here. Now, we know that some really big name companies, like Adobe, JPMorgan Chase, several others, can’t think of the names right now, have been very vocal about the fact they did away with performance evaluations. They said performance evaluations are dead. We know, though, that 95% of companies have kept some type of performance evaluation system, and even those who say that they don’t do them, they’re doing feedback sessions and they do those regularly. Either every quarter or every couple months, every month they have check in meetings. They’re not calling them performance reviews. They may not be giving a rating, but they’re taking the time to say here’s what we committed to doing this, quarter this month. Here’s what you said that you were trying to get done. Let’s talk about how you did, and let’s talk about what more I can do to help you get better at this or help you achieve your goals for next quarter. So I do think coming up with some type of an accountability system, performance evaluation, whatever you want to call it is important. What do you think, JoDee?
Yeah, I just, I love this question, because I think so many people, what they’re reading is that the annual performance is going away. And most people thinking, thank goodness. I didn’t like it anyway, it took too long, it wasn’t valuable. But the point was not to take away the feedback, just as you said, the point was to, to be better at feedback, to get
more often, to have more check ins, to do it quarterly, it was not to do away with conversations around your performance. So if they’re getting that already at your nonprofit company, then good for you, and maybe creating an annual performance evaluation is not what you need, but you need to have a process and a system for sure. And that might be, as you said, might be called something different, it might look like something different than what some companies are used to, but feedback, feedback, feedback.
Amen, Amen, Amen. Yeah. And I do think that there’s a lot of managers out there who get so caught up in whatever it is that’s on their plate that they do forget. They forget to sit down with employees and talk about what have we accomplished, what’s working, what’s not. And so as the head of HR and the other administrative areas, it sounds like, at your not for profit, I think you need some type of a tickler or some type of a system. It doesn’t have to be a 15 page performance evaluation form, which is what I think causes people to hate them. It can be a real simple one pager that triggers people to have the conversation, and maybe it’s once a month, maybe It’s once a quarter, maybe it’s twice a year. If annual works better for you it works better, but be pushing and promoting conversations much more frequently. So good luck to you. We’d love to hear how it goes.
So in the news today, HRdive.com posted an article by Jennifer Carsen on March 18, 2020 citing a study done by Betterment for Business which reported that a third of millennials and Gen Z’s have tapped into their 401(k)s. Some of the reasons that they cited were paying credit card debt, student loans, medical bills, travel and leisure. Now I do find that alarming, because we want everybody to be saving for their retirement, and tapping into your 401(k), sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. I would just work really hard to figure out if there are other options before I did that. So good luck with that, and hopefully as employers, you can help promote the idea, keep your 401(k) for the time you’re going to need it.
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