Business coaching provides a supportive environment in which to admit to and work on challenges and weaknesses that are holding us back at work in some way. These weaknesses rarely relate to legal knowledge. More often, they involve practice management concerns such as delegation, financial management, file management, time management, leadership, how to deal with difficult issues, etc.
The length of time it takes to help a client overcome their challenges depends entirely on the client: how clear they are on the issue at hand, how much effort they are willing to put into addressing the issue, and their willingness to change. Over time I’ve found one other important indicator of success: their openness to seeing and addressing their challenge as an issue not just at work, but one that is affecting other areas of their life as well.
We’re Always the Same Person
We may believe that we are a different person at work but in reality, various social situations have us show slightly different faces of the same person. And the real person is never far beneath that surface. It tends to come out most readily when we are extremely happy, sad or angry, regardless of what we’re doing at the time. Our strengths follow us around, and so do our weaknesses. It’s sometimes easier to see our weaknesses at work because we may be more self-critical there. But if you ask those close to you about those weaknesses in your home life, changes are you’ll learn that your issues exist consistently throughout all aspects of your life.
There’s No Geographical Cure
Because of this, there’s no such thing as the geographical cure. Relocating (permanently by moving, or temporarily by going to work) won’t fix our weaknesses. That’s why changing jobs won’t fix many workplace issues: if the issue is stemming from you, it will follow you from job to job. Different social situations may allow us to mask our weaknesses for periods of time but inevitably, they will be revealed.
Be Honest with Yourself
Clients don’t necessarily want to admit to challenges in their personal life to a coach they just met. Or the client might not yet be honest enough with themselves to see that their issue doesn’t begin and end at the doors of their firm. But those clients who make the connection seem to be more motivated to fix the issue, have a broader range of experiences with the issue to be able to analyze it, and can have more opportunities to combat the issue on multiple fronts and through various means until a strong solution is developed.
Your coach doesn’t have to have long conversations with you about your personal life in order to help you resolve a challenge that is affecting multiple aspects of your life: you just need to be cognizant of the reality. Many of my clients might reference the similarity of a business weaknesses to an issue they experience in other aspects of their lives, but we don’t dwell on it. They simply accept responsibility for the weakness potentially impacting other areas of their life, and often take advantage of solutions at work to apply to their home life as well. For example, a client who was have challenges in following through with work assignments admitted that they had the same problem at home. Once we determine how to motivate the client to complete projects, and once he learned how to plan out a project from start to finish, he used those processes both at work and at home and the situation improved on both fronts.
Coaching can be a powerful tool to overcome these challenges, and to create new processes that make us far more effective, efficient and even happier. But coaching is not counselling. When I’m doing business coaching, I don’t have a strong desire to get into the history or emotions of my clients to help them resolve personal issues. The goal of business coaching is to figure out what’s going wrong, and to develop strategies to resolve (or avoid) those issues going forward. There could legitimately be issues that only exist at work. But in most instances, that’s not the case. The client that recognizes an issue as systemic has a much better chance of developing and keeping with a permanent solution.
Heather Gray-Grant is a business strategist, marketing expert and executive coach for law firms, lawyers and administrators. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org