Near Yellow Mountain

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Last Friday, I had the final meeting with my "coach". A somewhat sad day for me - like the last day of a college class you really enjoyed or finishing a good book. I was surprised how much I benefited from the experience.

Prior to my return from living in Asia for eleven years, it was suggested that a "coach" could help me speed up re-entry to life in the US organization. When I got back to the US late last year, I was asked (again) if I was interested working with a coach. "Sounds like a good idea" was my response. Honestly, I was more curious about the whole "coaching" phenomena. I wanted to know what a coach actually does and if, for example, they gave you homework.

Before I left the US in early 2000,  it seemed only those destined for the top management suite or those likely to be shown the door due to behavioral issues had coaches. In short, coaching seemed either for accelerated mentoring or "anger management".

The coaching "industry" seemed to have gone mainstream while I was in Asia - like drinking bottled water or doing ergonomic evaluations of every employee's "work environment". Another of the many changes I have noticed since coming back.

Like everything else in this blog, what I say about coaching is "generalizing from a small sample" - my experience and my opinion. 

As far as the value for money of coaching - it is hard to say.  I never checked on the cost - my feeling is that my coach was relatively pricy especially based on the fact there is a large organizational umbrella (read company that needs to make a profit and pay overhead) in between my coach and my employer. Many coaches can be reached directly via their website but large company's tend to use a service to arrange coaching. Just as sure as I am that I benefitted from the time with my coach (a couple hours each week when I was in the country); I am also sure that I would never have been willing to pay out of my own pocket for coaching. A more likely scenario is that I would have read a couple of books by coaches and/or discussed my repatriations issues with a fellow ex-pat in an airport lounge or on a long haul flight. I might have just pored out my soul to Yuki - our  loyal dog and gotten feedback via how bored she looked while I talked. I say none of this to denigrate the value of coaching. I had the good fortune to work with an excellent coach but given the nature of the industry I think I was lucky. In general, coaching is more laissez faire than "financial planning".

Once it was decided that I would have a coach, I was given several candidates to consider - I selected two from the group to meet over lunch and then picked one.

Pondering what to do "next"
My coach did a great job of helping me sort out how I felt about returning and whether it made more sense for me to focus  on success in my current position or perhaps ultimately deciding that I was better off finding a new opportunity where the skills I developed in Japan and China would be better utilized and appreciated. It was a socratic process to get me to come to up with future plan on a step by step basis. I wasn't told what or how to think but I was supported through a process that enabled me to select my own "end game". Clearly "an end" is coming to the role with my current employer and the real question is: what path do I take with the skills I have developed?

In any case, the formal process has come to an end. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with someone who was skillful at getting me to work through a process to decide if I am better off on my own. The question is: with one daughter just out of college and another with three more years at one of the most expensive schools in the world; do I have the courage to "do the right thing"? Time will tell.

Thanks "coach"