Friday, May 1, 2009

Choosing the Right Coach

I've said it before, but it bears repeating. When choosing a coach (or a therapist) you should avoid those who resent your success, who hold you in contempt, or who feel happy when you fail.

These thoughts came to me when I was reading an article by trading coach Doug Hirschhorn in The Daily Beast. Link here.

Hirschhorn brags that he has counseled thousands of Wall Street traders. If that is true, he has not spent very much quality time with very many of them.

Now that many of them are down on their luck, he seems to feel vindicated, as though their failures justify his own decision not to work as hard.

Hirschhorn also seems frustrated by the fact that so many of these traders refused to take his advice to slow down. The point suits him well since he also wants to exculpate himself for the financial meltdown.

Why did they reject his advice? He reasons that the Masters of the Universe were hooked on their work like addicts who are hooked on drugs.

Dare I say that this is not a flattering way to characterize your clientele.

Rather than defend his clients, Hirschhorn joins the chorus of those who are scapegoating them. He shows them as people who were psychologically defective. At least he does not call them narcissists.

By his account Wall Streeters feel entitled to their giant bonuses because they work all the time, 24/7, and sacrifice their private lives on the altar of the god Mammon.

They believe that they are worth millions because they missed their daughters' dance recitals.

So, you work very, very hard, you earn a ton of money for your firm, and you feel that you should be compensated for your skill and effort.

To Hirschhorn this means that Wall Street traders and bankers are suffering from a sense of entitlement; they are addicted to their bonuses.

As I said, resentment and contempt drip from his word processor.

Have you ever heard of an individual who puts everything he has into his job and does not care about his compensation and recognition?

Coach Hirschhorn also seems to believe that traders are spoiled brats, like the professional athletes who justify their salaries by saying that they have short careers.

But in his next breath he adds that these people are rewarded for making large sums of money for their employers. They are being paid for performance.

Is there anything strange about being paid to perform? Does that make traders the moral equivalent of the compulsive gambler and sex addict? Does it have anything to do with the feeling of entitlement manifested by people who expect to be paid not to work?

Hirschhorn also notes correctly that Wall Street is a meritocracy, a competitive arena where people strive to excel.

Well and good. But it is also an arena where people bear tremendous responsibilities.

Wall Street's Masters of the Universe were paid to make the system run. We learned how important that was when the credit markets froze last fall.

Should the people who make it run be well paid? Yes, they should. But how should they be compensated when the system runs aground?

At present many former Masters of the Universe are defensive about their roles in the financial crisis. More than a few are angry that they are being scapegoated for the crisis, no matter whether or not they had a role in it.

Under the circumstances they feel obliged to find a rationale for their bonuses. And they need to explain why they should be paid well even when they have a bad year.

Are these rationalizations the real reason why they are feel that they deserve their bonuses? Probably not. They are that best that some of them could come up with on the fly.

One thing these people do not need is the contempt and derision of those who are trying to help them. Out of such an attitude precious little help will spring.

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