Coaching helps build great teams

Sept. 1, 2011

What is professional coaching? The International Coach Federation (ICF), a credentialing body for coaches worldwide, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”1 A well-trained coach is an expert in the coaching process, which draws on the fields of therapy, positive psychology, sports coaching, mentoring, and consulting — without actually being any of these disciplines. Coaching, which helps people break through obstacles, differs substantially from therapy; coaching clients are psychologically healthy people who want to move from a satisfactory life to a great one!

The five steps of the coaching process:

  1. Awareness — Using assessments and open-ended empowering questions, the coach helps the client uncover aspects of himself and his situation that he had not seen before.
  2. Clarity — With new awareness, the client is guided to examine his behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs and begins to see new alternatives for creating positive change.
  3. Planning — Specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time-oriented (SMART) goals and action steps are identified by the client.
  4. Action — The client moves forward with implementing the steps he established.
  5. Accountability — Since people achieve more when they commit to action in front of others, coaching clients have an accountability partner to congratulate them on steps accomplished and point out those not completed. Finding patterns in tasks avoided can lead to breakthroughs in awareness.

Professional coaching is now making inroads in healthcare, as it has in business for the past decade. Coaches are used by corporate executives and entrepreneurs to improve their bottom lines, by career-changers to help uncover opportunities that align with their values and skills, and by organizations to build successful teams. Individuals who want to be happier doing what they currently do use coaches to reduce stress and to become more mindful.

Coaching can be useful in addressing employee disengagement, often by helping healthcare professionals reconnect with the purpose of their work and with their professional goals. The laboratory field often attracts analytical people who thrive in environments that are consistent and predictable, yet, currently, the pace of change in healthcare is rapid, leaving many feeling challenged to adapt. Coaches facilitate the change process by helping clients let go of old beliefs and actions that no longer serve them in order to make room for new opportunities.

Communication is important within and outside the laboratory, with colleagues, physicians, patients, and customers. The most vital communication skill is one at which good coaches excel: listening. Coaches can help clients learn to listen without judgment or filters so other parties are truly heard. Coaches help team members understand the communication and behavioral styles of others. Consider the importance of this ability in initiating new procedures that affect multiple departments. Appreciation for the differences people have in the amount of data they need to feel comfortable with something new, for example, is important in implementing wide-scale initiatives. Creating teams that include a balance of various styles increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Coaching is also a skill set that can be taught to organizational leaders, creating a new corporate coaching culture that results in high-performance work environments. How well would that fit in with your organization’s goals?

Try this five minute exercise: In a quiet place, relax your body and mind, close your eyes, and contemplate this scenario: You go to sleep tonight with the world exactly as it is right now. While you sleep, amazing, powerful, positive things happen, and you awake to a completely different and better world. Take in the experience of this new place for a few moments. Now, open your eyes. Write down three things that have changed significantly for you specifically. Worldwide changes like the elimination of disease and hunger are great, but get really specific about what is different for you personally and/or professionally. Be objective — how well do those three things reflect changes you would really like to make? What is blocking you from creating a plan to get from here to there? How much better would your life be if you were to implement changes to get to your better world?

Give it some thought. A coach can help get you where you want to be.


International Coach Federation. Accessed August 1, 2011.

Bernadette Norz, MBA, ACC, MT(ASCP), is a certified professional coach specializing in leadership, executive, and career coaching for healthcare professionals.

MLO‘s “Management Q&A” column provides practical solutions to readers’ laboratory management issues from experts in various fields. Readers may send questions to [email protected].