There are a number of reasons why coaching fails to have the effects you're hoping for. Here are five ways to ensure coaching delivers the outcomes you aim to achieve.
1. Both parties have to want it. All too often, coaches are assigned to people who don't think they need the help or don't want the help. Imagine being approached after delivering a speech and being told by that person that your boss thinks you need a coach to help with your presentations. The immediate reaction of most people would be, "I don't need help. I'm doing just fine."
For coaching to be successful, the person receiving the coaching must want it. Otherwise, it will be like pulling a donkey up a hill, with one hand tied behind your back. Eventually you may succeed, but not without an uphill battle.
2. Your coach has no business coaching. I love watching competitive diving. I'm great at applauding people for their efforts and can critique even the best of divers. But that doesn't mean I'm qualified to help them improve their scores. That's best left up to the pros. Preferably someone who actually has experience diving off the high board.
Anyone can call himself or herself a coach these days. But that doesn't mean they have the expertise or the experience to improve your condition. Before engaging the services of a coach, ask them to provide specific examples of how they have helped people with similar objectives to yours achieve their full potential. Ask questions regarding their background and don't be afraid to probe deeply. There are lots of coaches who have no business coaching. Make sure yours doesn't fall into this category.
3. Your coach has moved in and is now on the payroll. An effective coach works with their clients to set objectives and measurements of success before the engagement begins. The coach gets the job done within an agreed upon time period and disengages when their work is done.
Compare this to the model where a coach comes in to work on a specific issue and never leaves the organization. A good coach knows when his work is done and encourages their clients to soar on their own.
4. You have a mentor; not a coach. Lots of people think they have coaches when in fact they have mentors. Ask ten people to explain the difference between a coach and a mentor, and you will most likely get ten different answers. However, most would agree that there is a difference. Before you start looking around for a coach, you must determine what specifically you are looking to gain from this type of relationship. Once you've answered this question, you'll know whether your needs are best served by a mentor or a coach. Here are some general guidelines to help you decide:
· May be in a role that you aspire to be in someday
· May work in the same organization or in another organization
· Their influence is determined by the value you place in them
· Is most often selected by the person who is looking for mentoring
· Waits for you to ask for guidance
· Is usually not compensated
· Sets a strategy for your development as a leader
· Works with you to develop milestones and will hold you accountable as you work toward achieving these mutually agreed-upon objectives
· Helps you see blind spots that often prevent managers from achieving success
· Pushes you to achieve your personal best
· Drives the relationship in a proactive way
· Is compensated for their services
If you find you have a mentor and you need a coach, then shift gears and seek a relationship with someone who is there to actively guide you. Someone whose job it is to hold you accountable and will be there to help you achieve your personal best.
5. You're not committed to doing the work. I'd love to run a marathon one day. The only problem is that I hate to run. Sure, I'll do a few laps around the track if there is someone there prodding me, but the moment they leave it's back to strolling for me. That's because I'm not really committed to achieving this goal.
In my line of work, I'm often meet with executives and business owners who say they want to be the next Jack Welch. That is until they realize this means they will have to do the work that is often required to achieve excellence. It's easy to say you want to be exceptional and it's a lot harder to admit that being average is fine given your circumstances. If you are happy where you are, then save yourself time and money. Don't hire a coach. If you are serious, you know where to find me.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions (www.yourhrexperts.com ) and author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around , a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.  Download's Roberta's complimentary book chapter on How to Work with a Coach and a Mentor .
[Image: Flickr user Ludovic Bertron ]