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Usually engineers do not like to get executive and leadership coaching, when they hear about it they might be tempted to cringe. However, many engineers are waking up to the benefits of coaching – both as tool to advance their careers and as an attractive and potentially lucrative future endeavor.
Ann Latham, president of Massachusetts consulting company Uncommon Clarity Inc., is a former software engineer who has worked with many other types of engineers on complex, computer-controlled hydraulic systems. She notes that engineers struggle with a number of “handicaps,” including:
- Patience for people: Engineers are generally task-driven and expect that all problems can be solved with brute force, logic and technology.
- Excessive Analysis: Executives often need to make decisions without complete information, whereas they would prefer to seek more information and are uncomfortable with ambiguity.
- An overly technical perspective: Engineers tend to measure success in term of technical accomplishments only, which means they often undervalue the contributions of nontechnical people, the importance of nontechnical skills such as leadership and communication, and the significance of nontechnical accomplishments such as overcoming emotional obstacles.
Coaching is a set of tools, conversations and processes that help people have insights about how to improve their performance, whether through reframed perceptions, eliminating behavioral blind spots that are holding them back, developing new skills, relating more effectively with others, engaging and mobilizing employees or navigating the politics of an organization. Coaching helps engineers to see the above biases and develop new perceptions, behaviors and skills to deal with them so they able to achieve business and organizational results and enjoy greater career success. A good coach, whether from a professional coach or one’s own boss, can make a huge difference in one’s career.
According to a survey by the Hay Group, an international human resources consultancy, up to 40 percent of fortune 500 companies use executive coaches, and that number is projected to grow. Manchester Inc., a Florida career management consulting company, has reported that about six out of 10 organizations currently offer coaching, or other developmental counseling, to their managers and executives. A growing niche is in helping highly technical people learn how to be outstanding managers and leaders.
One reason that coaching continues to grow is because, when done well, it gets results. According to the International Coach Federation’s Global Coaching Client Study, which interviewed 2,165 coaching clients from 64 countries, the median return on investment in coaching for business purposes is seven times the investment. Individual clients reported a median return on their investment of 3.44 times. The study showed that the majority of coaching clients reported positive changes in a number of areas, including self-confidence, relationships, communication skills, interpersonal skills, work performance and work/life balance. 83 percent of individuals reported being very satisfied with their coaching experience, a remarkable 96 percent said they would repeat their coaching experience given the same circumstances.
There are three ways to take advantage of this growth in and acceptance of coaching, they are:
- To get coached and improve your capabilities, especially if you want to move up the ladder as an engineer. Some engineer have blind spots that hold them back, especially in the areas of interacting with other people, engaging and mobilizing teams, developing relationships with nonengineers who also hold power, and influencing the right people in an organization to embrace their ideas.
- Learn how to coach to improve the capabilities of your team. Good managers have coaching skills that can help their direct reports become better managers and more effective team members. Engineers who aspire to move up the ladder should develop a plan to learn how to coach others to greater success.
- Start a coaching practice as an encore career. Coaching could give an attractive income along with the flexibility to make your own hours and work wherever you want.
|Top signs you might benefit from coaching||How coaching can help|
|The people on your team don’t seem to be doing what you need them to do.||Get insights about how to engage and mobilize people more effectively.|
|You can’t understand why higher-ups don’t embrace your ideas||Discover what it takes to build your power base within the organization and increase your ability to influence key decision makers.|
|You have been given feedback that you have one or more behaviors that are holding your career back.||Behavioral coaching is proven, scientifically grounded process to eliminate behaviors that are holding you back and help you develop more effective behaviors|
|You get frustrated when you try to communicate with nontechnical colleagues.||Develop new, more flexible ways of communicating by understanding other’s styles.|
|You would like to learn the keys to navigating organizational politics with fewer headaches, hassles and less of a sense that you are spinning your wheels.||See how politics really works in your organization and how to use politics to your advantage.|
|Your career has hit a plateau, and you want to get it moving upward again.||Develop a formal action plan to get your career back on track.|
|If you were to be laid off, you feel like you lack the power base and current skills to get hired again easily.||Strengthen your power base and network of contacts, improve your ability to communicate your value, and learn how to have opportunities come to you before they are posted publicly.|
|You are on a team, and it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere||Learn what it takes to build a successful team, and get coaching on the different styles and needs of each team member.|
|You have conflict(s) with your boss and/or colleagues and don’t know how to resolve them.||Take steps and develop skills to resolve almost any conflict while alsongetting what you want.|
|You were just promoted to management and are realizing that you need help making the transition.||Develop a 90-day career development plan to succeed during your crucial first three months on the job.|
Neitlich, A (2013,January/February). Engineering A Great Encore To Your Career. Industrial Management.
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