Career Stories & Articles
“Coaching” is a term that has become common in recent years. While it’s used often, people have differing understandings as to just what it means. Often, it’s thought of as what managers do to get the best out of their people. While it can certainly include that, we’ll look here and in a follow-on section of the article at how coaching can be used in career development here at NASA. Topics covered include:
Coaching…what it is
“Coaching” can be defined as “a developmental strategy that enables people to meet their goals for improved performance, growth or career enhancement.” This definition differs from the model some of us bring from athletics: an authority figure telling people what to do differently. In our definition, the focus is on the “coachee” rather than the coach. The assumption is that the coachee has a goal that the coach helps him or her to meet. The relationship involves two-way dialogue rather than one-way telling. Also, the focus is positive and objective, on particular improvements that the coachee wants, rather than on deficiencies and personality factors.
Mentors of any type can
often act as coaches. Anyone
with the ability and desire to help you develop can be a coach.
And you can be a coach to many people.
Most often we think of coaching as focused on job performance, and on getting people to do things better. This is a part of coaching, but the process of coaching people around their career choices and growth also involves coaching. Three areas of career management are especially likely to involve coaching. In exploration of alternatives, people look around and try out new possibilities for the next stage of their careers. Often, coaching can help here by providing coaches with a person who can help debrief impressions, sort through options, and provide answers to the questions that arise from exploration.
Exploration can lead to
setting developmental goals,
which often involve trying out new behaviors.
For instance, a technically oriented person may start taking on
managerial and coordination activities as part of a developmental goal
around moving into management. Input
and perspective from a coach can be invaluable in making the most out of
the learning experiences these activities will involve.
In pursuing career
development, special developmental
assignments may be involved. For
instance volunteering for special teams and committees (i.e., Source
Evaluation Boards, Career Development Forums, Diversity Task Force,
Special Projects, etc.). Often,
these assignments involve stretching by taking on new behaviors in novel
and uncertain situations. Working
through the insights and lessons of these assignments can be made much
easier by spending time with a coach.
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