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Jane & Harriet 
The benefits of coaching in sport are well understood yet there isn’t always the same appreciation of the value of coaching in a professional or personal context. Lack of clarity as to what coaching is, the assumption it’s only for senior executives, a lingering stigma that it’s a remedial intervention or just practical concerns about the time commitment or costs involved can discourage people from even considering making such an investment in themselves. 
What is coaching? The International Coaching Federation defines the coach’s role as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. Through a combination of thought-provoking questions, creative techniques and giving you space to reflect, and by encouraging you to evolve your thinking and consider other perspectives, a coach will help you tap into your innate potential to find ways to develop, grow and plan strategies for success, whether in your professional or personal life. And whilst coaching techniques may take you out of your comfort zone, through commitment and perseverance you can reap the rewards and thrive. 
When might coaching help? Coaching can be of benefit across many professional and personal situations. Coaching isn’t working to someone else’s agenda or being advised what to do – you determine the focus so it’s personal. So whether it’s exploring career options or building leadership skills; reintegrating after a career break or addressing work-life balance; responding to feedback or tackling self-limiting beliefs or habits; or just having a sense you want to make a change but not knowing what or how and feeling “stuck” – then coaching could be the answer. 
Finding a coach. Identifying the right coach is important. A coach’s experience and qualifications, as well as recommendations and testimonials, will provide helpful data points. But bear in mind that coaches use a range of methodologies and tools, and clients come to coaching with diverse goals and challenges, so there’s no “one size fits all”. 
What is critical for any successful coaching relationship is a safe environment – one where there is mutual trust, respect and rapport, and where the coach is impartial and non-judgemental. A “chemistry” meeting with the coach will help you gauge whether you will get on with them on a personal level plus you’ll gain an understanding of the approaches and techniques they employ. If, after that conversation, you don’t feel engaged and excited – if a little apprehensive – at the prospect of the coaching journey ahead, then perhaps that coach isn’t the right match for you. 
My approach to coaching? Whilst a one-off session may be appropriate, a typical programme is around 6 sessions with the frequency being determined by the client. 
I fundamentally believe that everyone can develop and progress, think creatively, respond positively to challenge and make difficult and courageous choices. So, to ensure the client gets the most out of each session I employ a range of tools and techniques which I believe are both effective and give my coaching authenticity. 
I like to think of coaching a journey. You, as the client, start out excited and curious about the trip ahead, maybe with a specific destination and route in mind or maybe not clear about where you’re heading or how to get there. En route you may come up against obstacles, dead ends or forks in the road that cause hesitation or confusion. You may need to look at things differently or examine and shed self-limiting beliefs if you’re to move forward. However, if you stick with it, embracing and trusting in the coaching process – remembering always that the coaching is taking place in a safe space – you can explore and experiment with options, learn to better leverage skills and knowledge you already possess, make brave decisions that might normally have been consigned to the “too difficult” box and reach destinations you didn’t imagine possible. Along the way, you can experience uplifting, “aha” moments when realisations strike and things start slotting into place, as well as gain enormous insights into yourself, improve self-confidence and make changes that have a positive, long-lasting impact on you and those around you. 
About The Author 
I studied music at university then spent a few years in arts administration before a planned career move into HR also resulted in an unexpected move into financial services! After a challenging and rewarding career, I stepped back from the corporate world last year. I’ve since completed the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching with the Academy of Executive Coaching and am excited to be building my coaching practice. For more information please contact me at eclose20@btinternet.com I’d love to hear from you and help if I can! 
Elaine Close is a qualified Executive Coach and independent HR Consultant https://www.linkedin.com/in/elaine-close-932740a/ 
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