Kim Gregory of TSO Consulting explains why more and more high flyers are getting professional coaches to help them stretch their wings
A rapidly growing number of company managers are using coaching to improve their performance and that of their staff – and it can apply to workers in any industry. Just as athletes need help to stay on top of their games, so do workers. Professional coaching is about addressing specific issues and goals you're facing at work by examining what is going on and developing a course of action.

It is done by hiring an external consultant, who will coach you on a one-to-one basis or take on a group of people within your company. Typically, you'll start by discussing the areas of your professional life that you want to address. The coach will then help you plan a structured approach that develops innovative but practical solutions.

Make the commitment
Coaching means investing precious time in your own development, listening to some pointed feedback and changing some of your habitual behaviour. It's not an easy experience, but it can have long-term benefits. You'll need to find time for reflection and observation – so only start coaching sessions if you can spare the necessary time and effort. There's no point getting involved if you can't commit to it. And do it because you want to, not because your boss tells you to. The only person who can change your career is you.

Seek professional coaching because you want to, not because your boss tells you to. The only person who can change you is you

Take ownership
So what can you do in practical terms to make sure you get the most out of your coaching sessions? Don't sit back and wait for the coach to tell you how to fix things – take ownership of the issues you face. To do this, you need a coach who you really trust so that you can open up to them. Coaches help you achieve an accurate perception of yourself – and that includes accepting others' perceptions of you. Seeing yourself as others see you can be painful, but your coach will help you come to terms with your flaws.

It's vital to practise what you've learned, experiment with new ways of tackling things and further explore your attitudes to your job outside of the coaching sessions. Keep at it. It takes practice and time to make new things your own; you often go backwards before you go forwards. The old ways worked (just about), and new methods can be uncomfortable and stressful. But keep persevering and remember why you chose to leave the old ways behind.