This recent article piqued my interest for two reasons:
More troubling is the notion that critical life questions ("Should I get married?", "Should I move?") can be answered in 10 minutes by an algorithm that is based on the answers and lives of others who take the quiz...sorry, assessment. While the site does offer access to live life coaches, even the answers and follow-up provided (at least what is posted for public viewing) seem somewhat trite, and much more directive than coach-like.
I contrast this with my own personal coach experience over the past year. While there was a "quiz" involved at the start, it was a much more in-depth assessment intended not to answer questions but to ask them. It provided the basis for future work and discussion about things that I feel work well for me and things that I'd like to change or improve. For me, the results were surprisingly accurate and objective. There was none of the the fortune-cookie-like "everything is wonderful" language, and no easy "this is what you should do" answers. There was an accurate (to me) reflection of how I perform and act and feel in various areas of my life, and the clear opportunity to use this self-recognition to work and feel and live a bit better.
There is an expectation that coaching is going to fix you or your life - to fix the things that are not working or provide a "quick-fix" to challenges that plague work or relationships, without you doing anything except answering a few questions. Moreover, the expectation is that you'll be told what to do, that after a quick survey or some venting about boss/co-workers/husband/children, you'll be told the three important steps to take to fix it all. This seems to be the Cloverbox approach: tell us your dilemma and we'll tell you which option to choose, as if there are always only yes-or-no options. This is not coaching - this is pop-culture counselling.
A coach - especially a good coach - helps you to identify for yourself what is broken and how best to fix it for you. They don't tell you what to do (or they avoid that as much as possible). They ask questions and listen a lot. They serve as a reflection or record of what you say about yourself and what you want, and challenge you to explain or live up to (or down to) those things. They guide you to think about and answer your own questions, so that the answers are truly yours. And even when you don't know what's wrong, or what you want or need to fix, they work with you to get you to figure that out.
This article describes another professional's coaching experience. Depending on the circumstances, a coach with subject matter expertise in your field may be appropriate. It depends on what you're looking for - specific skills improvement or more broad assessment and adjustment. More important is to be in sync with the approach or style of the coach; a personal connection is key to personal coaching, and I don't think it can work without that. Most important is to select someone and an approach you feel comfortable with, but will also one that will challenge you. Even though the coach is getting paid, you have to do most of the work. Think of it as a personal training for your psyche.
I did not think coaching would work for me, or even that I needed it. I was anticipating more lecturing or at least more talk about what I "should" do or be doing, or pushing in directions I was not interested in going. I was not expecting that it would be such hard personal work, or that it would be as helpful and rewarding as it has been. I think of my coach as a vocal conscience, because so much of what he says is my own words said back to me. He listens, asks questions, and most often says things like, "so what does that tell you?" He hears about something that seems quite large or insurmountable to me, breaks it down into manageable pieces, and talks me through putting them back together. We've addressed confidence, organization, communication, intuition, and conflict, and I've developed insights and strategies that work for me.
After a year, I'm still at it, and I look forward to each session - to the chance to share updates on what's happened but more importantly about what I've done or discovered for and about myself. The benefits far outweigh the costs (including the the investment of time and mental energy) and I hope to continue for some time
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.