If you watch the TV show Billions, you either love or hate (it’s really one or the other) the character Wendy Rhoades, in-house performance coach at Axe Capital (a thinly-veiled reference to actual hedge fund S. A. C. Capital Advisors.) A psychiatrist by training, Wendy works with the hedgies at Axe Cap to help them out of professional trouble spots (or personal trouble spots that are having professional ramifications) so that they can maximize productivity and success, earning the company and themselves a lot of money.
While Wendy’s job isn’t always conveyed particularly realistically in the show (there’s an early scene in a hot tub involving Wendy and the CEO, Bobby Axelrod, which had me going, “Wait, how did we get here?”), performance coaches like Wendy are in fact becoming increasingly popular and common in the workplace. And they’re not just a fixture at hedge funds that manage zillions of dollars to play with, or Silicon Valley tech incubators, which always seem to be at the cutting edge of every workplace trend; in fact, coaches are being utilized at companies big and small, across all industries. Performance coaches are sort of like a hybrid between work-specific therapists (though coaching organizations are quick to point out that coaching is NOT therapy) and professional mentors, and as Wendy does, they help employees mitigate obstacles that keep them from performing their best.
What’s interesting and new about coaching these days is that it’s no longer just the C-level executives partaking; rather, coaching has become democratic, taking place at all levels of companies. What’s more, experts assert that coaching yields a great ROI, empowering employees by getting them engaged, motivated, and able to ascend to more challenging and productive roles as a result.
But where coaching is concerned, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Here are some of the popular ways coaching takes place:
This sounds like you’d be sitting alone in a room talking to yourself, but in fact, self-coaching does have multiple components of interaction. Individuals engage with self-paced, on-demand instruction through modules, and then participate in live break-out sessions in which they practice their skills with other participants in the program. The live break-out sessions are facilitated by trained instructors or coaches. The goal of self-coaching is to ask yourself powerful questions that enable you to identify self-limiting behavior, figure out the “story” behind it, and create positive behavioral shifts.
2. In-Person Coaching
This is your Wendy Rhoades stuff, right here. A performance coach may be in-office at a big enough corporation, or might work solo, unaffiliated with a particular business. Clients will have sessions with this coach, one-on-one or sometimes with other individuals in the office, with the overall goal of promoting the best workplace outcomes. Some examples of situations wherein one might go see a performance coach are to help achieve certain objectives (and figure out what’s getting in the way), resolve workplace conflicts, help to facilitate better workplace communication (sometimes with another specific individual), discuss anxieties and obstacles relating to work, and set goals. Individuals might also see a performance coach when considering changing careers, or planning for retirement.
3. Digital Coaching
With everyone working at least partially remotely as a result of the pandemic, digital coaching platforms are becoming increasingly popular. Users select a coach through a proprietary app, through which either a call or a video session will then take place. Individuals may schedule regular sessions with a coach, or sporadic ones, perhaps in advance of a big meeting or pitch, at a time when they’re feeling “stuck,” or when there’s a workplace situation that is causing trouble. Then, the session takes place privately through their smartphone or computer console. While any discussions that take place during the sessions will be private and confidential, these coaching platforms deliver data-based insights to the companies that choose to purchase access to these platforms for their employees.
4. Speed Coaching
You guessed it—this is like speed-dating, but for coaching. Coaches and “coachees” set up chairs (or booths, or Zoom breakout rooms) in which they face each other one-on-one, and talk about a specific problem for a brief period of time (say, 5-20 minutes.) Then, they may switch places, with the coachees becoming coaches (and vice-versa), or simply move to a different coach. The idea behind speed coaching is to give users access to a turbo-charged thinking session, where they can analyze an issue they’re having trouble with and get some unique outside perspective on it, without wasting a lot of time in the build-up or draw-down.
So, do employees like all this coaching?
The answer is, resoundingly, yes. Employees have been shown to be far more likely to stay at a company that offers coaching--no small benefit to employers, particularly in the era of talent shortages and the Great Resignation. Experts assert that coaching makes employees more motivated, engaged, and enables them to be stronger contributors by helping them to overcome obstacles preventing them from being their highest performing selves.
Just as the employees at Axe Capital emerge from their session with Wendy ready to take on the world, earn millions of dollars, and only engage in the slightest amount of insider trading, so too do real life employees, who feel empowered by coaching, affirmed by their employers’ investments in their well-being and success, and more positive about their work all around. (And they preferably remain on the right side of the law.) In other words, not only is there no crying in baseball (to quote another pop culture reference we love) when coaching is involved—it’s a win for everyone on the team.
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