I don’t think we should consider coaching services as ‘useful’ or ‘worth spending your money on’, only for those who want to climb up the ladder to senior management positions.
It’s a reality that many companies tend to offer coaching exclusively to employees who have been identified as potential successors to their boss.
The downside of this is that only a few people can then benefit from this type of growth opportunity. Yet, there has to be many more employees who have the interest AND the potential to grow, who could also benefit greatly from working with a business coach.
Women especially — I truly believe — could discover how good they actually are by working with a coach. And possibly even come to realise that they can, and want to advance their career much more than they had ever anticipated.
So let me introduce you to Carole Perez, a coach I met at a business event, who quickly caught my attention because of her unconventional and impressive career path.
INTRODUCING CAROLE PEREZ
What struck me when I first met Carole, was her calmness, her poise, and her obvious capability of actually ‘listening’ to you. She translates a sense of confidence that I haven’t seen very often in a woman — without it being intimidating.
I guess it’s a mix of her body language — or lack of the body signs you would normally see in a shy or insecure person — and the way she engages in the conversation with you.
Carole’s Business Background
Carole was raised in Morocco and traveled extensively from a young age, having a father who had a job that required him to travel on numerous 6-month missions.
That brought her to study law in Montpellier, France, where she also got a master’s degree in international law.
After a few years of working in France, she happened to come to Montreal to visit some friends. « For the first time in my life, I felt at home » she says.
She quickly found a job, and only after a couple of years — while ALENA talks were taking place between Canada, the United States and Mexico — Carole and her boss saw an opportunity to launch a company.
They would help Quebec businesses build strategic alliances with Mexican companies. Combining Quebec ‘savoir-faire‘ with Mexican entrepreneurs who had money, yet had factories and plants with outdated equipment and technology.
Her Switch to Coaching
After 18 years in the business, they had completed more than 300 turnkey projects. Mostly in Mexico and Latin America.
At that point, Carole started to find that the intense traveling that was coming with the job was becoming hard to bear. So she decided she was ready for a change.
She came to realize that her profile and extensive experience as the boss of an SME — having managed more than 20 employees and accompanied many CEOs through the various projects she lead — was the perfect background to help others achieve their career and business goals.
So she went back to school for 2 years and got a professional coach certification from ICF — the International Coaching Federation.
MY INTERVIEW WITH CAROLE
Q. What’s a professional coach and how does it differentiate from a mentor?
Well first, when looking for a mentor, you’ll normally try to find someone who has filled the same kind of position you’re targeting. For example, right now I am mentoring a person who wants to become a coach.
And you will only meet with your mentor about 4 times a year.
On the other hand, a professional coach accompanies you and helps you integrate new tools in your day-to-day job reality.
The focus of a mandate will vary quite a bit from one person to another. In my case, clients will on average request 10 to 20 sessions and come for a refresh 2 years later.
Some of the coach’s most important tools are ‘active listening’, and knowing how to ask the right question. Actually, the question becomes more important than the answer. Clients will always find the right answers eventually.
Another key characteristic lies in the coach’s ability to speak the truth, tactfully. If I want to bring change, I need to challenge my client’s values. So there’s definitely an intimate side to the relationship. People have to be ready to open up.
Q. How would you describe your actual role as a coach?
I personally put a lot of emphasis on fixing targets with my clients — challenging them to make sure they are specific enough, yet achievable.
I also insist so that we set some personal goals on top of the professional ones. To make sure we don’t forget the ‘balanced life’ factor.
Then it’s all about making simple, that which was complicated, and using powerful examples and metaphors to help clients understand the message I’m trying to deliver.
My past experience as an entrepreneur is really useful in this respect. I have many stories I can use to make clients relate with situations they are experiencing at work.
In terms of approach, mine is very much into action. I want my clients to be equipped with the tools they need to be able to quickly move forward.
So I’m there as a guide, to make sure my client stays on track with the goals we’ve set at the beginning. I like to describe myself as ‘The guardian of my client’s goals’.
I also have a flagship product which is Time management — in other words increasing my client’s productivity — where I guarantee a 5 to 10 hour gain per week!
The best part for me is when a client tells me ‘You’re not an expense, you’re a revenue!’. That’s very rewarding.
Q. What differences have you noticed between men and women in business?
Well, first it’s interesting to note that my clientele is 75% men. I think women are not ready to spend in the same way as men are. Men invest in themselves. Women will be more inclined to spend on concrete things, like training courses.
I also noticed a few more differences:
- Women are great negotiators for their boss, their kids, their husband. But not so much for themselves.
- Unlike men, a woman who wants to move up the ladder will often wait until she gets everyone‘s approval around her before she actually goes for the position. Without it, she fears she will come out as pretentious.
- When making a request, a woman will use her emotions, whereas a man will be factual. So the woman will often take detours, trying to justify her request. Instead of asking directly for what she needs.
- Women will think of others, and be weary of how the other person will react. Instead of thinking or herself first.
- If a woman has 11 of the 12 qualifications required for an open position, she won’t apply. A man will have only 3 and will apply.
Q. Your piece of advice for women in business?
I would say 4 things:
- Women can be 3 times more powerful than men when they ‘connect with their heart’. What I mean by this is for example, let’s say you feel nervous about a meeting coming up where you’ll have to present to senior management. Once you’re in that room, remember to let go of all external factors, forget about ego, fear, looks, and only concentrate on the human factor that is left. All these people around you are humans like you, they only have a position.
- Women are natural leaders, at home with their kids and their husband. Women already have the skills, it’s simply a matter of learning how to adapt these skills to their business environment.
- There’s a huge difference between marketing yourself and being pretentious. With the former, you’re only revealing who you are, your legitimate value. With the latter, you pretend to be something you’re not. So to all women, please do not refrain from marketing yourself!
- If you’re a manager, preach by example. Instead of telling your people what to do and giving advice, make sure your own behavior is in line with what you preach.
MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON THE VALUE OF HIRING A BUSINESS COACH
Meeting Carole was a gift. It’s as if, through the one and a half hour meeting we had together, she managed to pass on a bit of her strength to me. So while I recognize myself in some of her statements about women, simply being more conscious about it, and keeping her advice in mind, is now helping me integrate change.
I know working with a coach may represent an important sum of money at first. But if you’re looking for professional success, or are really determined to achieve a specific goal in your career, then hiring a coach is definitely one of the avenues you should consider.
According to Lois P. Frankel, PhD, former business coach, and bestselling author of Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office, the investment often pays off:
The data collected in my own firm shows that about 60% of the people we coach are promoted within one year, and an additional 10% choose to leave their current jobs … and go on to more satisfying positions or companies that are a better match for them.
Not only will you significantly increase your chances of achieving your goals, but you will most probably achieve them faster too.
Professional athletes hire coaches to set them apart from the competition, why shouldn’t you do the same?
Doesn’t that line about “marketing yourself” strike a chord?
I would love to hear your comments about this subject. For one, what’s keeping you from working with a business coach?
Have you ever received coaching before? What was the most important gain for you?