Q. During my performance review, my boss said she wanted me to meet every week with a personal coach who would help me with “style issues–both attire and presence.” At first, I thought she was pimping me but it was clear from her expression that she was serious. I was offended. I’m the same person I was when they hired me. Part of me says I should say decline the offer, but my friends say this isn’t a job market to say no. Is it bad for your career to be known as someone needing a personal coach? -LS
A. I always think it’s a good idea to get impartial feedback from friends, colleagues or a personal coach. I agree with your friends who encourage you to proceed. But I also decided to ask one of the best coaches in the business–Rita Dragonette–to provide a fuller response than my “go for it” recommendation. Here’s Rita’s point of view:
Remember what they say about how you should always take a breath mint when offered because someone you like might be trying to tell you something you don’t realize? A boss who is willing to spend money in a tight economy on style issues is telling you that you are valuable but are getting in your own way, you aren’t recognizing it yourself, and it is or has become significant enough that it will impede your progress. You may be offended. She was probably equally uncomfortable bringing it up. She is giving you a strong signal about expectations. Decline at your peril.
And reverse your point of view. This isn’t punitive, it’s a perk. These days there is a growing realization that we can’t figure everything out on our own. Coaches have become essential. In fact, the highest achievers are starting to realize that they will need a coach throughout their careers, much as they do an attorney or an accountant, and on the same basis–not all the time but when you need them you need them. Your boss has pinpointed one of these times. Embrace the advice and learn all you can from it. With the right attitude you’ll learn that the impression you make influences how well you can do your job. Look around you and watch how presence and attire impact how effectively leaders motivate. Be honest. We all have much to learn, be grateful your boss is so committed to your continued development. And I predict that next time you need a boost you’ll be looking forward to how far your coach will be able to help you get over the finish line.