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Got problems? Hire a coach

What's a cross between a psychologist and a mom, is less expensive than a shrink and doesn't apply guilt? A personal coach.

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Most people think physical fitness when they hear the word "coach," but life coaches are more like a personal trainer of attitude. They help their clients put together a step-by-step plan of action for achieving success -- in the workplace or in their personal life.

Coaching can help people create more satisfaction in their jobs, find new jobs, start new ventures, get a better handle on their fears and anxiety and get out of their own way, says Barbara Walton, past president of the International Coach Federation, the largest worldwide organization of professional coaches.

Coaching might sound like therapy, but it is not, says Walton.

"Therapy focuses on healing pain and dysfunction, most often arising from the past, which hamper emotional functioning in the present. Coaching is forward moving and future focused. It focuses on thriving. Therapy focuses on surviving," she says.

What is coaching and what can it do for you?
Coaching helps you be the best you can be, explains Mark Weinstein, founder of Peak Life Habits, an executive and personal coaching firm in Albuquerque, N.M. A coach offers feedback, insights and guidance from an outside vantage point.

Weinstein coached Bruce Malott.

Malott was struggling. He was 47, a partner in an accounting and consulting firm in New Mexico and seemingly successful. Yet, he was unhappy personally and professionally.

"I was going through a devastating divorce and having trouble focusing at the office," says Malott. He sought out the services of Weinstein who helped him to get back on track. Under his guidance, Malott began to make changes in his behavior, set priorities and communicate with his partners. The impact of coaching is difficult to measure in dollars, but I know it's made a big difference, Malott says.

"Most people know what needs to be done, but struggle with the execution. Coaching holds you accountable. With Mark's help we are way more productive than ever before," says Malott.

"People seek out coaches because there's something in their life they want and they don't have," says Weinstein.

"It could be a certain position in their career or a certain quality in a relationship. It could even be a certain level of fitness that they are always on the verge of hitting but somehow always missing the mark."

A coach will help you identify habits that are impeding your success as well as sidestep the obstacles that seem to get in the way of what you want.

Procrastination is one bad habit that commonly gets in the way. We have probably all used the expression "someday I'll do this" or "one day I'll do that."

Weinstein says he guides his coaching clients to make someday into now.

"We make a plan of action, even for something as simple as cleaning your desk. Instead of someday, we make a commitment in our conversation that by next Thursday, this will be done."

How to find the coach for you
Coaches come from many backgrounds -- psychology, business, education, law -- and specialize in everything from finance to personal relationships.

To find the right coach for your needs, Joy Leach, owner of Professional Resource Initiatives and life coach for over 20 years, recommends interviewing a few coaches before hiring one.

"Coaching is a two-way process and needs to be a good fit for both coach and client to be successful," says Leach, co-author of "A Practical Guide to Working with Diversity."

She recommends the following:

  • Interview several coaches. There is generally no charge for an introductory session.
  • Look for stylistic similarities and differences to help you determine your compatibility.
  • Ask questions about their typical time frame of coaching, their specific coach training, their experience as a coach, the number of individuals, organizations and situations they worked with as well as the number of years in the field.
  • Get referrals from previous clients or ask for examples of how the coach has helped other clients reach their goals.
  • Find out what specific expertise or specialized skills the coach would bring to the relationship.


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-- Posted: Jan. 14, 2005

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