Coaches Help Their Clients Make Dreams a Reality

This article originally appeared in


by Heather Lauer

Pat Moore heard the rumor before the state made retirement buyout offers official.

At 52, she wasn’t planning on anything other than working another decade in a job she enjoyed. She realized she would have no idea how to spend her time after retirement so she turned for help to Nancy DeLapa Keny.

Keny is a personal and professional coach. Moore met her when she attended a networking conference where Keny was teaching a seminar.

“I sent out an e-mail that said ‘My department might have a buyout — can you help me figure out what to do with the rest of my life?’ She said, ‘Sure.’ ”

Keny helped her identify what she wanted to do and challenged Moore to determine where she wanted her life to go. After the initial consultation, she spoke to her weekly by phone, and the two set weekly goals Moore needed to meet to decide her path.

Like personal trainers, coaches focus on clients, working with them to develop the areas they feel need work.

After several months of coaching, Moore realized that she might want to stay at the Ohio Department of Transportation and decline the buyout. But out of trying to decide what she wanted to do after retirement, she found herself a second job — a part-time position at Gallery 5 in the Short North. She says she loves it.

“When I started off, I was certain I’d take the buyout.” Moore said. “I just wasn’t certain what I wanted to do. Nancy said, ‘Step back — you don’t have to make the decision yet.’ ”

Powell-based personal and professional coach Judy Lowry said that while many people are drawn to coaches to get through transitional periods in their lives, others are looking for a way to speed up achieving dreams.

It used to be that employees could look to middle management for clues about how to bridge just doing a job to taking on more responsibility.

“There are so many companies over the last 10-15 years that have downsized, rightsized, whatever you want to call it,” Lowry said. “In the past, there was someone to help you along in your career. There aren’t those people there anymore.”

Lean companies devoid of middle managers have left intelligent, entry-level employees and junior managers without mentors to guide them, she said. What a coach does is ask questions so the client can find his own answers.

What a coach does

“My job is helping people set realistic, do-able goals,” Keny said.

John Havens is one of her clients. He’s 16, attending Wellington School in Upper Arlington and trying to decide what career path to take. He has it narrowed down to film school or metallurgy.

Havens described himself as disorganized and undisciplined. When his father suggested a personal coach, John agreed to give it a try.

Keny helped him organize his time and determine how long he needed to study for each subject. She’s helping him decide what classes to take to have the best chance at attending the college of his choice.

His grades are the best they have been since second grade, and he says he has more time to play football and lacrosse. Even parties he plans for his friends are better now that he knows key organizational strategies and has plans on whom to invite, what music to play and what food to serve.

“My confidence level’s risen immensely. Sometimes I even feel like the smart kid now,” he said.

At the Franklin Pre-Release Center, Keny recently talked to 35 female inmates about choices — the ones that led them to prison and the ones they will make when they get out. The women used outlines and some of the assessment tools offered on her Web site,

“The key is to take stock of where you are,” Keny said. “If I say yes to this, what do I have to say no to?”

Lowry describes the client most receptive to coaching as “a person who is willing to take action on the dreams they want, even if they haven’t gotten around to (them).”

The idea is to put the dream- come-true process into fast-forward mode.

When she calls her client, Keny said she asks how the week went and if the assignment was completed, but she doesn’t take her client to task if the job isn’t completed. That’s just something else to work on.

Havens said this is a benefit he receives in working with Keny.

Unlike parents, guidance counselors and peers, coaches have no hidden agendas.

“The only reason she’s there is to help,” he said. “There are no thoughts of discipline.”

What a coach isn’t

A coach is not a therapist.

Coaches focus on looking forward and overcoming potential problems, not looking into the past and trying to determine what went wrong, Lowry said.

“Therapy is based on insight and understanding. Coaching is about moving forward,” she said. “Understanding and insight is the booby prize. Understanding is important, but if (people) don’t take action, it means nothing in their life.”

A coach is not a consultant, either, although consultants offer some of the same services.

“Consultants are the experts, whereas a coach uses you as the expert,” Keny said.

“A coach helps you see what you already know,” Havens said. “It’s kind of like going back to the basics.”

Neither is the coach a mentor — necessarily. Lowry said that in some cases, such as a dentist who also is a credentialed coach, he might serve in a mentorlike capacity for some of his clients. Likewise, a small-business owner or other professional who is a credentialed coach might specialize in clients who share their backgrounds and interests.

Finding a coach

In the past 10 years, 20 people in the Columbus area have hung out their shingle as personal and professional coaches.

Unlike therapists, coaches are not regulated by the state, nor does the state offer or require certification. Lowry and Keny said people interested in finding a coach should ask for credentials and professional affiliations.

A handful of schools teach coaching essentials, and the International Coach Federation can point potential clients to coaches near home who have expertise in the area in which they feel they need help, Lowry said. The federation is a professional organization working to set rules and guidelines for the profession, and maintains its own credentialing system.

Its Web site,, lists members that specialize in corporate, small business personal and career coaching.

“Coaching is so new that states don’t have licensing yet, but we’re certain they will,” Lowry said.