Coaches aren't just for Little League anymore. In the last 10 years, a new breed of business coaches has emerged to help executives reach their potential personally and professionally.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you're ready for a coach's advice. If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then it's probably time to seek a professional coach.
* Do You Know What You Don't Know?
In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell says there are four phases of leadership growth:
"I don't know what I don't know."
"I know what I don't know."
"I grow and know and it starts to show."
"I simply go because of what I know."
Maxwell argues that people in the first phase don't grow, because they don't realize they have much to learn. If you understand what you don't know, a coach can guide you to attain the necessary skills and knowledge.
* Are You Where You'd Like to Be?
If you can picture the situation you'd like to be in but have only a vague idea how to get there, a coach can help formulate a plan and motivate you to stick with it.
* Do You Have Clear Professional Goals?
If you're unhappy in your profession and you don't know what to do, a career counselor might be more effective than a coach. If you find yourself in this predicament, don't beat yourself up. "If you don't know what you want to do, my answer is it's not time to know yet," says Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Take Yourself to the Top: The Secrets of America's #1 Career Coach. "Live with the uncomfortable feelings for awhile."
* Can You Focus on the Present?
Those struggling through past trauma are better served seeking a therapist to clear up those issues before hiring a coach. That way, when you talk with a coach, you can leave the past behind and look to the future.
* Are You Interested in Developing Yourself?
The coach's role is partly to help people see how their thinking and behavior create obstacles. If you don't see room for improvement in these areas, a coach is probably not worth your time or money.
* Do You Face a Critical Decision About Your Life or Career?
When you're at a crossroads, a coach can help you prioritize and unearth your motivations and desires. "I wouldn't dare make a critical decision without calling a coach," says Jim Jose, an organizational effectiveness strategist and leadership coach based in Tucson. "None of us works well in isolation or achieves what we're capable of achieving, personally or professionally, without help from others."
* Are You Very Ambitious?
There's no stigma attached to hiring a coach. In fact, it signals that you're a player. According to Michael Banks, principal and director of an executive development coaching provider, "People who do best with coaching are those with a genuine desire to be as good as they can be and are not too proud to admit they could do even better."
* Are You Hearing You Need to Change But Aren't Sure How?
Negative feedback can be discouraging. A coach can help you gain perspective and grow from your mistakes. "If we're constantly beaten down with negative stuff, we don't take the time to look at the positive side, which is, 'What can I learn from this?'" says Jose.
* Are You Willing to Work Extremely Hard?
Don't expect a coach to do the work. Good coaches hold their clients' feet to the fire. "My job is to constantly challenge my clients," says Zachary Green, senior scholar at the University of Maryland's Burns Academy of Leadership. "People need to develop a sense of integrity by keeping promises they make to themselves."
* Do You Have the Time and Resources to Invest?
Even if you've answered yes to most of these questions, your current situation may not allow for a coach. After all, a coach can be pricey - $50 an hour to $6,000 a day -- and if your company won't pay, you may not want to bear the expense yourself.