Peter Popovich got into career coaching to help people “think bigger.” Cathia Friou enjoys helping people reimagine their professional lives.
Career and life coach consultant Jodi Hummer describes her vocation this way: “Coaching,” she says, “is working with someone to take their life from normal and average, to living their life extraordinarily.”
They’re professionals who help both businesses and individuals reach their goals – and their ranks have surged in the last decade. In 1999, there were 2,100 professional coaches worldwide. Today, there are approximately 47,500, according to a 2012 study from the International Coach Federation (ICF). Career-related coaching, also called executive coaching, has particularly gained steam since the 2008 recession.
ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
Members of ICF’s Charlotte chapter celebrate International Coaching Week this week with a series of talks and 15-minute coaching sessions around the area. Local coaches Popovich, Friou and Hummer kick things off Monday with a panel discussion on the benefits of coaching. They’ll speak at Charlotte Works, which helps job seekers and employers.
What follows are the three coaches’ stories about how they got into the field, and their successes with offering career help:
• Peter Popovich, 61, executive coach, Popovich Coaching and Consulting.
Style: Popovich, a self-described “coachsultant,” doesn’t subscribe to the idea that he can “fix” an employee: “I don’t think people are bad, they are just mismatched in their role,” he says. “My preference is always about optimizing and maximizing people’s individual talents and gifts.”
Popovich’s own career path includes working in technical sales for Westinghouse, returning to school to get his master’s in sports administration, and working in real estate.
An accomplished athlete who competes in the Senior Games, he became a certified coach in 2005. “I’ve always loved my coaches,” he says about his athletic past. “Part of my coaching is to get people to think bigger, and take chances. It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you develop on the way.”
Being a successful coach, Popovich says, also means knowing when you’ve fulfilled your mission. He recalls how a company hired him to coach a person having a problem with his manager. After 14 months of coaching, the client blossomed, adjusted his behavior, and learned to both survive and thrive with his manager.
Eventually, though, the coaching relationship lost steam, Popovich says, and finally ended at Popovich’s recommendation to the company.
“Sometimes you need to tell people what to do. Sometimes you need to get out of their way.”
• Cathia Friou, 45, professional coach, Cathia Friou Consulting LLC.
Style: “There’s an adage,” Friou says. “The client is in charge of the content, and the coach is in charge of the process.” That means that when the client gets mired in petty details, problems and drama, the coach pulls them back.
In Friou’s experience, people often hire a coach for one of two reasons.
“They are either currently in a situation that doesn’t feed them, (or) they are just mowing the grass and they feel they should be doing something bigger or better or different,” she says.
The second situation is that they have either lost a job or are between careers.
Sometimes, the coach is called in to help a client navigate workplace culture. One of Friou’s clients was a manager with 30-40 people below her, and she was experiencing culture clash after a merger.
“Her goal was to survive in a new environment without becoming one of them,” Friou says. She achieved it. “She was able to hold on to her own corporate identity, and to speak up for herself, and to model the behavior she wished for her employees.”
• Jodi Hummer, 42, career and life coach consultant, owner of Caldera Coaching and Career Management.
Style: “Literally I ask them, ‘What are you hoping to achieve through our relationship and conversation?’ ”
Hummer worked in the corporate human resources field for more than 15 years and has been a coach for the last five years.
People hire coaches because they are not 100 percent fulfilled, she says. She helps her clients figure out what they are good at and what they enjoy doing.
Hummer had a client who enjoyed just a small piece of her job: leading the annual workplace fundraising drive for the United Way.
“Her passion was to be in a nonprofit, and she also had a passion for health care,” she says.
Through networking, the client realized all her contacts led to one person – a manager at a health-related nonprofit. That workplace ultimately created a new job that fit the client, and she was the only person who interviewed for it.
Asking powerful questions will lead clients to answers, Hummer says.
“If it comes out of your mouth,” she says, “you are much more likely to do it.”
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