Maybe you have an inkling that something could be working better for you. Maybe personal professional development is a lifetime proposition for you.
Or maybe you’re trying to get ahead in your career and something’s holding you back. You’ve been told it’s your attitude, or interpersonal skills, or “soft” skills, or something nebulous like that. You may even have had coaching suggested to you by your manager.
If you’re tempted to contract with a “business coach” or “corporate coach,” think again. The terms in coaching are still being formulated in this new field and these titles can be misleading.
If you’re an entrepreneur and want to know how to write a business plan, market, or make more profit, then, yes, you need a business coach, though you may find this coach calling himself or herself a Marketing Coach, the Profit Guru, a Coach for Entrepreneurs, the Dividend Diva, or Corporate Consultant Coaches, LLC, or any number of things.
If you specifically want career information, you might contract with a Career Coach.
However … and this is a big “however” … if you’re looking for the skills and guidance to succeed in your field, to correct a weakness, to understand your strengths and how to capitalize on them, to increase your “soft” skills, or to develop a winning attitude, or emotional competence, you do not need a Business Coach, or Corporate Coach. You need broader training than this, and a much larger perspective.
Chances are you already have the education and credentials you need for your career field, or you know what you need and have it in the pipeline. If you don’t know what else in that area would help, a quick look at the person who has the job you want can show you. This is not brain science.
What IS brain science, is how to get head in your profession and how to compete effectively with all those people who have the same education, intelligence, skills and training. For this, you need EQ -- emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence is a set of life skills that allow you to use what you have effectively. All the intelligence in the world won’t work for you if you can’t manage yourself. Emotional Intelligence means understanding your emotions and how they interface with your intellect; how to manage yourself; and then how to apply this in your dealings with other people.
Brain science? Taming your brain? Yes, because if you let anger get the better of you, or contempt you can’t produce.
And if you let someone else intimidate you, you can’t be effective.
And if you have great intellectual ideas you can’t put into project form, or you can’t motivate others in a team environment, you are also not going to achieve.
After all, when you ask most people what’s the most stressful thing at work, they’ll say something related to people. It’s now WHAT’S the problem, but WHO’S the problem.
And the first person that can be causing you trouble will be yourself. Working on your emotion intelligence and life skills goes beyond Business Coaching.
In order to master the skills that will bring you success, you must understand some theoretical things and learn how to apply them broadly.
As you know, in real life the situations that come up never seem to have been “covered in the text book.”
This is why if a business coach tells you to smile at the receptionist when you walk in (which I heard one do the other day), as a solution to your interpersonal skills problems, you are being deprived of really useful and long-term information.
If you don’t understand the concept behind this (that business has to do with relationships) and how to build and sustain relationships, you will be left in worse shape than you were before, because you will think you have a solution to a problem when you do not. And your perfunctory (mechanical) smile at the receptionist will defeat your purpose, and more self-sabotage is certainly not what you were after.
A coach should be able to tell you WHY as well as HOW. The most valuable thing you can learn is broadly applicable skills, and the ability to think through situations, balance your emotions and reason, understand alternatives, and choose ones that don’t sabotage you, others, or projects. In good coaching, there is no “take home point,” but rather a “take home modus operandi”.
Choosing a coach is an important decision. You may have been advised that if you’re working in a corporation, to look for a coach who has worked in a corporation. The problem with this, is that it’s too simple. No two corporations work the same way.
You may have been advised for or against using a coach with a psychology or therapy background, but no two therapists work the same way.
How do you choose a coach? Know what you’re after, at the substance level, not the surface level. You don’t want to waste your coaching money on superficialities. No, you don’t want to learn how to appear friendly to the receptionist. You want to increase your interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence so you can achieve your potential and stop doing whatever it is that’s holding you back.
The more clear you are on your goals, the better you can interview a coach.
The less sure you are of what you’re after, the more important that you start with an Emotional Intelligence or Life Coach, because they can help you define it. In order to get what you want, you have to know what you want.
Consider carefully whether you want a coach with no training, or just training in coaching, or one with a college or graduate degree in a field like psychology or business in place of, or in addition to, coaching training.
You may prefer a coach with an educational background similar to yours, or want one with more education than you have. You may want a woman or a man, someone over 40 or under 30. It’s personal preference.
The most important variable is going to be the fit. The person has to be someone you’re comfortable talking with. You need to like they style and who they are.
Coaches call themselves many things, but the one that has “your name” will have special qualities only you can define.
It’s a case of Emotional Intelligence, because you’ll need both intuition and reason. Most decisions are at the interface between your feelings about the matter, and the information you have at hand.
Intuition can direct your search. Then you’ll need to gather data and make rational decisions. Then in interviewing a coach, you’ll again have to rely on your gut instinct, because the particular dynamics between any two individuals can’t be quantified. Data can only take us so far, and this interplay between emotions and reason is what EQ is all about, and why you need it.
Don’t think you have gut instinct? We all have it, but if you haven’t developed yours, decisions are very hard. Work with an EQ coach. Honing your intuition, or gut-feeling, is a major asset, and it can be learned.
Susan Dunn is a professional coach who specializes in emotional intelligence for individuals and businesses, with applications to all areas of your life.
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