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For highly trained professionals, solving large problems for their companies is a daily occurrence. But when an obstacle to growth or success is internal, it can be harder to figure out a solution alone. In addition to essential exams, mentors are important for career development, but neither of those paths promises measurable, targeted internal growth in the same way coaching can. Financial executives across industries are investing in coaching to accelerate their careers and avoid hitting plateaus, limited not by their technical knowledge but by some obstacle to putting that knowledge to best use.
Still, coaching is an investment of time and money. For professionals who deal with risk assessment for a living, cost-benefit analysis is likely top of mind. Luckily, there are clear, measurable benefits—some more tangible than others, but all widely felt—and when those benefits are understood and the right coach is found, coaching can form a growth trifecta with mentorship and successful exams. Additionally, coaching allows executives to keep growing even as they become mentors themselves. This article explores seven key benefits to look for when working with a coach.
1. IDENTIFYING VALUES AND GOALS
Coaches are trained to uncover and understand the obstacles their clients face, even those that the client doesn’t consciously recognize. They should help clients identify clear goals—both professional and personal—for the coaching relationship upfront and agree on how to measure progress.
It’s impossible to say exactly what those goals will be for each person. They can be anything from getting a promotion within a certain time frame to communicating more clearly and generally optimizing performance. Every executive is different, and the best coaches ask the right questions to help their clients discover their core values and goals so they can establish the best path forward for their sessions and careers. This makes it important to find the right coach who will understand your role and psychology enough to be able to start this process of self-discovery. If your coach is asking questions that make you think, “Aha!” or “I can’t believe I never realized that,” then you’re probably on the right track.
2. FILL SKILL GAPS
Each individual will have different skills they can improve to work smarter and reach their personalized goals faster. If a coach is the right fit, they not only will identify gaps in both hard and soft skills—from technical to personal—but also be trained to teach the necessary skill sets, or at least point their clients toward the correct resources and help them understand the gaps and solutions. Coaches may even be able to predict future obstacles to success or skills clients will need to improve with the next steps in their careers.
In some situations, a client will go from one coach to another when a new industry or skill set is required. But generally, an experienced coach should be trained to guide you toward an understanding of a wide variety of obstacles and solutions. Your coach should continually check to see if you need to set new goals or identify new skills to develop.
A coach may help clients with distinct skills, like understanding a technological advance or identifying the skill set needed for a larger goal such as achieving a job transition. Leaders should continue to grow with their companies, from keeping up with changes in their roles to developing more flexible mindsets. The latter, softer skills may take longer to improve and require more detailed, continual check-ins.
3. DEVELOP NEW THOUGHT PATHWAYS AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES
The best coaching can rewire your brain for the long term. A coach should seek to understand how you make decisions, think through problems and then find any aspects of your problem-solving methods or personality that may slow your progress or functioning. They will ask the right questions, listen and help you organize your thinking in productive ways.
This benefit should be felt daily, with coaching helping with not only one big life decision or skill gap, but with the way of thinking behind even the smallest decisions. You shouldn’t have to set a stopwatch each time you face a choice to see if you’re progressing in this regard. After months of coaching, you should feel more capable and think about problems holistically. Once again, your coach should keep on top of how you think through new decisions and obstacles.
4. IMPROVE COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIPS
Coaches can work with their clients on improving working relationships of all sorts: with superiors, peers, direct reports, employees and clients. An experienced coach should be trained to help you understand relationship pain points—even those that seem baffling to you personally—and decide how to relieve them. Do you feel frustrated every time you speak to a certain teammate but don’t know why? A coach can help.
Improving workplace relationships has many components, but at its core is improved communication skills. A coach might be able to identify something as small as practicing a different tone of voice when communicating with certain colleagues. Or they may help you learn something you already know is important to you, like asking more directly for what you want. Additionally, coaches may treat emotional intelligence as a skill that can be trained and exercised, just as they should have tips and exercises for improving communication skills if needed.
5. MAXIMIZE PRODUCTIVITY
One of the most frequently listed benefits of executive coaching is increased productivity. Anyone working in a financial field knows the work they do goes faster with time—after they’ve learned internal systems and processes, gained understanding of team environments and more. A strong coach helps you think and work more efficiently, procrastinate less and rethink time management, which leads to becoming more productive sooner than would happen naturally. For more senior executives, it may be a question of considering old habits and rewiring in a way that increases efficiency without lessening the impact of any hard-earned skill. Coaches can train executives to work smarter. Also, there are many specific, productivity-related skills an experienced coach can introduce to professionals of all levels.
Higher productivity can lead to increased company revenue, faster training and more. A coached sales team, for example, should bring in more sales. A newly promoted employee should learn the art of people management faster than they otherwise would. For companies looking to see if coaching is a good large-scale investment, such multilayered benefits should be taken into consideration.
6. INCREASE CONFIDENCE
It may sound antithetical, but the goal of working with a coach is actually to become more self-reliant. Confidence can be broken down into parts and built back up, just like anything else. There are likely specific sources of anxiety, limiting beliefs or skill gaps behind any lack of confidence in a certain area for a coach to uncover and work through. With less stress in making decisions comes more self-assurance. Finally, at a basic level, particularly in high-pressure or fast-paced work environments, having a confidential relationship with an experienced, trained professional can be a source of reassurance.
Being more aware of how you move through the world doesn’t have to lead to more anxiety if you know what you’re moving toward and how to get there.
7. HEIGHTEN JOB SATISFACTION AND WELL-BEING
Personal growth is a satisfying feeling, as is the ability to see that growth play out in clear improvements across job functions. Understanding what goals you’re working toward can make work feel more meaningful. This doesn’t stop in the workplace. Coaches also can help executives discover how they, personally, can improve their work-life balance without sacrificing key areas of productivity. The best coaching leads to an overall sense of greater well-being, with more confidence, less stress, a better work-life balance and value-driven work all contributing.
Increased job satisfaction of coached individuals often translates to increased employee retention and engagement. Following the “Great Resignation,” smart companies across industries should be looking for ways to boost retention. Coaching for employees not only helps them feel more confident and reach their full potential, it also shows them they matter.
These indicators occasionally may feel nebulous, which is why it’s important that a coaching relationship includes regular progress checks. Additionally, some coaches may be particularly skilled in a certain industry or role and others in certain areas of development. It is possible to measure your coaching return on investment (ROI) with the right coach and tools and switch coaches if you’re not progressing enough.
I cofounded the coaching platform Skye because, years ago, I understood there were many benefits of coaching, but I didn’t know how to access or quantify them. Two key attributes of a successful coaching experience include the following:
- Matching algorithm to help individuals find the best fit among the highly trained and vetted coaches in a community
- Goal-tracking system and a “relationship concierge” who checks progress and can measure behavior change and improvement of soft skills
Ultimately, if you have the drive, a coach should be equally driven to help you achieve and understand your results.
Statements of fact and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Society of Actuaries or the respective authors’ employers.
Copyright © 2022 by the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois.