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Can coaching kick-start your career?

By Susanne Gargiulo, for CNN
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Fri November 2, 2012
Even the best need some advice now and then.
Even the best need some advice now and then.
  • Coaching of managers and executives becoming more common
  • Recession has not diminished the popularity of coaching to companies
  • Seen as a benefit to both businesses and individuals

(CNN) -- Bill Clinton had a coach, Oprah Winfrey used one to help her get to the top of her career and, of course, top sports stars have them.

But the chances are you might have one, too, as according to a recent study by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), coaches in the office are becoming almost common place.

In the survey of 250 UK companies, 80% said they were using or had used coaching, and another 9% were planning to do so.

"We were surprised that it was so widespread," says David Pardey, of ILM, "particularly because we did the survey in the middle of a recession."

If you train people, it will pay off year after year, and then you have people working continuously to help others perform better.
David Pardey

A 2009 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development confirmed that even during the economic downturn coaching remained buoyant; 7 out 10 companies surveyed reported increasing or maintaining their commitment to coaching.

According to Pardey, coaching is a tool that enables people to perform to their full capability.

"It's the difference between knowing how to do something and actually doing it in practice," he says.

"So from an organizational point of view it can maximize your potential and take you from average to excellent. If everyone in the company were performing as the best person, the difference would be extraordinary."

For individuals like David Fitzgerald, executive vice president and partner at CB Richard Ellis New England, coaching elevates his game.

"I like to win, and coaching helps me to win even more," he says.

Coaching has been finding favor among companies for over a decade, according to Ginger Jenks, an executive coach, founder and president of Magellan Enterprises in Colorado.

"Five years ago, coaching was in about 75 countries, now it is in about 110," says Jenks who is certified with the International Coach Federation, where she has also served on the board.

Jenks believes that coaching is going where music and sports have always been.

"If you want to get to the top, you need a coach. In the past, I was a leader's secret weapon. Now, a coach is accepted as a must-have for people in the top of their field," says Jenks.

The reason for its growing popularity could be its win-win effect. The ILM study found that 95% of companies who used coaching said it has benefited the individual as well as the organization.

There are a couple of hitches, however. One is assuring that a coach is fully qualified and a current lack of standardization means anyone can call themselves a coach. The second is cost. Coaching is not inexpensive, but that is a fact experts believe is pushing another growing trend in the industry; companies training and keeping their own coaches on staff.

"This is where we are seeing the real growth happening in terms of business coaching," says Suzanna Prout, managing director of Xenonex Limited, an executive coaching and leadership development company.

Pardey agrees: "If you train people, it will pay off year after year, and then you have people working continuously to help others perform better. It will be a significant feature of successful organizations."

That is what happened at Doncaster College in the UK, where principal and CEO George Trow, says coaching and management development has transformed the school from a poorly functioning one to a success story.

"When I came here, the college had had seven principals in five years," says Trow, adding that both the student and financial performance of the school were inadequate.

To turn things around, Trow put 70 managers through a coaching program and trained ten internal managers as coaches. He wanted to install a coaching culture and this made the program financially sustainable.

Almost three years after the introduction of the coaching program, Trow says the student success rate has increased dramatically and the school is in a healthy financial state.

"What has happened is that we are seeing a more effective performance from people, better conflict resolution, better communication, and we have been able to deal with a lot of thorny issues that had been parked for a while," he says.

According to Prout, what coaching does is help show "an organization's blind spots."

"It is about having that discipline to be asking yourself the tough, challenging and open questions that people often have a tough time asking themselves," she says.

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