A Message From President Jonathan E. Dehlinger, Ph.D.
Maximizing Your Professional and Personal Potential
What does an aspiring performer, a star athlete, your 'squirt' hockey player, a 'big ticket' movie actress, and an executive business professional have in common?
In a word - Coaching!
Coaching, a mainstay for amateur or professional athletes and entertainers is often described as a relationship that provides valuable feedback, insight and guidance from an external perspective. The same description holds true for coaching a business professional.
The next question that may come to mind is why would a business executive or manager work with a professional coach?
"Professional coaching is a relationship process," according to business psychologist Jonathan Dehlinger. "It allows an executive the opportunity to explore alternative behaviors, share uncertainties, gain new performance insights or simply understand how to relate more effectively with others while being advised in a safe, trusting environment."
Individual professional and personal development needs provide the motivation that drives the coaching process even though it is typically company sponsored.
"The value added for the coached person is objective, clear, direct feedback and insights specifically focused on achieving desired behavior changes. We are not dealing in warm, fuzzy feel-good platitudes," adds Dehlinger. "For the company the value added is improved performance."
C. John Creech, president, Snap-on Tools Japan, began coaching with Dehlinger through a
company-sponsored succession planning process in 1994. "Snap-on invited 100+ individuals to participate in one of six or eight formal succession planning seminars preceded by individual assessment and testing provided by Vernon, Roche and Hodgson (VRH). From the beginning, Dr. Dehlinger greatly assisted me in making a fair and honest self-appraisal of my capabilities. The assessment was aimed at helping me develop personally and professionally to maximize my career opportunities within Snap-on."
A regional bank executive offers another perspective. "My potential was recognized within the organization and I was personally motivated to improve myself to become a more effective leader. It was a mutual decision to proceed with an assessment and engage a coach to further my development opportunities."
"It is incredibly useful having a professional interpret what the evaluation tools indicate but what's more important is receiving the insights into improvement options involving both career and personal areas that specifically need to be worked on," adds the manager of an electric utility. "Even though it would have been easier to deny some of the issues, it allowed me to recognize and reaffirm some transitions I knew I needed to make."
When selecting a professional coach, trustworthiness, knowledge (business and organizational), solid communication and listening skills, and accumulated experiences, i.e., the wealth of experience to share insights from other data sources, are usually essential qualities.
"My coach, Dr. Dehlinger, knows my company, our business, and what we're all about," says Larry Rocole, Milwaukee Division vice president for J.P. Cullen and Sons (Janesville). "Our companies have a long-term relationship based on trust."
"You must have trust and total confidence in this person," according to a healthcare executive. "Even when he makes me pause and think, I can still laugh with Dr. Dehlinger."
"Knowledge is important for a coach!" adds the bank executive. "Ideally, you want a very good listener who gives objective feedback and poses thought-provoking questions that guide you to come to realizations about yourself. It was an easy decision to select Dr. Dehlinger."
VRH utilizes a four-tiered development process that is tailored to the specific needs of the individual and the organization.
Perform a customized assessment to understand the 'gap' between known capabilities and those required to perform at the aspired-for level.
Plan developmental actions that can be practiced and accomplished in daily activity consistent with identified individual (and organizational) needs.
Evaluate the results of developmental actions via self-reflection (What worked? What would I do differently the next time?), and one-on-one feedback sessions with your coach, management or trusted colleagues.
Monitor progress to ensure success of the process. Periodically reassess developmental plans and needs.
"Attempting too much, and expecting change too soon leads to frustration and giving up," observes Dehlinger. "The quality of the process relies on the person being coached and the value they see in our relationship."
According to Rocole, "We tackle only two to three items I can work on every day, both on and off the job."
"It is basically my choice how to proceed," states the bank executive. "I need to put forth the effort to improve my skills and develop my career. Coaching steers me in the right direction and provides a constant reminder of what I need to be working on."
Management support is fundamental to this process. Rocole comments, "Management buy-in is essential. This is a long term investment that will not see a return in a day or a week - we're looking for repetitive, positive, in-grained behavior."
The healthcare executive agrees, "Unwavering management support is so beneficial."
"Senior management is supporting my efforts and my boss is open to helping me in any way. But it is still my responsibility to let them know what I need," says the bank executive. "I am in the process of developing myself as a respected leader, and support is vital."
From his 15 years of coaching experience, Dehlinger indicates that opportune times to hire a coach
At a point where an individual is entering his/her first managerial or a mid-to-upper level executive position.
When a successor is being groomed for a new or expanding leadership
in a leadership career path where the individual could benefit from
the on-going resource relationship.
Creech shares this story:
"After the succession planning seminar and assessment course, company executives, Dr. Dehlinger and I determined that additional formal training, such as completing a MBA, would benefit me most. At the time (1995) I was running a multi-million dollar Japanese sales unit while dealing with dreadful economic conditions in Asia. I found several schools in Japan but was restricted by language, class schedules or daily travel. Disappointed and anxious at losing valuable time, I turned to Dr. Dehlinger who gathered information on several Asian schools. Together we found several top-notch, Internet-based schools that had multiple international residential sites. In 1997, I graduated in the first Global MBA class from the Fuqua Business School of Duke University. This would not have happened without the succession planning process at Snap-on Tools, management support and Dr. Dehlinger's recommendations to Duke."
A coaching engagement may last several months to many years, and it may be of a sporadic nature or follow a structured schedule. The bank executive followed a structured schedule for the first 6 months and now meets as needed, or at least every couple of months.
Creech, who lives and works in Tokyo, is emphatic that "despite the distance and time difference, I am able to utilize the service with a little planning at will." So he contacts Dehlinger by various means - telephone, e-mail, and personal consults when visiting the home office (at least once a year).
"Coaching sessions are typically more structured on the front-end of our relationship but taper off to ad-hoc meetings (every 6-8 weeks, quarterly, biannually or annually)," says Dehlinger.
Fees can be structured on an hourly or retainer basis. Most companies provide financial backing.
Is professional coaching something you or your organization should seriously consider undertaking?
Perhaps these final comments will help you answer that question.
"A commitment to professional development is a lot of work but the benefits are rewarding. It helps in all facets of life," concludes the bank executive. "Take advantage of the information and resources offered at VRH. Given the chance, exploit the counsel of your career coach. If never given the chance, figure out a way to make it (coaching) happen." -John Creech
"Don't look at coaching as a bad thing," adds Rocole. "Look on it as an independent resource who will listen to you without bias."
"Someone outside 'the system' has a whole different, objective perspective. A professional coach can be very clear when you can't," affirms the healthcare executive.
Creech offers, "Given the chance, exploit the counsel of your career coach. If never given the chance, figure out a way to make it (coaching) happen."
The electric utility manager strongly suggests that if your company ever extends an invitation for a professional coaching opportunity "you should never turn it down."
Finally Dehlinger advises "not to wait until an individual is having a performance problem - approach early and constructively!"
Professional coaching is one of the many services provided by VRH. Contact them for additional information.
The ABCs on Coaching:
A cquiring new skills and behaviors in order to respond more effectively.
B ecome a stronger, more effective business professional.
C ommit to career development.
D evelop a broader perspective about life and self.
E nhance inner confidence.
F eedback offered that is constructive.
G et to know yourself better.
H igher self-reliance promoted.
I ntegrate the various elements of personal and work lives.
J on Dehlinger indicates that only 25% of individuals will follow through on professional development activities without external resources, such as coaching.
K nowledge and insights are shared.
L earn to be inter-developmental with others - work in collaboration and partnership.
M anagement support is vital.
N o one needs it more than anyone else does (not a gender or diversity issue).
O bjective, external perspective provided.
P ose thought provoking questions to stimulate growth and positive behavior changes.
Q uality of the process relies on person being coached.
R ipple effect through the functional organization - everyone communicates more effectively.
S uccess is an individual measure.
T rust is necessary.
U nderstanding leads to self improvement.
V alue of being coached - imparting knowledge and experience that enhance another's performance and sense of well being.
W ork on individual developmental needs.
X - benefit at least ten times the effort.
Y ou are the focus.
Z ero in on your professional and personal development with VRH.
(VRH's short topic pieces that relate to organizational performance.)
Commemorating 20 Years of Service
"Sorry, wrong executive."
"Leaders aren't born"
"Fit is It"