Q - Where did coaching come from?

A - Coaching, which was invented in the eighties, came about because people's relationships to work were changing. Instead of working at one career, people began having the multiple careers we see today. Instead of taking what was given to them, people wanted something that would be meaningful to them. And instead of accepting the treadmill existence that modern life can easily become, people were looking for balance. Coaching was the ideal answer, because up until that point there was no discipline devoted primarily to helping people improve their working lives.

Q - Is coaching like therapy?

A - Coaching is not therapy. It is action-oriented and geared toward the present. It is often highly pragmatic, focusing on such things as how to market a new business most effectively, how to manage employees well, and how best to interact with the corporate environment. There's certainly a lot of careful listening involved from the coach's side, because the coaching purview includes the place where work and the self intersect. But there's a big difference between someone who needs coaching and someone who needs therapy. When a coach encounters the latter, he or she will make a referral; people should get the kind of help they actually need. Sometimes, people work with both a coach and a therapist; the two efforts complement each other beautifully.

Q - How often do you talk to clients?

A - I make arrangements with clients to give them the service they need. I usually talk to clients once a week for 45 minutes, three times a month. But in some cases, clients need me to work for longer periods or on-site. I work it out with the client.

Q - What happens during coaching discussions?

A - We talk about what's happened during the previous week, but always with reference to the larger agenda (the client's agenda, not mine). We relate what's occurred to the client's goals, and by the end of the call we develop field work (sometimes called assignments, tasks or homework) for the client to do before the next call. There are often several actions for the client to take, and the actions vary widely, from specific external steps to thought experiments. I've even had to ask clients to take time off. Every field-work list is different, because every client's needs are unique.

Q - Do you coach via email?

A - No. Email is slow and cumbersome; I have found that only telephone and in-person discussions provide the speed, flexibility and intimacy required for effective coaching. I cannot hear a client's tone of voice in an email, see a change of mood, quickly take a conversation in a direction I sense it needs to go, or cover a great deal of informational ground in just a few minutes. I do exchange brief emails with clients to deal with logistics, and clients email file attachments to me if we're working on documents (I also accept documents by fax, of course).

Q - How long do you typically work with people?

A - For one-on-one coaching (as opposed to workshops; see Services), most coaches will suggest a three-month minimum, because the changes the client wants are significant. That's not a requirement; it's a recommendation, and a recognition that the process is not an overnight one. My client relationships last anywhere from several months to two years or more.

Q - What kinds of people do you like to work with?

A - A varied practice is important to me. Although I've worked with a lot of high-tech people, I've also worked with people in fields as varied as financial services, health-care, and insurance. My preference is not to "narrowcast" my practice, but to keep it as broad as possible.

Q - Do the client and the coach need to be in the same area?

A - No. Coaches and clients can be across the country from each other and work effectively together by phone. In fact, many coaches never meet their clients. I work either by phone or on site, depending on what's appropriate.

Q - What is your experience?

A - I have worked with more than 100 people and have more than a thousand coaching hours.

Q - What do you think is your greatest strength as a coach?

A - I think I'm good at hearing people and connecting with them. I think the feedback I give is very valuable to people. I think my optimism and energy are important to clients. I also let the chemistry of the process work -- that's a very powerful thing. But listening is the most important thing. I try to listen as carefully as I can, because what the client needs to hear becomes clearer when I do -- and saying what needs to be said is the whole purpose.