I’m pretty sure you need a coach. You may not think so, but consider the following situations. Let me know if you see one that matches or is close to what you are dealing with.
- Matt, a brilliant programmer, enjoys what he does. The pursuit of the solution drives him and keeps him motivated at work. Matt’s great, yet he doesn’t seem to play well with others. He’s used to being the smartest guy in the room, so he tends not to be open to new ideas that aren’t his own. And he’s appears so confident in his capabilities that he doesn’t easily accept feedback. Matt, as good as he is, is tough to work with. He’s been given feedback on what he needs to do to change, but he hasn’t improved at all. He’s starting to worry — just a little — about his future.
- Suresh has found great success as a data base administrator. So much so that his supervisor is looking to promote him to manager. Suresh would have a group of eight DBAs to lead and he’d be considered a member of the management team. Suresh is uncertain about the opportunity, but he’s willing to play along. He’s run projects before, so how hard can being a leader really be?
- Denise was promoted to Director two years ago. Her team is known for it’s ability to work miracles in salvaging system breakdowns. They are experienced and trusted, and Denise gets a lot of credit for that. She’s not so sure she deserves it. A new opportunity has come her way, based on her team’s reputation. She’s not sure she’ll take it though. Most of the time, Denise feels like she’s flying by the seat of her pants, guessing what to do. If she’s a leader, she doesn’t know why.
- Steven is CIO/CTO for a large multinational firm. He’s proud of how far he’s come: started out writing code, moved on to leading projects and teams, and then eventually the entire IT function. The company has invested in him; even paying for his MBA. He’s got responsibility for the largest line item, capital expenditures, on the P&L. He’s literally got a seat at the table. Yes, he’s where he should be. Yet. Steven’s ability to influence others is lacking and he can’t seem to communicate in a way that his peers in the C-Suite understand.
Did you recognize yourself? Maybe your personal situation isn’t captured exactly, but it might be close.
So, why aren’t you working with a coach?
Coaching has been around long enough in other functional areas with a respectable ROI. So why hasn’t coaching caught on in IT?
It may be that the very nature of coaching — the self-reflective part — isn’t very comfortable with technologists. Coaching seems “touchy-feely” and intangible, and many engineers and techs value the five-sensory world they live in. Others may think that they can resolve issues they have, or achieve goals they’ve set, by themselves. IT folks are known problem-solvers and puzzle-masters, after all. Still others recognize the limits of their own bandwidths — no time to take on something new. Technologists are nothing if not busy given their ever-changing work environments. And there are those who have the impression that people don’t really change, not really.
These arguments, however, are nothing new to the coaching world. In fact, if you remove the word “technologists” and replace it with any other title such as “marketing director” or “accountant” or “purchasing manager”, you’ll hear the same kind of push back. As much as I love technology and the people who live there, in this way they are very similar to others in the business world. So, let’s take a look at each of these concerns.
- No one is initially comfortable with being self-reflective. Navel-gazing has rarely had a great rep in business. But with coaching, it’s navel-gazing with a purpose. Yes, you’ll be challenged to dig deep and to answer big, sometimes tough questions, but it’s all in pursuit of your goals, your career.
- It’s rarely possible to figure out how you might be inhibiting your own success without perspectives from someone else. That’s why 360s have become so important to the business community. Plus, with coaching, you learn to notice when you are in your own way (hint: look for resistance) and how to shift your own perceptions to see what you’ve been missing.
- Then there is the issue of time. My coaching programs require about 2 hours a month from you for the actual coaching meetings. The rest of it is pretty transparent and you’ll find yourself doing it in real-time — so very little extra calendar juggling is required.
- Finally, I’m still assessing whether people really do change or not. I know that my mentor, now since passed, felt as though the me of recent years is 180 degrees different from the me of years past. I feel the change myself. Regardless of my experience, coaches aren’t out to change anyone. Our intention is to empower you with the skills and abilities to create a future state that is grounded in what’s important to you.
Technologists and engineers who work with a coach find not just performance improvement or increased leadership capabilities, but also more balance, meaning, and authenticity in their work. The reason business uses coaches is because coaching works. Now might be a good time for you to be thinking about it for yourself.
M. Nora Bouchard, MA, is a senior-level executive coach with twenty plus years of experience who has chosen to work with those who value an analytical mindset. She enjoys working with CIOs, leaders of IT teams, as well as the people who wrangle code, DBAs, data center operators, and network administrators. She’s also great with other analytical minds in finance, engineering and science. Learn more about her background, programs and clients at www.mnorabouchard.com.
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