Put me in, coach

Anny Tenbult, left, and Francine Portelance are Executive and Life coaches respectively. Both will be at the upcoming Ottawa Find a Coach Expo. Photograph by Julie Oliver, Ottawa Citizen

Maybe you need help smoothing over the troubled waters of your relationship. Or you need to finally tell your significant other that it’s over. Maybe you have to stop wallowing in bed with a box of chocolates over your divorce.

Perhaps you want to sell more widgets, get your small business off the ground or figure out how to stop whacking your head against that glass ceiling. Or it could be that you need to be cool about making speeches. Or figure out how to transition from work into retirement. Or get along with your teenagers.

What you need is a coach. But not a hockey, baseball or tennis coach. You need a life coach, a career coach or even a retirement or a divorce coach.

Life coach Francine Portelance estimates there are somewhere around 300 coaches in the Ottawa area. She is one of the organizers behind the Find a Coach Expo, the first in Ottawa and possibly in the world.

About two dozen coaches will be attending the expo, which is aimed at providing an intimate setting where people can connect with a coach in their areas of interest and meet them face-to-face.

There are many benefits to coaching, which is one of the reasons why it is such a fast-growing area, according to The International Coach Federation, an umbrella group founded in 1995 which has more than 22,000 members in more than 100 countries. The federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” For those who are coached, the benefits include increased productivity and empowerment. There are also benefits for their employers, along with return on investment. Companies that offer coaching services have better retention and are more attractive to recruits.

“Employees want to go to these types of companies. The owners and managers are investing in their people,” says executive coach Anny Tenbult, the expo’s co-organizer

“Executives go to coaches because they want to be mor productive and happy.”

Tenbult, who has extensive experience in sales, has been an executive coach for 13 years and works with clients around the world. It’s all about taking it to the next level, whether that’s performing better at the job, moving to a higher position, making a lateral move or leaving the company, she says.

Coaching has been around — under that name, at most — for about 30 years, although the word is more widely-used in the U.S. than in Canada.

Coaches are not licensed like physicians or nurses, but there is a system of accreditation — the International Coach Federation, for example, offers three levels of accreditation — associate, professional and master.

Like a hockey or baseball coach, a life or career coach’s job is to guide those he coaches and offer the benefit of his experience.

But life or career coaching is also all about clarifying the issues, identifying an individual’s strengths and helping to shape and set goals. It relies on the experience and knowledge of the person being coached.

“It’s not as much about giving advice as it is about changing perspective,” says life coach Sylvie Gignac, who says we attract what we put our energy and focus on.

“I guide my clients to overcome fears and negative beliefs so they are free to focus on what they want, and therefore achieve what they put their mind into,” she says.

After a serious health issue one of her clients had been trying to make the decision to retire for over a year, but hadn’t succeeded.

“By simply asking if it was possible for her to make the decision to retire now, with a tentative date of leaving within the next three to six months, shifted the way she was seeing the ‘decision’ of retiring,” says Gignac.

“The decision did not seem so final and charged with the emotions related to leaving. A couple of weeks later, she fixed her departure date.”

People often seek a coach because they have already tried to achieve their goal on their own, but have been unsuccessful, says Thérèse Kelders, a life-in-transition coach who usually works with people between the ages of 50 and 65.

“A good coach brings a perspective not seen before,” she says.

How is coaching different from therapy? “Therapy is often about re-visiting past trauma. Coaching is present and future-oriented,” says Portelance. “It’s weighing advice, it’s helping people find solutions to their situations. It’s solution-focused rather than problem-focused.”

Tenbult compares coaching to a cross between consulting — giving advice — and mentoring — where the mentor has been in the same position as the mentoree.

She often works with clients for 10 sessions, typically over six months, often spending an hour with a client every two weeks, sometimes on the phone or over Skype.

Usually by the third or fourth session, the client is starting to turn a corner, she says. “Executives don’t see the clear picture because they’re in the middle,” she says. “They have so many things to juggle. Working with a coach can make them more clear.”

The “coachee” often learns about their own strengths. Many people only think of their weaknesses, says Tenbult, who also coaches life coaches. “There is a lot of negative self-talk.”

Part of the process is learning when you can and must do something yourself and need to acquire new skills and qualifications to do it, and when it would be a better and smarter use of time and resources to delegate it to someone else. “Sometimes you don’t recognize your own strengths and weaknesses,” she says.

“There needs to be trust. So the deep-down things come out.”


Where: Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre, 300 des Pères Blancs Ave., Ottawa
When: Oct. 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What: Meet life and career coaches. A panel of coaches will answer questions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Admission: Free with a donation to Victoria’s Quilt, an organization that gives handmade quilts to cancer patients.
More information: findacoachexpo.com

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Connect with Joanne Laucius |Google+|jlaucius@ottawacitizen.com