In theory ... Coaching

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak.

If a coach to you means Mr Rogers, the nerdy, moustachioed PE teacher from your time in class 4B, then think again. These days, every manager - sorry, every executive - needs their own personal coach to hold their hand and tell them how to wipe their nose. 

To have your own executive coach has become something of a status symbol for those at the top of business, and the trend will no doubt make inroads into the charitable sector too. To have your organisation pay for you to spend a few hours a week conversing with a professional business coach is recognition that your own individual talent and happiness warrant this kind of intense development. Basically, it's a sign that you've made it.

But executive coaches should not be confused with life coaches. The latter are individuals who, often beset by problems of their own, decide to fix the worries of others - be they a lack of wardrobe nous, an inability to give up smoking or a distinct lack of 'life goals'. Many have completed dubious life-coaching courses in places such as Los Angeles, San Francisco or, perhaps, Catford. They will have big hair and orange fake tans and be so go-getting that they will irritate you beyond belief.

Executive coaches, on the other hand, if genuine and proven, can provide an invaluable service to individuals at the very top of the career ladder who need someone to turn to who will listen impartially and offer guidance in solving work problems. Don't forget that it's lonely at the top - especially when you're new to the job.

If you're a senior or middle manager, you have it easier in this respect. Though still a boss, you have a team of colleagues around you to banter with, and peers with whom you can moan about the latest impossible edict from on high. Who knows? You might even be the local school's Mr Rogers. In which case, you should ditch those square running shorts and don the fake tan, because your coaching skills might soon be in demand.

- Emma De Vita is a senior section editor on Management Today.

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