Coaches Find Growing Demand For Their Practices

By Stacy Cohen
The Kansas City Business Journal
June 16-22, 2000

When Lisa O'Dell felt she needed help jump-starting her career, she turned to a career coach.

"I had kind of reached a plateau, and I was looking for a third party where I could go over issues, where there wouldn't be repercussions in the workplace," said O'Dell, a manager with One Systems Group. "I needed to make some changes in my work life to polish some rough edges."

O'Dell's coach is Jennifer White of the JWC Group in Kansas City. White, who left a corporate job six years ago to start her executive coaching firm, is among a growing number of personal and professional coaches who help harried people find success and happiness.

"Coaching is all about producing better results in your career and in your life," said White, author of 'Work Less, Make More'. "A coach brings the capacity to recognize your blind spots and integrate change."

After 12 years with her company, O'Dell said she wasn't being exposed to new ideas like someone who switched jobs frequently. She was giving her company 14-hour days that didn't seem to make a difference to her career.

"Through Jennifer, I've learned when it's time to quit. I've learned what I'm brilliant at and what to delegate," O'Dell said. "She is a sounding board, but she's totally objective. She makes me explore things, to talk about things. It's another set of eyes looking with a different perspective."

The JWC Group is Kansas City's largest coaching company, with 12 coaches serving 54 corporate clients and 175 individuals — mostly men — nationwide. White said her coaching leads to direct results, with 90 percent of herclients increasing their income 35 percent or more in 1999.

"It's working on the things that really matter and letting go of what doesn't," she said.

Coaches take varying approaches, some focusing on business success and others looking at clients' personal and professional lives. Coaches begin by assessing clients' needs and helping them establish goals. Most meet with clients three to four times a month for 30 minutes to an hour, though email communication also is encouraged. The monthly cost ranges from $200 to $3,000, and a three-to six-month commitment usually is required.

Barbara Walton, a Kansas City personal and professional coach for three years, said she asks clients to determine three areas they want to change in 90 days.

Walton, whose background is in psychology, said her most common clients are entrepreneurs who are out of balance in their home and work lives. She also coaches a number of corporate professionals, executives and CEO's throughout the country. Her company, Intentional Success, mostly has clients on the coasts.

"People in the Midwest either don't know what coaching is, or they think their spouse is doing that for them," Walton said, "It's hard for (spouses) to remain objective. When you're in a relationship with someone, you lose the perspective, the big picture, and because you're invested in the outcome."

A pivotal influence

Bruce Smith of Overland Park said Walton has been a pivotal influence in his life. He left his job as a project manager and product engineer to pursue different passions, including writing, from home.

"I finally got fed up with the 9-to-5 grind," said Smith, who worked with Walton for a year. "A lot of what I want has become clearer, I focus much more on my creative side."

Smith's wife, Karen also benefited from Walton's coaching while making a transition to a new career.

"I was really unsure of what I wanted to do," she said. "(Walton) was very helpful in letting me see that I could create whatever I wanted for myself. She was this person who totally believed in me."

©The Kansas City Business Journal