DVM, BCC, PCC
Go With the Flow co-columnist Dr. Jeff Thoren is the founder of Gifted Leaders and an expert coach specializing in leadership and team development. He is one of only five veterinarians in the world to hold a credential from the International Coaching Federation.Read Articles Written by Jeff Thoren
What do Bianca Andreescu, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Daniil Medvedev have in common? That’s right, all four are elite tennis players and were finalists in the 2019 U.S. Open.
What you might not realize is that all four athletes — despite being ranked among the best in their sport worldwide — rely on professional coaches so that they continue to learn, develop their capabilities and perform at their best. The coaches partner with the athletes to facilitate self-discovery about how to get better, and they serve as an objective outside source of developmental feedback.
Partnering with a coach is widely accepted in top-level sports but is less commonly used by business leaders. In the veterinary profession, only a small percentage of leaders have realized the benefits of working with a professional coach. That needs to change.
Seeking the services of a professional coach is a great way to meet the challenges of leadership in today’s complex, rapidly changing workplace. Veterinary leaders have come to realize that their success and the success of their practice or business depends on their ability to redefine leadership itself.
A Different Kind of Leader
The concept of leadership as we know it is changing. There is a shift away from embodying leadership in a single person, “the leader,” and toward viewing leadership as a more distributed capability shared by many.
True leaders today need far more than strategies and smarts, or in other words, the IQ of leadership. Today’s leaders need to know themselves — their blind spots, values, possibilities, patterns and old stories. They need to know how to be team players and how to engage the collective leadership of those around them.
This is new territory for most of us, and it means changing our traditional top-down beliefs and assumptions about how leadership works. That’s where coaching comes in.
Coaching is fundamentally about facilitating growth and change. If you’re a practice owner, hospital manager or team lead, or if you hold some other positional leadership title, a coach can help examine your beliefs and modify your behaviors so that you can effectively rise to the challenge of leading in the 21st century.
Enter the Business Coach
The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “a thought-provoking and creative partnership that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential, often unlocking previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”
Coaching is not something that is done to you, it is something your coach co-creates with you. Metaphorically, it’s like a dance that you are leading. A coaching experience will help you focus on where you are now (your current reality) and what needs to happen to get to a desired future state.
Coaching doesn’t focus on what’s wrong or what’s broken. Instead, coaching takes an appreciative, strengths-based approach to generating positive change. It honors you as the expert in your own life and work, equips you to craft self-generated solutions and strategies, and allows you to more fully use your natural gifts and talents. It is built on the belief that real growth must come from within. It cannot be grafted onto you from the outside as the traditional instructional-consulting model suggests.
Effective coaching relies on a relationship between coach and client that is built on respect, safety, challenge and accountability.
A coach is a confidante, sounding board and trusted thinking partner who listens, asks questions and talks in a way that:
- Raises your awareness of who you want to be, what you want to do and the key things critical to your success.
- Expands your options and choices for effective action.
- Fosters the self-trust required for you to confidently design action plans and move forward on your intentions.
The coaching process involves a series of confidential meetings over several weeks or months that focus on the developmental agenda most important to you. Working with a coach will help provide the structure and accountability you need to make important changes or achieve specific goals.
Is It Time?
So, do you need a coach? Partnering with one will help you with “thinking about your thinking.”
High achievers, like many of us in the veterinary profession, are skilled at rationalizing, believing in our reasoning and protecting our opinions as solid facts. A coach can help bring your beliefs, assumptions, judgments, fears, needs and value-related conflicts to the surface and allow you to better evaluate your decisions and actions.
Who wouldn’t want someone on their side to discuss creative ideas, goals, dreams, doubts, concerns, petty irritations, and the personal and professional implications of all of those?
Coaching is all about exploring choices. Hiring a coach is a choice to make if you want to accelerate your personal and professional growth and development.
You can benefit from hiring a coach if you:
- Have a desire to improve some aspect of your performance, learning or fulfillment.
- Are open to feedback and are willing to take responsibility to create positive change.
What should you look for in a coach and where can you find one?
The field of coaching is relatively new but has grown exponentially over the last few years. In reality, people can call themselves coaches regardless of whether they’ve received legitimate training or had significant experience coaching others. And to complicate matters, a variety of approaches to coaching exist, some of which are more directive and deficit-based in contrast to the strengths-based approach described above.
A good place to start your search for a coach is to identify individuals who received a coaching credential through the International Coach Federation or the Center for Credentialing and Education. Look for someone who earned the designation of either an associate certified coach (ACC), professional certified coach (PCC), master certified coach (MCC) or board certified coach (BCC). Coaches with these credentials adhere to high ethical standards and received significant coach-specific training around a series of well-defined competencies. These coaches understand the difference between coaching, consulting, training and counseling, and they are well-equipped to create an effective working relationship with you.
A “Find a Coach” service is available on the International Coaching Federation website at http://bit.ly/32lt763.
When reaching out to prospective coaches:
- Ask to schedule a 30- to 45-minute introductory call to explore the possibility of working together.
- Ask them to share their approach to coaching and the process used.
- Invite them to talk about their coaching experience.
- Request that they provide a list of client references.
- Inquire about fees and billing options.
During your conversation, watch and listen for signs of good “chemistry” between you and the prospective coach. The most important questions are the ones you ask yourself: “Do our values align?” and “Is there an organic connection in our conversation?” If this person seems like someone you are easily able to talk to, the rest will follow.
The value and benefits of working with a coach don’t have to be reserved for elite athletes. As a veterinary leader, now is the perfect time for you to elevate your game and reap the rewards of working with a professional coach.