Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Put Me In, Coach

Tuesday night, I went to see Arlo Guthrie (what a truly awesome performance!) so I missed The Daily Show's send-up of life coaching. As a professional coach, I was curious to see whether I'd be able to laugh at having the industry skewered so I made sure to turn it on for the repeat broadcast early the next morning. As they say in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "It's a fair cop."

As per usual, they go after their subject right where it's weakest. And as much as I believe in what I do, many professional life coaches as individuals and the industry in general do have some serious weak spots. Despite the growing popularity (both with people hiring coaches and with people wanting to become coaches), many are unclear about exactly what it is that we do. Many are untrained and uncredentialed. And at this point in the industry, there is very little barrier to entry, one of the first tests of any real profession.

On the flip (less flippant?) side, there is a lot happening these days that is sure to shift coaching toward a much more professional footing. Although these changes could penalize coaches who don't catch this next wave, they will most certainly benefit coaching clients, and that's a good thing so I plan to be part of the drive toward credentialing more coaches (myself included - yes, I'm still working on that!) and being sure that consumers are educated about what they're getting.

Right now though, I believe that as a group, we're kind of like the pre-teen who really wants to be seen as grown-up by everyone else and the jokes that prove that "everyone else" doesn't yet understand us - or perhaps understands some of us all too well - still sting a bit. When we really are grown up, I'm sure the jokes won't hurt so much because by then we'll be more sure of our own skins and more of it will be meaningless anyway.

In the meantime, I find myself mostly able to laugh, both at the gross mischaracterizations and at the barbs that hit uncomfortably close to home. Even more, I find myself thoroughly fascinated by the attention, especially since there seems to be so much of it all of a sudden. Over the weekend, even the New York Times Magazine joined in. Oh, and of course referenced The Daily Show piece too!

Just so we're clear - I happen to be one of those who sometimes struggles with explaining just exactly what it is that I do, mostly because it looks so different for each client I work with. It comes out in the success stories that follow the work that we do more than being anything particularly tangible.

Besides, working with the "show me" techie crowd like I do means that even more clients than normal start working with me for one reason only to determine partway through that something else entirely comes to the forefront. I'm getting comfortable with it, though, because dealing with that ambiguity and helping my clients through it seems to be one of my specialties. Y'know, come to think of it, it's kinda like the eBay IT ads. Wonder if I can borrow that strategy?

When your industry starts requiring more of you to prove your value, how do you handle it - or, if you'd rather, send to me at your thoughts or questions about the coaching industry. I can hold extended conversations on just about any subject!

Where do you need help laughing at yourself?

Kimm Viebrock is a Certified Professional Coach who helps technology professionals and service-oriented technology groups develop and use their skills more effectively and increase their value within the larger organizaion, allowing them to do more, do it better and have more fun doing it. Kimm is devoted to finding the connectedness in life.