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This post was published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Quarterly. It was written by Sonya Sigler, Omicron–University of California Berkeley. Sonya is an executive leadership coach and consultant who helps highly motivated professional women who are so frustrated or stuck in their career that they dream about quitting find a job they love. She and her husband Keir live in Portland, Oregon, with an ever-changing combination of her three sons and five cats. 

Have you ever found yourself wondering why a male colleague was promoted when you have been there longer, are more effective and have more relevant experience? Do you struggle with asking for a raise or wonder why you aren’t ahead in your career? Most great leaders turn to a coach when they are stuck or need help. Explore the basics of coaching and why you might want to use one. 


A coach is someone who helps you achieve a specific personal or professional goal or to reach your full potential.

With sports, it is easy to see the role of a coach—someone who guides a team to play their best together and as individuals. In business leadership roles—a coach’s role isn’t always crystal clear.  

A coach can objectively analyze your performance and instruct you in relevant skills. They can also provide encouragement for you the way you need it most. Coaches can help you achieve a specific goal or help you put a plan in place to reach that goal. They can offer training, guidance, perspective and insight—all of which can help you reframe your situation or identify blind spots.  

For example, a client of mine had been with the same company for a long time and was worried her skills were no longer relevant. We went through her experience gained throughout her time at that company and she realized she had played an integral role in impactful projects that changed the way the company did business. Once she looked at it from that perspective, she was able to reframe her achievements to reflect today’s job market.  


Coaching is often confused with therapy. A therapist is someone who really focuses on the past—a coach helps you see the present and plan for the future. Working with a coach is a process. There is also no one size fits all solution. Evaluate potential coaches based on your needs, desires, wants, goals and working style. You will want to evaluate the type of coach you use based on what is most important to you. Some coaches are direct, while some are softer with their approach. It’s important you find someone whose style will bring out the best in you. 


I fell into coaching when a former colleague sent me a message that he was going to coaching school and asked if I knew of anyone he could practice with. While coaching a friend is a conflict of interest, he was able to connect me with someone else in his class. I “interviewed” three coaches and I chose one I connected with most and who had been through similar situations. I have since sought out coaches for weight loss, business/leadership coaching and writing a book.  

For leadership growth, coaches can be used to help you move from barely surviving career burnout to thriving as a leader while prioritizing time for self-care. A coach can help you move from autopilot to taking control of your career and advancing to the next level. A coach can help you address challenges and explore a wider career path. A coach can also help you navigate personal or professional conflict through manageable actions. Whatever your reason, be clear what you want to achieve when you hire a coach.  

Just as there are many reasons to seek coaching, the costs and form of coaching can vary just as widely. Time, frequency, access to personal one-on-one sessions vs. group coaching and specific programming and materials can all play a factor.  

If you find that you are stuck in your career, for whatever reason, consider a coach who can offer guidance, insight and an objective perspective to help you achieve your goals. 

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