Shape up Career with 'Coach'
Job insecurity feeds demand for New Age Mentors
by Ann Rovin, Denver Post
Career hit a snag? Downsizing cast you out? Don't
worry: You can rent a mentor. They call themselves
"coaches," and they're a new breed of career counselors
multiplying nationwide, promising to help unblock
barriers to success, and make you a happier, better
person to boot. They'll shower you with lots of
be-all-you-can-be encouragement and a liberal sprinkling
of New Age MBA-speak. You may learn, for instance,
that your rise to that vice president slot is blocked
because you haven't "completed the past," learned
how to be "in integrity" or "get your needs fully
What you need, coaches will likely
say, Is more "focus" and some "homework" assignment.
With job Insecurity rampant, there are plenty of
clients willing to pay an average fee of $250 per
month for four, 30-minute sessions. Face-to-face
meetings are the exception, with "telecoaching"
more usual. Some coaches even "cybercoach"-hand
holding by e-mail.
To date, coaches are not licensed
nor is their training accredited. But they do have
a "university"-Coach U., a virtual institute of
higher education where students sign up via the
World Wide Web and take lessons by conference call.
This looks like a backdoor approach to psychotherapy
to some medical professionals.
Carol Goldberg, a New York clinical
psychologist, who has served on ethics and standards
boards for her profession, warns: "This is not a
profession. Professionals are licensed and regulated.
Without that a consumer could be harmed and have
Goldberg is even more appalled that
anyone would provide personal Information over the
phone or email to an unlicensed person
they have never met. "Would you walk up to a stranger
on the street and tell them about your finances
and personal issues?" she asked.
But Coach-U-trained practitioners
say they regularly refer clients to therapists.
In coach-talk, "a therapist helps a person get from
dysfunctional to functional, a coach helps a person
get from functional to exceptional."
Partners Mark Stormberg, 40, and Mark
Potadle, 42, think four years of coaching by Denver's
Lynn Mcintyre Coffey has set them on the path to
the exceptional. Potadle says he learned that "a
partnership is a lot like a marriage. You can get
emotionally involved, and need to learn communication
skills to make it work."
Coffey, 43, believes so strongly in
the similarities that she likes to send business
partners down to a form supply shop to pick up a
prenuptial agreement. While Stormberg and Potadle
balked at that request, Coffey keeps them busy with
plenty of other homework. Completed assignment included
taking employees to "destiny lunches" to discuss
aspirations and testing the limits of their "comfort
zones." "If they don't complete some assignments,
no matter, at least it gets them thinking," Coffey
Since 1989, Potadle and Stormberg,
have been building Tectonic Management Group, Inc.,
a architectural and construction management company
in Denver specializing in airports. Besides shepherding
them through major restructuring, both men credit
Coffey with helping them understand how their "basic
life assumptions" can impact business. "A lot of
cut-and-dried business problems are affected by
your underlying psychology," Stormberg said. "That
can make or break your company." Like most coaches
, Coffey believes what is happening outside of the
workplace can affect your success.
"I have had clients come in wanting
to sell their business, but what they really want
to do is get a divorce, or the reverse," she said.
"Hopefully, I am teaching them new skills, attitudes
and habits, while coaching then to focus on what
is important to then. "
Ron Murphy of Orlando, Fla., recently
heard about coaching, surfed the Internet for a
coach and selected Judy Sabah. a Denver-based author
who's niche is to help clients gain public speaking
skills and opportunities. Murphy, 49, manages a
10-person computer department. His problem: "We
have so much technical jargon that technologists
often have problems communicating with top management."
Already articulate, Murphy is confident Sabah can
coach him to communicate even better with non technologists.
Moreover he is sure that he too can coach, having
enrolled a month ago in Coach University.
With a taste of Coach U training and
three sessions with Sabah, Murphy has already been
following the Coach U edict to coach others as part
of his own coach training. Murphy signed up two
paying clients last week and has scheduled meetings
to pitch his services to three more folks in the
coming week. Coach U. is physically located in Salt
Lake, at least, that's where its automated answering
and fax systems plug in. At $2495 apiece, 350 students
are enrolled in the core, two-year, 36 telecourses,
which usually consist of four one-hour conference
The Coaches Training Institute in
Mill Valley, California, is the second-largest,
coach training organization after Coach U. Like
Coach U, CTI promotes telecoaching, but conducts
training in old-fashioned seminars. Sabah, 54, expresses
the frustration that is driving many business consultants
to become coaches. "People would be with me for
one or two visits, and many times nothing would
change in their lives," Sabah recalled. "Coaching
is longer term. In addition to conveying information,
I learn what might be blocking them and work with
that." Ellen Schulz, 42, of Littleton, another MBA-graced
business consultant cum coach, practices her trade
at Fortune 500 companies in the throes of downsizing.
"There's so much workplace competition. People don't
dare share their vulnerability." Schulz said. "Your
manager may be the same person putting you on the
For example, one Schulz client, a
sales person, is going through a tough quota year.
"Her homework this week is to make 10 cold calls
and call me as soon as she has completed them,"
Schulz said. "I told her, "I'll be jumping up and
down when I get your call."