By G. A. Finch

Have you ever set personal business, career or self-improvement goals, and you look up weeks and sometimes months later not having made progress on them?  You realize that you have been distracted and diverted by other challenges and tasks and your goals are in the doldrums.  Career, family and extracurricular demands get in the way.  Life happens.paper-3224643__480

You read, hear and know that you must set specific goals for yourself to get traction on your life’s ambitions.  You know further that it is preferable to have them in writing and with deadlines.  You know what to do, but it is not happening.

Try bi-lateral coaching.  Find a person you trust to be your coaching buddy.  You hold each other’s feet to the fire.  You meet to discuss your goals and why you have not met them.  You, of course, write them down with specific dates of completion.  You check in (preferably in person)  once a week with your coaching buddy and you tell each other what you have accomplished or not. Your goals may evolve over time.rottweiler-1785760__480

What is the effect of a coaching buddy?  Your knowing that you have to report to another human being on your progress toward your goals is a powerful motivator to get things done to achieve those goals.  It is called accountability.  What gets measured and reported gets done.  It is an inexpensive way to keep you motivated and on track.MH900071046

I am doing it now and it has helped to keep me focused and more on task.  I do not want to come up short when I report in to my coaching buddy, and, vice versa, nor does he.   It is a simple solution.  You do not need a drill sergeant or an expensive executive coach to kick you in the pants or encourage you – you just need someone to whom you made a commitment not to disappoint (other than yourself). For long range career development and holistic career counseling, an executive coach may be useful and needed.  For goal setting and execution, a coaching buddy is an effective tool you ought to try.


Copyright © 2018 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.



My mother, Louise Antoinette Finch, passed away last month just two and half months shy of her 100th birthday. She is survived by all six of her sons and one daughter. As an older brother gave a eulogy and the priest gave a homily about my mother and what she represented spiritually, I ruminated about her legacy and the impact of her teachings. Although we are far from perfect as individuals and have had our own share of ups and downs, and some of the siblings may be viewed as more materially successful than other siblings, she obtained the same result from each of her children: all finished college and graduate or University_hatprofessional school. How did she do that? She had a few maxims to live by that she drilled into us. These aphorisms would benefit anyone (executive, professional, and others) seeking to get a leg up in life. I share five of the most salient ones below:

1. When you start something, whether it is a project, a task, a job, an extracurricular activity, or a degree program, you must complete it. My mother abhorred quitters and lack of follow through. She correctly knew that the lack of follow through was a serious impediment to success. So despite unfair teachers, mean camp counselors, arbitrary coaches or a tedious activity, we had to finish whatever program we started. To this day, my siblings and I talk about the little voice in our heads, when times got tough in medical, graduate or law school or in a demanding job, that repeated the mantra: “When you start something, you must finish it.”

2. When we complained of being sick, whether severely or lightly, real or imagined, my mother would say, “Get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, put on your clothes, eat some breakfast, go to school, and, if you are still feeling lousy, then call me.” By the time we did all those things, our ailments seem to Smile Face with Colddisappear or become sufficiently mitigated that we forgot that we were physically or psychologically under the weather. This was her ways of saying a) have a strong work ethic, b) “show up” to where you are supposed to be, and c) adjust your attitude. This anti-slacker and anti-lazy approach again carried me and my siblings through many a school and work day.

3. Surround yourself with quality people and people of integrity. Your friends and peers will make or break you and you will be judged by the company you keep. I think of the hyper academic high school that I was fortunate enough to be able to attend; the super intellectual students forced me to up my game and pull myself up from the mud of mediocrity. Counterintuitively, I did not find the competitive atmosphere intimidating because it actually inspired and stimulated me. My siblings and I have never gotten into serious trouble or arrested because our friends are sensible and have a lot of impulse control.HandcuffsMany a prison inmate laments associating with the “wrong crowd” or corrupting friend that landed him in jail.  In short, choose your friends, associates and peers very carefully.

4. Don’t lie or cheat. Being an honest person meant a lot to my mother. A person of character was the benchmark by which my mother evaluated people. She had an expression, “Pretty is, is as pretty does.” A variant was “Pretty on the inside is more important than being pretty on the outside.”

5. Lastly, my mother was a big one in standing up for yourself when another is perpetrating a wrong upon you or a family member or trying to diminish you or a family member. Mom taught us not to look for fights but not to allow ourselves to be victims. She led by example and did not wait around for my father to get home to go address an injustice at any level or push us out the door to face a bully.Boxing_glovesShe made it clear that this attitude and posture must be based on our position being legitimate and righteous as well as our being without fault.


Often times you do not have to travel far to learn self-evident truths; they can be found within the four Home-clipartwalls of your own upbringing without ever stepping outside your own front door. I hear my mother’s voice as I counsel my young daughter and young son about how to stand up to bullies and admonish them to finish their activities.


An “executive coach” sounds very lofty and even mysterious to the uninitiated.  G. A. Finch interviews Victor Chears to shed some light on the use of executive coaches by some up-and -coming executives as well as more established executives.  Mr. Chears is the president of Chears & Associates, a firm that provides services pertaining to executive coaching, organizational development, strategic planning, succession planning, executive transition management, executive search, leadership development, and nonprofit operations and processes.

FINCH: Victor, let’s start with the basics.  What does an executive coach do?

CHEARS: He or she works with individual leaders or leadership teams to improve their performance (much like sports coaches); provide focus or context to issues of concern; assess barriers to success; and provide a safe environment to explore strategic, personal and operational issues that lead to effective strategies.

A primary goal of the coaching process is that leaders are more aware and better prepared to do what they do.

FINCH: What brought you to executive coaching?

CHEARS: I have been a management consultant for over 25 years and have been advising (aka coaching) clients long before “executive coaching” was an industry unto itself.  In doing analysis and planning for a wide variety of organizations and building trust with the leaders in those organizations I was often sought as a trusted advisor.  I found that I had the ability to listen, understand, synthesize concepts, and provide a framework for leaders to grow.  Also, of critical importance, is that they trust me.  This is key as coaches often press buttons and push their clients to reach beyond their comfort zones.

FINCH: How does one find an executive coach?

CHEARS: Any search should consist of careful exploration and due diligence.  Practically all of my clients come from referrals and when they are introduced to me I usually talk to them extensively before we meet.  That conversation consists of me exploring what they are looking for and letting them know my approach and philosophy. Therefore, I would tell someone to explore their networks to see if anyone they trust or respect has ever used a coach.

If one does go at it blind and does an internet or association search they should ask lots of questions and feel comfortable before proceeding.

FINCH: What should one keep in mind when selecting an executive coach?

CHEARS: Successful coaching relationships are dependent on trust, judgment, communication, mutual understanding, and goal/outcome driven.  If a person does not have a sound understanding of their motivations and needs, a coach can take them in a direction that’s based on the coach’s ideas and not what the individual may actually need.

Bottom line: ask a lot of questions, especially behaviorally based ones like “have you ever run across a situation like mine?” “If so, what were the outcomes?” “ How long did it take?” “Was the coaching relationship successful and define what success looked like.”

One should get a gut feel that allows them to make a judgment on moving to the next step.

FINCH: Are there certifications and credentialing of executive coaches?  If so, do the certifications meaningfully vouch for any skills or competence?

CHEARS: To be honest I don’t know much about the coaching websites and credentialing organizations, of which there are many.  I know that if you “google” it there are lots of hits but could not advise anyone where to go from there except to be clear on what they are looking for and see if someone’s experience matches those needs.

To me the ability to be a good coach comes from a breadth of experience in a variety of situations coupled with a keen opportunity to listen and weave what you hear with what you know in a way that someone feels heard, served and challenged (in a positive way).

FINCH: Do executive coaches have specialties like physicians, lawyers, and management consultants?

CHEARS: Absolutely.  Many coaches come from a specialized field such as marketing and sales.  Others are generalists.  It actually depends on what the client is looking for in a coach.  For example, many of the people that I coach are looking at making a job or career transition.  I have worked with multiple leaders who have hit a “stuck” point and are asking themselves “is it time for a change” or “can I find a way to reap new satisfaction where I am?”  I have had people approach me and after a conversation let them know that I may not be the best person for them.  I could give them counsel on certain levels but if they are looking for industry specialization that I don’t posses, I look within my network for someone who might better serve them.

FINCH: How does an executive coach differ from a career or business mentor?

CHEARS: In some instances there are no differences.  What I mean, is that a coach is often invested in the client in a way that he or she is holding a specific vision for the person that they might not as yet developed for themselves.  As a result, they are offering counsel that could alter the course of their career or business.

Again, it gets back to what the person is seeking.  For example, one person may be seeking a coach to improve a perceived or actual deficiency that has been highlighted by a performance appraisal or pattern of behavior that is holding them back.  Another person may want to explore coaching for a more holistic need such as whether or not they are in the right job or career.

FINCH: How do executive coaches typically charge and how long do those relationships last?

CHEARS: Fees are often dependent on the sector and the available budget.  A nonprofit executive might only be able to afford $150 an hour while a corporate executive could pay $500+ and hour.  If an individual is paying out-of-pocket versus through the organization can also affect the pricing structure and duration.  Most coaches should be able to give a general idea about the length of time involved based on stated goals and suggest a budget based on that.

Some relationships last indefinitely as the client may seek to have the coach as a sounding board on an ongoing basis.  Others want to address a specific issue or group of issues and then move on.

FINCH: How do you know you are getting value from your executive coach?

CHEARS: The first order of business is to have a realistic mindset about the coaching goals and to build a mutually honest and straightforward relationship.  Often clients will think “I am paying you a lot of money to fix my situation” and get frustrated if things don’t get “fixed” as quickly as they’d like.

An individual must resolve to be open to change, try new things, take risks and recognize that the coach is a facilitator but not the one who is in position to make the change occur.  Now if a client follows the advice of a coach and ends up with a mess, he or she has to backtrack and look at the confluence of factors that contributed to the situation.  Sometimes people are in untenable situations that, frankly, cannot be changed.  A good coach will point out that the likelihood of success is slim, especially when the client is dependent on others changing in ways that will facilitate their ability to do things differently.

I have seen people walk away, frustrated, from a coaching relationship because they had unrealistic expectations (e.g., thought that the coach was going to give them a “silver bullet.”)  It is also crucial that the coach be honest and operate with high integrity given the level of vulnerability a person is often in when they seek coaching.

FINCH: Could you briefly share an executive coaching success story?

CHEARS: I recall a president of a significant nonprofit organization who had a board that was dysfunctional (as in not doing their mandated jobs but rather micro-managing organizational functions that were not their purview).  Further, he had board members who basically wanted him gone based on emotion rather than performance.  His staff was disheartened by the dynamics that were playing out and were not functioning effectively.  The day-to-day work was getting done but basically everyone was miserable.  So after we explored multiple strategies for him to effect change, it became clear that his situation was essentially unwinnable.   At first that was a hard pill for him to swallow given his long-term investment in the organization.  The position had prestige and notoriety.  The organization was well known and respected in spite of the behind-the-scenes madness.

We got to a place where we both agreed that to make significant changes he would have to take a radical approach and basically “blow up everything” and take his chances at piecing together the remains – a very high stakes and risky proposition.  With that level of clarity, we began to look at alternate career possibilities and opportunities, put together a strategy for him to lay the seeds of change while seeking new options, and then transitioning out of that organization into something new.  Four years later he is happier with his current career choice than his former one, and is thriving.  He left with integrity and is in an environment that is supportive and rewarding.

At times my coaching was confronting to his mental images of himself, but he trusted me and shifted his whole dynamic for the better.


Copyright © 2010 by G. A. Finch. All rights reserved.
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