She says coaching helped her develop
confidence and set the stage for future
success. She reports that she still consults
with a coach from time to time.
AVOIDING CAREER PITFALLS
In Raleigh, N.C., Fred Thompson had about
six years of food-styling work under his
belt when he felt the pull of food writing.
At the time, he was 40 years old, building
his food career after 15 years in marketing
with corporations. Always someone who
loved to cook, he could see the logic of
combining all the food activities he’s good
at. But whatever tack he might take, he
needed to make sure it would pay the bills.
When Thompson landed an opportunity
to write a biweekly food column, he was
enthused but wanted to avoid missteps.
“With the freelance market the way it is now,
you’re only going to get one shot, so you’d
better know you can handle the shot,” he
says. He engaged a coach who’s seasoned
in culinary knowledge and food writing.
Thompson’s monthly coaching arrangement
allowed for two one-hour phone calls plus
unlimited e-mails. During the coaching
sessions, he explored specific editing issues,
the writing profession and how to develop
a unique “voice.” But the seven months of
coaching also helped him think about making
the food world work for him financially, he says.
Since then, Thompson has become publisher
of a regional food magazine and captured
several book contracts. Last year, he wrote
a major feature, “Star Spangled 4th of July
Menu,” for Bon Appétit. He credits coaching
as important to his success.
MAKING PARTNERSHIPS WORK
Before Sondra Bernstein became CEO/
proprietor of the girl & the fig in Sonoma,
Calif., she had worked as a server and
bartender, traveled to help open new
restaurants for a multiunit company and
studied restaurant management in culinary
school. But 13 years ago, when she bought
her restaurant and became her own boss,
you might say the oil began to spatter.
Bernstein had had lots of bosses and had
supervised people before. But this was
her first experience as the top person, in
charge of the whole business.
“In the restaurant business, you learn how
to cook, order, hire staff, run accounting
programs,” Bernstein says. “There was no
class in restaurant school that said how
to get along with your co-workers or bring
out the best in managers.”
Bernstein took on a colleague—someone
who had worked for her for several years—
as manager/server/cook. John Toulze,
today Bernstein’s partner, recalls that as
the business evolved, friction sometimes
emerged over business decisions. It seemed
hard for the two to find resolutions for the
discussions they were having, he says.
Sometimes, conversations got heated and
took on a personal tone.
So, about two years ago, the two began a
year-and-a-half stretch of meeting with a
coach periodically. Each time, the coach
met with Bernstein privately, then with
Toulze, then with them both together.
Today, says Bernstein, things are 90%
better, and when there are issues, it’s
easier to work on them.
“I don’t think our relationship has ever been
better,” says Toulze. “The conversations we
have now are productive, they make sense
and they are enjoyable.”
Professional coaches say relationships are
often part of the focus with clients.
Pat Botic, a Columbus, Ohio, business
consultant who has coached employees
within expanding organizations, spells
out the difference between coaching and
therapy. “Therapy has to do with personal
relationships—how the person feels about
himself or herself,” she explains. “It gets into
insecurities and life experiences.” Business
coaching focuses on being more effective
in performing your job. “It has to do with skill
sets, connections, how to make contact and
make sure someone is listening.”
Kristen Armstrong, a Sonoma, Calif., coach
who’s trained as a clinical psychologist, says
when she has coached chefs, often the
focus is helping to build a team. For instance,
chefs who have fabulous culinary skills may
need to learn how to give performance
reviews that help up-and-coming line cooks
and sous chefs know what they need to
do to move up. And front-of-the-house
managers might need to learn how to work
smoothly with the back-of-the-house.
Dealing with interpersonal issues, coaches
don’t just rely on gut feeling and intuition
about a client. They can use standardized
personality tests and other assessment