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How to Protect Your Relevance from Extinction

Coach As Obstacle

Business performance coaching is one tool for maintaining individual and team relevance in the workplace. Like any other field, business performance coaching features many styles and approaches. While I’m a certified coach for the Clifton Strengths™ tools from Gallup, I recognize that there are many ways to get at what makes people tick and how they can get the most from their work experience. I’m also a pro-bono transition coach for The Honor Foundation ( which has an impressive track record for helping military Special Forces personnel transition to satisfying civilian careers suited to their unique qualifications. One of the many challenges in this process is matching fellows, as participants are called, to the perfect coach. A team of staff and coaches interviews each fellow. The fellows, in turn, also know the experience, talents, temperament, and specialties of each coach. It’s much like old-fashioned matchmaking.

One reason for this careful selection process is that, while a coach can certainly help a fellow get the most from the three-month program, a coach can also get in the way. The match works best when the preferred coaching style of the coach matches the preferred interaction style of the fellow. This seems self-evident, but can be tricky to assess. It can even be tricky for the coach to identify mid-process. Who wants to admit there is a client they can’t help? If I’m any good, I should be able to work with anyone, right? However, I have observed that we all have our limits and our niches where we can deliver the most bang for the client’s buck.

Regarding coaching style, some coaches are hard-asses. They are all about accountability and will do their best to amplify their client’s sense of obligation to a mission and the team. Commitments are made, measured, and scored. Many clients respond extremely well to this, and only to this. They like to be hammered against the hardest anvil possible in their never-ending pursuit of personal excellence. When this approach is pursued only because it’s a default mode, there can be a lot of casualties in terms of health and happiness. However, when this drive is focused on productive outcomes that help forge a complete, balanced human being, it’s an awesome force for good.

Other coaches are more like me, very process versus outcome oriented. For us, accountability partners and score-keeping feel more like speed bumps and impediments. I do what I do for my own reasons. I have assessed the intrinsic merits and deemed them worthy of my time and attention. I don’t need, nor respond well to, too much inquiry or input into my process. Having a positive impact on other people is an essential part of my calculus. Which is why I’m so enthusiastic about my pro-bono coaching. If my business partners would let me, I would do everything I do for free. But apparently, we have bills to pay. Do I sometimes miss opportunities that a hard driver would have leveraged? You bet. But this desire to work from my own understanding helps me to understand the bigger picture and find ways for unlikely individuals and teams to deliver fabulous value.

Either approach can be an accelerator or an impediment to growth and relevance. Which style you prefer is not important. The important piece is knowing your style and finding a coach who matches it. If you decide to leverage a coach, ensure that you feel it’s a good fit. For maximum benefit, you shouldn’t adjust too much to your coach, but neither should they adjust too much to you.

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