Anyone who thinks executive coaching is for the birds has probably never been coached himself. My one-hour session with organisational psychologist turned executive coach supremo Jon Stokes - who attends to the professional needs of the likes of Goldman Sachs, which is reflected in his pounds 500 per two-hour session fee - was a bit like watching a Wimbledon final in fast-forward. My first problem? Taking professional issues personally. The second? Not understanding the fundamental structure of the organisations that I work for.
In other words, if an editor doesn't return my phone calls, it's not necessarily to do with me. 'What you have to remember,' said Stokes, the former director of the organisational consulting service at the Tavistock Centre and now managing director of Jon Stokes Organisational Psychologists, 'is that, just because you're angry with them doesn't mean they're angry with you. For the most part, you are insignificant on their radar screen.'
A bit harsh, but true. Executive coaching is not unlike sports coaching, the foreunner of this very lucrative business. Had I been a tennis or football player, Stokes would have been drawing diagrams on blackboards (instead, we used the back of a napkin). Unlike Sampras or the CEO of Goldman Sachs, however, I was having real problems keeping up.