Coaching Towards Strengths Sets Career Path on Course

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When a New York lawyer in a large private practice considered changing jobs he thought coaching would help him decide what to do next. Valerie thought he could aim higher. She showed him how to work towards his strengths and six months later, instead of simply job-hopping, he took a calculated, deliberate step in a life-long career.

“Valerie took the view that you don’t have to just jump from one job to the next but your career should be part of a trajectory that incorporates the rest of your life,” he said.

When John* began coaching with Valerie in March 2011 he had worked for a large international law firm for four years. He didn’t see himself there for good but didn’t know how to take the next step. The concept of coaching was new to John but he sensed that working with head-hunters on a straight “job-change” offered a short-term solution. Over six months of regular coaching sessions, Valerie extended his horizons by working with him to define a vision, assess his values, as well as his strengths and weaknesses.

“She gave me focus to realize what my values were and, based on those, where I could be in five, 10 and 20 years time. I now see that my job is just one of the steps in this process. I don’t think day to day anymore,” he said.

John said Valerie’s legal experience was a valuable resource as he worked through specific issues, while her coaching expertise ensured that he kept one eye on his vision at all times. When he was struggling with the conflicting management style of two partners at his former practice, Valerie set an assignment. She encouraged him to initiate discussion with one of the two partners about how they could work together, to enable him to support her. For John, it was a valuable lesson on opening up the lines of communication.

“Things like that were uncomfortable but needed to be done,” he said. “She broke down a lot of my barriers to change in this way.”

A surprising “barrier” was his motivation to improve on his weaknesses. Rather than see him make small gains on great effort, Valerie turned his energy towards the more positive – and productive– exercise of working on his strengths. He was good at long term, analytical thinking and facilitating group projects. This type of work didn’t arise often so he and Valerie assessed his network and made a plan on how he could take on more roles in this area. Gaining permission to recognize his weaknesses and then move on was an empowering process, one which he considered a turning point in his life.

“It was incredible,” he said. “Having someone tell you: this is what you’re good at, now go forward.”

“Her idea was that the most successful people strengthen their strengths, while most people would do the opposite,” he said.

For John, whose new role for the City of New York capitalizes on his strengths, the benefits of coaching with Valerie were tangible. He said he would recommend Valerie to anyone seeking to align their day-to-day actions and decisions with their broader personal and career goals.

“I’d say if you’re considering coaching then you should do it,” he said. “A career is a long path and it’s worth while to spend a few hours with someone who can help you manage it.”

*name changed for privacy.

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