We’ve all been there, ready for our close-up. It’s selfie time! Whether you are showing off a scenic vacation spot, celebrating a special occasion, or even sharing a moment captured with a friend, we live in a selfie-filled culture. Selfies are our modern mirrors, documenting who we are and what is important to us. But what about selfies at work? Not the kind we take with a camera phone, but the kind that are revealed through professional coaching. How many of us are truly ready for a no-filter selfie that is focused on our professional development, the kind that may illuminate strengths and reveal risks and opportunities? Are we truly ready for this kind of close-up?
Much like selfies, especially the no-filter variety, coaching has the potential to be mightily revealing when it provides an accurate reflection of ourselves, each other, and our environment. In fact, that is what the very best coaching does; it serves as our reflection—without distortion! Much like a selfie, coaching shows us who we are, what is important (or unimportant) to us, and how we operate, thus prompting a reaction. Coaches work directly with clients to be a transparent lens, just like the one on your cell phone. They accomplish this by establishing relationships of trust with coachees, asking powerful questions to generate reflection, insight, and aha moments that motivate change.
Since this all occurs within the mind, with the coach as the trusted guide on the side, coaching prompts motivation, accountability, and the potential for positive change far more genuinely than other professional development modalities, including mentoring and advising. Coaches truly are external eyes and ears, providing the more accurate reality that we all need to be our best. In his inspiring and eye-opening recent TED talk, “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach,” esteemed surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande demonstrated how great coaching can create life-saving professional transformation. Every organization—particularly those facing unprecedented change and challenges—can profoundly benefit from establishing an effective coaching culture and enhancing the coachability of its members.
Coaching is undeniably powerful. It takes the blinders off and instigates real, effective, long-lasting individual and organizational change. It can positively alter how your organization and its people handle their work, impacting business results including such key indicators as revenue, retention, turnover, and other measures of success.
Sounds good, right? You may be ready to dive right in. But hold on one minute; to truly ensure you can maximize your impact with coaching, your first question should be: Is my organization and its people ready for their no-filter selfie? This is not a question to be treated lightly. It’s human nature to recoil from unflattering images of ourselves; we all have some level of ingrained tendency to resist insight and reflection, especially when it is not handled with an appropriate level of seriousness and transparency.
To illustrate the gravity of coaching, a fellow colleague in the professional development world recently noted that my work is “removing people’s blinders.” While that is true, another even more important aspect of my job as an executive coach is making sure that people and organizations are appropriately ready for this level of insight. With its capacity to generate an unlimited amount of no-filter selfie moments, executive coaching can be truly exhilarating—as long as coachees and organizations are ready for it.
A development modality this powerful needs to be rolled out appropriately. Selfie or not, no one wants their reflection to be a surprise! How do we avoid a bad selfie moment with both coaches and coachees? Clarity and trust.
To be maximally effective, coaching stems from equal parts clarity and relationships of trust. Therefore, no organization should embark upon a coaching program without first carefully establishing clarity of purpose and relationships of trust between potential executive coaches and key individuals in the organization. These individuals include the main sponsors (cheerleaders and supporters of coaching within your organization who should vocalize their support for coaching early and often) and, subsequently, anyone receiving coaching.
Organizations that set up healthy coaching cultures give potential coaches clarity on overall organizational priorities and specific competencies and performance expectations of potential coachees. This ensures that coaches clearly operate within a defined performance framework, maximizing the potential to engender the selfie-like focus and awareness that generates true business results.
Further, organizations should maximize the power of potential coachees in the creation and execution of the coaching engagement. At a minimum, coachees should be offered the chance to interview at least two different coaches and have the final choice in determining their coach, prioritizing the capacity to build a strong, long-lasting relationship of trust with the coach as the most important criteria. This will ensure that coachees are truly ready for this no-filter selfie—produced with the support and guidance of someone who will ultimately both put them at ease and appropriately challenge them.