Want To Get Ahead? Get To Self-Coaching

In July 2011, Job.com reported that since the global recession began in 2007, more than 7 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. What's more, the pace of job growth has slowed in recent months, and the unemployment rate has ticked higher. Although there are some indications that the market is recovering, it's going to be a long time before job seekers see a turnaround. With the odds stacked so heavily against you, what can you do to enhance your value in the job market? How can you make yourself more attractive to potential employers or indispensable to your current organization?

"Improve yourself" is the typical guidance counselor answer. But here's the catch-22: As the economy has taken a nosedive, so have HR budgets. Don't expect much support from your company, especially if you're trying to build your personal brand by acquiring the skills needed to stand out in your current organization -- or elsewhere. What can you do?

The answer, do it yourself-through self-coaching. Self-coaching allows you to take accountability for your own professional development and success -- either by eliminating behavior that is hindering you or by adopting new, more productive habits.

I have been coaching senior executives for more than 20 years, and I have modified the executive coaching process I use so that it can be followed by anyone who would like to try self-coaching. If you would like to take command of your future by securing a new job, getting a promotion, or being recognized as a high-potential by your employer, I suggest that you try using these easy-to-follow seven steps of the self-coaching process:

  • Determine your self-coachability
  • Select and commit to an Intention
  • Identify your Guide and Circle of Support
  • Solicit feedback
  • Analyze and respond to feedback
  • Develop and act on a game plan
  • Track your success and recalibrate

Each step in the process is important, but you'll go nowhere fast without first mastering step two -- setting your Intention. Let's explore it.

The Power of Intention

Intention, Aristotle wrote long ago, "is a deliberate desire of things which are in our power to bring about." In other words, it is a deeply held conviction toward bringing about some end state or future and committing to a course of action to bring it about. Without Intention, you are likely to be frozen in inaction; with it, you can move mountains.

Whether for good or evil, Intentions have a way of focusing people, galvanizing their energy, and prompting them to take action. It is unlikely that anyone who has won a Nobel Prize, brought home Olympic Gold, won the Teacher-of-the-Year award, or rose to the top of their organization did so without setting an Intention to excel and then living by and up to that Intention.

Intentions need not be extraordinary. Setting them and then acting to bring them about can and should be built into the warp and woof of everyday life. You may wake up on a cold winter's morning, look out at the falling snow, and think, "I intend to drive very carefully this morning to avoid an accident." You may stop at the supermarket on the way home and say, "I'm through grazing for snacks and sweets; I intend to buy only healthy food." Or you may set an Intention to substitute lunchtime power walks for sitting around eating club sandwiches and gossiping with colleagues. Your Intention may not move nations or even change the course of your personal history. But who cares? It's your Intention, and because it makes a difference to you, it has inherent validity.

Whether they relate to your personal or professional life, all Intentions share a common trait: they are about being conscious-first, of the end state that you want to achieve; then of the choices that you'll need to make to get there; and finally, of the choices you've been making that have kept you from achieving this state. Consciousness of our Intentions enables us to command our future.

When you set an Intention and are serious about it, you cordon off a "no-trespassing" zone for any action or decision that might get in the way of your desired state. If you truly want to become a great author, you'll opt for spending more time writing at your computer than sitting on the couch watching television. If you want to go back to college, you'll stop talking about it and start filling out applications. If you sincerely want to improve as a human being or an employee, you'll stop resenting honest feedback and start viewing it as a gift. All these changes require new levels of consciousness and commitment.

For your self-coaching to work, being passionate about the desired result is a cardinal virtue. We often set goals for ourselves, such as improving our job performance or career prospects, losing weight, going back to college, reworking our resume, engaging in regular exercise, and so on. But we do so by trying to impose mind over matter, without engaging our emotions and our heart, which is why time after time we fail to achieve our goals. When I speak of setting Intention, I'm first and foremost talking about locking into an end result that ignites your passion. Deep down, the happy ending you envision should be nothing less than a must -- a "gotta have." Such depth of passion regarding your Intention charges you up for success.

Have you set your Intention about finding a job, improving your personal brand, deepening your skills? If not now, then when?

You can find additional information on how to self-coach in my book, "Coach Yourself to Win: 7 Steps to Breakthrough Performance on the Job and in Your Life" (McGraw-Hill, 2010). I have also created a dedicated website (www.coachyourselftowin.com), where you will find all the supporting materials you need as you go through the process.

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