way to gain the skills she needed. She didn’t have to leave the job site as the coaching could be done on the phone and tailored to her specific learning needs. Dry-Burton heard about Lindsay from a colleague and was impressed by her excellent reputation.
“I chose Lindsay because I felt she understood firsthand the dynamics and difficulties of being a successful African American woman in predominantly white male corporate America. Josie is like my business therapist. She helps me process and understand organizational dynamics, broaden my political perspectives and explore alternatives before I take action,” explains Dry-Burton.
Success in corporate America is often tied to the ability to conform to European cultural norms. This emphasis on conformity is especially true for African Americans in leadership roles. Informal corporate mentoring practices, the usual coaching technique, often leave blacks out of the loop. This is slowly changing as African
Americans are becoming more forthright about their desires for coaches and mentors in the workplace. Coaching becomes a vehicle to ensure that performance, image and exposure are fully maximized and do not become career-limiting experiences. “Corporations are also equalizing the playing field by implementing formal mentoring strategies for everyone,” observes Lindsay.
The image of coaching is also changing. “Five years ago people were very selective about who they confided in about seeing a coach.
assumed that seeing a coach was indicative of a performance problem. Nowadays, when a company recommends an employee seek a coach, it’s considered a
perk,” she explains. Corporations are highly selective about people they identify as candidates for coaching. More often than not, it’s only offered to high-potential individuals in whom the company wants to make an investment.
“The best athletes in the world have coaches,” points out ICF spokesperson Watson. “It doesn’t mean something has to be fixed; it means that ‘I want to be
How do you know if it’s appropriate to ask for coaching? Explore the possibilities with your human resource director. Find out the company’s policy on coaching. If you think you have a fighting chance at senior management, it’s worth exploring whether your company would help you groom your skills to become a stronger leader.
Along with two other managers, Arnold Johnson, 33, manager of annuities and new business processing for a major insurer in Horsham, Pennsylvania, was offered coaching services by the vice president of his division, who pays half the fee while he and the others pay the balance. The vice president offered the resource because she
felt it would be valuable to their development.
“I wanted a different perspective on how to improve performance and continuously motivate a staff that did relatively routine tasks,” says Johnson, who manages a staff of 65. For a fee of $150 per person per month, Johnson and his two colleagues participated in a group coaching session via telephone for one hour per week for three weeks per month. In addition, each manager had an individual, one-on-one, 30-minute session per month where they were free to set their own agenda with coach Val Williams