Just What is a Coach and Why Do I Need One?

by Kerch McConlogue, CPCC

Marge has lots of great ideas about how to pull in really big bucks selling insurance. She knows just what to say so people understand the value of her products. It’s just that she keeps putting off making the calls she knows she has to make. Even worse, she forgets to send the follow up invoices after the calls. Week after week slips past when she’s done enough to just get by but not enough to get her a corner office.

Peter’s company knows him as the big picture man. He is a project manager. He sees the possibilities and the traps, and he’s expert at evaluating where the conflict will be. But Peter has “people” who set up his appointments and nudge him about the follow up.

Peter and Marge both have AD/HD but Peter has something Marge doesn’t have. Peter has a coach – specifically one who understands ADD, what it does for him and where it can trip him up.

What is a coach?
Peter doesn’t get advice from his coach, Kathy, who doesn’t even have to understand what he does for a living. She does, however, have to trust that Peter knows! In addition, because she is trained to work with people who have AD/HD Kathy has valuable information about the condition that other coaches may not. And that information can be comforting when you’re feeling like the only one with your problems.

A coach will help you set up a system or structure to accomplish what you say you want. You’ll get to think up your own advice and then try it out. If it doesn’t work, you’ll learn from what you tried and do something different next time.

Coaching takes time. It is important to give yourself the time to change. Living with ADD has probably taught you certain strategies to get along in life. If those habits aren’t working it will take some time to change. You have to be prepared for that.

Coaching is a confidential relationship. Although a growing number of employers will pay for it, insurance generally doesn’t. It can cost generally between $150 and $250 a month. Some coaches may charge less and many charge much more.

How is coaching different from therapy?
Coaching is not the same as therapy. Many people have both coach and therapist.

In the broadest of terms, therapy address the “whys” of your life. For example, you might have a problem with exercise because of something that happened to you years ago. In therapy you could learn to understand why you don’t exercise, then you might be able to make changes for the future.

Coaching, on the other hand, does not address your past or your pathology. Moving forward is all about deciding what do you want to do and then making a plan to do it. Perhaps your lack of exercise is based on the fact that you haven’t really found an exercise you like, or the right person to do it with, or the best time of day to actually do the work. Coaches can help you identify those possibilities and then hold you accountable for making the change.

Why a coach?

According to an article in February 2005 of FastCompany Magazine

People seek out coaches for two common reasons: navigating some transition in their lives or careers, or having some inkling that they’re jerks, and that antisocial behavior is holding them back.

The coaching relationship is structured so that the client takes responsibility for his own actions. He gets to say what he wants from the relationship and how he wants to proceed. This covers everything from how often you’ll meet together, to what you’d like your coach to say when you do, or don’t do, something you said you would.

Many of the reasons that people with AD/HD seek help from a coach are very specific – having trouble with time management, with the chaos created by clutter, with transitions to a new job, or, perhaps, the shift from an “at work” personality to an “at home” one.

Tackling any change, though, must address the whole life of the client. While you may come to the coaching relationship with a specific problem in mind, the changes made will likely touch many other parts of your life. For example, if you come to a coach to get help with managing your time at home better, you can expect that the way you manage your time at the office will also come into the conversation. You may have different issues about time in both places but, in fact, they are related. Besides, what you do well in one place may be useful in the other. Perhaps you just didn’t notice that before.

How to pick a coach
Most coaches work on the phone as well as in person, so it’s not necessary that your coach be local. Some of my local clients have grown to appreciate telephone work and not having to travel to appointments.

  • Ask your therapist if s/he knows any coaches who might be a good match for you.
  • You can search on-line using Google or some other search engine. For a start try typing: coach for adults with ADD or perhaps coach for ADD in Baltimore in the search box.
  • Check out the websites of a few coaches. Not only will you be able to learn about their training but also you’ll be able to tell something about their personal style and attitude based on what they think is important enough to mention on their website.
  • Take advantage of the free introductory session offered by most coaches. Coaching is a relationship. You want to be sure that you’re compatible and not feel judged or scolded.
  • Commit to a couple of months of coaching. Change takes time. You should ask how long the coach expects you to work with him or her. If there is a contract, how do you get out of it if it’s not really working out for you.

Above all, coaching is pragmatic. It’s a great opportunity to practice saying clearly what you think. If coaching doesn’t seem to be working for you, say so. The coach might not know it if you don’t speak up. Coaches don’t expect their clients to stay with them forever. While some clients do keep working with the same coach for years, it’s probably more common that they work together for several months. Then it’s great when the client feels in control enough, comfortable enough with the relationship, to come back for a check in once in a while.

Warren Buffett said, “I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars. I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.” It’s that one step at a time thing that’s important. People with ADD often see the big picture and miss the steps required to get there. The power of the coaching process, particularly for us, is in helping to notice those parts of the whole which are required for growth. Notice them, acknowledge them, and attend to them – that’s when success is sure.

Find a Coach Resources:
ADHD Coaches Organization

About the author: Kerch McConlogue, CPCC is a professional coach in Baltimore who works with people who have too many ideas. She can be reached on the web at www.mapthefuture.com, or by phone at (410) 233-3274

For information about CHADD meetings in Maryland, check out our online schedule.