Creative commentary plus crafty composition

Couching Coaching

A column in the current edition of the Insurance Journal brings up the issue of coaching, albeit within the parameters of insurance versus investment advising. 

The author is a long-time coach, author, and keynote speaker, outgrowth of a highly successful career as an insurance advisor and executive manager.  His view is that coaching advice for insurance agents and insurance-based financial advisors needs to differ from that offered to investment advisors.  In practice, many of the former group are exposed to coaching designed for the latter.

The ‘homogenization’ of financial advisor coaching links to the tenet that “a financial advisor is a financial advisor”.  However, there are key differences in the needs of the two advisor categories.

The ongoing ‘client maintenance demand’ is lower for life insurance agents, due to fewer policy reviews as opposed to portfolio reviews each year.  As a consequence, agents can handle, and require for income, far more clients and client families.  Life agents have ‘a much greater prospecting urgency’ than investment advisors (especially established ones), in order to grow their business to any comparable extent.   These realities need to be addressed in the coaching focus that insurance professionals receive.

Naturally, on a wider sociological scale, not to mention an economic one, coaching means a disparate category of necessary qualifications.   The simple fact of some activities not directly relating to paychecks makes professional grade coaching non-universal.

Take one of the highest profile sub-groups, sports and athletes.  Here, the levels of coaching needed correspond to fairly well-defined factors, including professional vs. amateur, experienced vs. novice, young vs. adult vs. older adult.  In the lower echelons, there’s the issue of paid vs. unpaid – and insofar as the latter, what degree of voluntary effort is reasonable to expect. 

In all cases, there is question about the degree of expertise and capacity to apply while relating to different human ‘pressure points’.  How much should be harnessed from within (the coach) as opposed to without (the one being coached)? 

A tangential issue is how much the mentality, and so approach, of coaching is influenced by the affluence of so many professional athletes, especially the top tiers.

Outside the public arena, one suspects that the preponderance, and omnipresence, of social media means that the practice of being a school teacher means being increasingly confronted with opinionated (therefore, somewhat self-coached) students at earlier stages than in the past.  The reality of student ‘pressure points’ shifting, the adaptability of teaching and the teacher are challenged.  

Back in the business perspective, as my own past experience attests, the manner and effectiveness of presenters providing coaching messages in meetings can be all over the map.  To some extent, impactful circumstances include those beyond a presenter’s control, such as time of day, ambient distractions, and how effective was one’s lead-in.  This is where a clear and adhered-to agenda can be a big help: if attendees are unable or unwilling to focus equally on all parts of a meeting, at least they will be in a position to have their energies maximized for those segments perceived to be of greatest personal value. 

When one combines this physical and mental reality of people, with the inevitable competing attention-grabbers, such as deadlines or commitments awaiting them, not to mention the ripple effects of home life, one can understand the challenge to coaching distracted targets.

Finally, consider the significance of ‘common’ versus ‘uncommon’ counselling.

Common coaching attempts to cover more than one discipline, assuming their similarities are sufficient for transferrable-level advice to be effective.  Often, as in the example of insurance and investment advisors, this may not equate.

Uncommon coaching relates directly to one’s business or activity; its inherent greater efficiency is an engine to greater achievement by the one coached.

‘One size fits all’ is a limited business and social mode of operation.  The same translation is apropos for coaching.

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