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“Hey, Put Me in Coach!”

February 2014

Can Hiring a Business Coach Lead to Success?

If you think securing the services of an executive or leadership coach might be like hiring your own personal cheerleader, think again.

A coach helps us see our true selves – our strengths, weaknesses, dreams and excuses and teaches us tried and true techniques for leadership success. A good coach holds us accountable, helping us identify and work around our go-to coping mechanisms when the going gets tough. A great coach helps us see ourselves happy and fulfilled, and illuminates a path to get there.


Mary Ann Masur Singer, PPC, CPCC

About Our Experts
Mary Ann Masur Singer, PPC, CPCC
Synergy Consultants, LLC
Singer has more than 25 years’ experience optimizing individual ability, team dynamics and organizational influences in the private and public sectors. She holds accreditations and certifications from The Coaches Training Institute and the International Coach Federation. She coaches small business owners and clients from Fortune 500 companies from her offices in Columbus, Ohio, having moved there recently from Baltimore.

Jeff Henning
Focal Point
Henning is a seasoned business executive and leader whose first career was as a sales manager and business development director for manufacturing, technology and commercial services industries, including defense contractors. His second career leverages what he learned in the first, adding coaching performance management

Jeff Henning

Jeff Henning

to sales management. He purchased rights to a Focal Point coaching franchise in 2011.

Ronnie Davis
Longstream Coaching and Training, LLC
Davis attended college after raising her children, earning associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. When a move forced her to resign teaching, she hired a coach to help her find her way to more fulfilling employment. She found her life’s calling in the process. Now a full-time coach, Davis specializes in corporate leadership development workshops and in coaching women. Davis is chairperson for the Harford County Commission on Women.

The concept of coaching is practically ageless, but applying it outside sports is relatively new. Thomas Leonard is generally credited with, in the early 1990s, creating and legitimizing the modern field of personal and business coaching. Leonard was a coach, author, educator, founder of and Coach University and the primary organizer of the International Coach Federation. The ICF created core competencies for the field, built a code of ethics, defined curriculum standards and developed a credentialing system.

Ronnie Davis

Ronnie Davis

Regardless of approach, our experts agree:

1. All coaching should be prefaced by standardized assessments to determine work styles, personality traits and business strengths and weaknesses.

2. Liking your coach is key. It’s hard to take direction from, be accountable to and receive tough love from someone you don’t fundamentally respect.

3. Before hiring a coach, ask for references, ask about credentials and ask about his or her coaching philosophy to inform the selection process.

The code, curriculum and credentialing are key, because so much of what constitutes coaching is individualized, and while success usually can be quantified, much of what a client gains from having a coach is intangible.

Singer counts among her clients Nationwide, Battelle, Procter & Gamble, Under Armour and the Cleveland Clinic. I95 BUSINESS caught up with her as she was flying out west to meet with clients. She works with individuals and teams, including business partnerships that need to work more effectively.

“Two surgeons were partners, and each was at the top of her field,” recalls Singer. “Their business relationship was causing them stress. I worked with them to design an alliance and guidelines to follow for the partnership. They later told me they handled an issue in minutes, something they would have spent days on worrying about and projecting, attempting to find middle ground.”

Singer notes work styles can impede the work of teams large and small. She says, “If someone has a dominant work style it can overpower others. A perfectionist who doesn’t let go of control doesn’t allow others to participate fully.”

Virginia-based Henning concurs.

Henning uses a systematic approach to coaching, one developed by the franchise he operates, Focal Point Coaching. He backs the methodology with more than 30 years of experience as a business developer.

“We have a specific set of information we bring to the table, sometimes step by step because some companies need that. Some have specific problems, and that’s where my specific expertise comes in,” Henning says.

A well-kept but highly impactful secret in the corporate world is that even men and women in the most senior positions can feel inadequate and undeserving of their career success.

“It’s called the imposter syndrome. Women have it at all stages of their careers and I’ve had men come up to me after a seminar and say that men feel it, too, they just don’t let on,” says Davis. “For successful people, they feel they will be found out, that they aren’t who people think they are and that it is luck, not skill and hard work, that got them where they are.”

Such feelings can be professionally paralyzing. Singer describes the saboteur or defeatist gremlin that sits on many a professional shoulder, saying, ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘Why do you think you are qualified?’

“Regardless of your position, your success depends on your mindset and how much you let the gremlin run the show,” Singer says.

Focal Point’s approach to coaching is business-centric, with franchise-developed training modules, while Synergy Consultants, LLC and Longstream Coaching and Training, LLC provide more customized training. Each coach says building personal relationships with their clients is crucial to a successful coaching experience.

“I help people define goals, and sometimes define realistic goals,” Davis says. “I tell people I’m never going to sing like Beyonce, although it is a dream of mine.”

Singer also focuses on helping clients create a life-work balance. It impacts their effectiveness and fulfillment.

“Are you loving what you are doing? You don’t have to be a machine to be more effective,” says Singer. “When people have more fun and create time to do what they enjoy, they see their sales and productivity increase. We bring ourselves to work. We can’t truly separate our personal and work life.”

She points to a nine-month coaching commitment for a work team as an example. “We came together, talked about the experience of being on the team, the impact of current behaviors and how to redesign the team agreements,” Singer says. “We started with three full-day sessions, then met six times for half a day. In the end, we increased trust by 60 percent, positivity by 30 percent and productivity by 20 percent.”

Henning notes that coaching relationships can be, perhaps should be, long-term commitments. He says, “As the relationship grows, trust becomes more and more important. One client shared he was getting a divorce. Such things do affect how you run a business. There is no way he would have shared that if we didn’t have the trust factor.” I95