During a recent call I was talking with someone about achieving a career goal (coaching in itself, though unplanned) and I suggested that someone we both knew would be an excellent coach towards achieving that goal. Finding a coach that has the expertise is usually hard, in this case I could easily name someone.
Which led to the questions “why would they coach me?” and “how do I go about asking them?”. Those aren’t trivial questions, at all, yet the answers might be simpler than you think.
Starting with the first one of “why”, for most people it’s a combination of:
- Being flattered to be asked for their help
- Wanting to invest in the ‘next generation’ of doers and leaders
- Wanting to improve their own coaching skills
The being flattered option is obvious and human, but what about the other two? As I think about my own career I’ve always thought that with the right coach at a few different times, I’d be much further along than I am now. A coach can’t replace experience, but often they can show you opportunities and help you work through challenges that are much harder to do on your own. It would have actually required a relatively small effort on both sides to make what I believe would have been a big difference.
The other part is improving coaching skills. Coaching is part of the suite of communication skills we need to move to bigger things. Do we have the ability to take someone with talent and help them accomplish a goal? That happens more often than you might think in business, where it’s business and there is often no personal investment. It’s not a common skill among managers, and strangely, not much in the way of coaching on how to be a coach!
So maybe that explains why, but the really hard question is asking them to do it. It certainly helps to have some existing relationship, but the relationship doesn’t need to be that deep to make asking possible and reasonable. At this point, just like asking for a date, you have to take the leap. I’d suggest email rather than a phone call, it’s not urgent, it removes the potential social awkwardness if they say no, and it gives them time to think about their current workload (and other factors) before arriving at a decision. Explain briefly what you need help with and the scope of what you think that looks like. Doesn’t have to be perfect. Does require diligence and thought.
if they say yes, good! If they say no, you might ask for recommendations on other coaches or directions.