Many of today’s organizations value coaching enough to designate someone, usually from HR, as an internal coach for the employees. Those folks can be a great resource when you want to get some feedback and tweak your leadership approach. But despite having outstanding HR department personnel, many leading Fortune 500 companies still reach out to me when they want to develop their leaders and prepare them for promotions and more responsibility. While internal coaching plays an important role, using an external coach gives you distinct advantages that make it a more valuable asset.
Internally-designated coaches usually have multiple responsibilities across the organization, and limited availability. Meanwhile, in terms of professional training, they may have only taken an online class to become coach-certified. You can learn about flying an airplane using a computer-operated simulated cockpit and a virtual reality screen. But I don’t think you’d board a flight from Atlanta to Chicago if it meant that you had to trust your life to a pilot who had never flown an actual plane and had only logged flight hours in a simulation cockpit.
Would you rather hire a golf coach who never played professionally, or one who was on the PGA tour and understands those pressures? You need a specialist who knows how to play the game you want to win. You need someone who has actually served in the trenches as a top-placed successful leader. You want a coach who does nothing but coach, day-in and day-out – and who stays on the forward edge of best practices by collaborating with the world’s top coaches. You also want someone who is constantly training leaders in a variety of different dynamic environments, companies, and industries, so that you acquire leadership knowledge that is widely applicable and universally marketable.
Convenient Access & Confidentiality
An issue that my clients often express to me is that they don’t feel completely comfortable sharing their problems, challenges, shortcomings, and vulnerabilities with someone who works within the same company. Although internal coaches do keep what they learn from employees confidential, people being coached still tend to hold back – and that can severely hamper their progress and development. Most people would definitely not volunteer to share their lack of confidence or skill, for example, with a coach who may also work in HR – where decisions about who gets promoted are made. An external coach can be more of a collaborative partner and many clients also work with me virtually and by phone, so that they have access to my help whenever it is needed, which is typically not possible when working with a busy HR person.
Experience is the Best Teacher
I learned early in my career that the best way to advance and succeed is to take advantage of the experience of others who have already been where you want to go. They can help you avoid the unseen pitfalls while also showing you where you need to develop to make the most progress and gain those predictable promotions. If you are at a place in your career where coaching can be the key to unlocking greater success, don’t shortchange yourself. Seek out the best coaching you can find, and commit to it in a way that will yield life-changing and career elevating returns on that investment.