It’s never too early to be coached

If I only I had had the opportunity to be coached when I was aged 16 – 25. Of course, I turned out fine and am deeply grateful to my parents and well-meaning teachers for the prodding and nagging and the “should’s” and “shouldn’ts”, and for urging me to make the most of myself through encouragement, coercement, and sometimes sheer bullying.

I was finally coached by an experienced professional when I was in my late thirties. Although I didn’t think I “needed” coaching, I was grateful to my organisation for providing me with the opportunity and for thinking that I had the potential to make their investment worthwhile. And yes, it turns out I did need coaching.

I don’t believe that coaching can begin too early. Setting life and career goals, formulating plans of how to get there, monitoring progress, self-reflection, these are critical skills that can be developed and honed at an early age.

Although teenagers  haven’t fully developed competencies to function like adults, they need skills like cognitive judgement, emotional relating and impulse control just as much as adults do. School and extra-curricular activities are placing increasingly complex demands on them. They face complex moral and ethical dilemmas that draw on emotional and intellectual fortitude. They are challenged on a daily basis to behave with integrity, loyalty and self-respect. It’s a lot of pressure for a young person, but it’s out of these challenges that the youngster’s mind is moulded and prepared for the adult world.

For organisations it’s no longer practical to wait for natural leaders to ‘emerge’ from the woodwork. Being a good leader starts with knowing yourself, understanding your sub-conscious thinking, feeling and behaving patterns and being able to manage yourself. Becoming a leader is not easy. It takes a great deal of self-confidence, courage and hard work. It depends on being able to know your own character gifts and flaws, what energises you and what presses your buttons to derail your progress.

Two of my friends have daughters seeing psychologists. Psychologists “treat a full range of emotional and psychological challenges.” I know these girls are going through tough times, but it seems extreme to be “treated” for anything when the issues are cyber-bullying and confusion about which university to attend.

Teenagers live in a far trickier world than ever before. The pressures they face are nothing like we had to deal 40 or even 20 years ago.

We keep hearing how in the next decade, more than half the workforce will be made up of the Millennial generation. What broadly characterises these young people is that they want super-fast growth. If they feel that they are not making swift enough progress in their personal development, they will become disengaged.

A Gallup Poll from last year found that (Millennials) are the least engaged part of the workforce, with the study revealing that just 28.9% are engaged at work. (Forbes, 2016)

Millennials don’t buy into the ‘rules’ of career progression. They also tend to integrate their personal life with work which is why they need holistic personal and career coaching. They are highly appreciative of ongoing interaction and feedback. They are very eager to succeed and to this end they embrace guidance and leadership from those that can help them progress. Despite the hype about their digital connectedness, they appreciate and want more face time with their leaders.

Coaching can help young people to set realistic goals and plans on how to achieve those goals. A trained coach will also help them monitor progress and spend time on self-reflection in the way that no parent or teacher can. Other focus areas will be encouraging the development of accountability, understanding the personality traits that should be enhanced or better managed, and encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset.

Being able to envision possibilities and implement change are vital components to growing into an effective leadership role. They need to start right now, learning to listen to others, understanding how to build important relationships and ultimately positioning themselves strategically as role models that people will follow with confidence. Many people just can’t do this alone, or can get there so much faster with the help of an experienced coach.

Nikki Twomey

Nikki has many years of experience in developing young people into experienced managers and seasoned executives. The coaching journey starts with self-knowledge and self-management before being able to lead others with confidence.