Editorial

The Overlooked Value of Business Coaching

Coaching as a Tool for Better Career Development

The advertising industry has long had a reputation for not investing and developing their employees leadership and management skills. In an industry that requires demanding client workloads and long hours, the quick fix has typically been for companies to place their focus on culture as a one-size-fits-all solution.

Too often companies pluck creative superstars from one organization and expect them to reproduce the magic in a completely different environment. Many struggle going from their comfortable creative roles to being catapulted into a new job with new teams, sometimes as a promised savior – one who is expected to lead, manage, mentor and be one of the principal faces of the company.

The industry has veered off-course, placing importance (and pressure) on the individual, as opposed to the system or environment that could work to better support employees. In my opinion the fault lies with the organizations.

“[A] strong coach can provide a sounding board and an additional toolkit to try and solve the problems they are facing.”

First, they focus too much on one or two attributes, such as who has produced the hottest work in the industry most recently. Therefore, who is hired is often a projection of what companies want to be, rather than who they are and what skills they need to have in their leaders. Second, they don’t take the time early on to identify areas where their new hire may need support so they can develop into a functional leader.

Over the years, candidates have come to me overwhelmed with the challenges they are facing in their new roles, feeling isolated. One avenue I have found that has helped candidates tremendously is seeking a good business coach. It should be noted that a business coach is not a mentor and operates in a completely different way. A coach is a neutral party that serves a specific goal of helping you improve your work skills. In the situations where there is a bit of triage, a strong coach can provide a sounding board and an additional toolkit to try and solve the problems they are facing.

“What a good coach will do is work with you to identify the areas where you lack experience, develop approaches and strategies to mitigate these areas.”

So, how do you find a business coach? The best way is typically through word-of-mouth from your network. You may find that more individuals in your network work with a coach than you might think. The best thing about coaches is that they typically work for a broad range of industries, so you won’t need to search for one that works just within your space. When you interview coaches listen for them telling stories about clients they have had who are like you. Decide if you want a coach who is using a set curriculum and assessments or more focused on deep conversations about your growth.

But the ideal situation, for anyone stepping into a larger or new leadership role within an organization is to work with a coach prior to, and when you start a new role. What a good coach will do is work with you to identify the areas where you lack experience, develop approaches and strategies to mitigate these areas. And you want to make sure that you are talking with your coach with enough frequency that you feel your stress is reduced. Usually, one meeting is not going to cut it.

Second, they can help work with you to develop clear business strategies so that you can articulate a clear vision of what you are personally looking to accomplish and then articulate a vision to management and the people relying on your leadership.

Third, they can be a valuable person in your corner, to help you develop approaches and strategies with the different people in your organization. The best laid plans and vision are often undone if faced with difficult personalities. Not being left to your own devices to try and find solutions to these challenges.

The most successful leaders are those that are best able to navigate the different interpersonal demands put upon them across an organization. Maintaining the respect of senior management, while maintaining the confidence of those you are supposed to lead is no small task and requires people willing to make difficult decisions. Making those choices can be a bit easier with someone in your corner who is watching out for your best interests, and can protect you from the most difficult person of all, yourself.

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By Sasha Martens