Jim Carr describes his job as "helping managers manage better." Ironically, he found his passion for coaching only after leaving a 21-year corporate career where he moved up the ladder from manufacturing to first-line supervision, then midlevel management, and finally into Human Resources.

Over the years, Carr recalled, he had "11 different managers in 14 functions. I had some good ones, but the good ones didn't know how to teach. The bad ones were simply bad." When his corporate position was eliminated in 2006, Carr tried to figure out, "How do I do really good work, and what's meaningful? It didn't happen when I was in corporate — why can't it? Why can't you have processes inside a corporation to help people dig in and figure it out?"

Carr said that some organizations believe their managers are acting as coaches, but "what they say is coaching is a feedback session with some element of coaching. It's not about the person and their growth, it's about what they did right or wrong." In his own corporate experience, Carr said, "I didn't feel coached — I felt pigeonholed. True coaching I experienced afterward — where someone was trying to draw out what was in me and where I fit best."

Having experienced the power of coaching in his own life, Carr decided to pursue coaching full-time. He worked for VisionOne Consulting while going through the 18-month certification process from Lifeforming Leadership Coaching. He founded his own company, Right Connections LLC, in 2010. He continues to use a multilayered assessment tool from Lifeforming Leadership that looks not only at individuals' personality styles but also at what motivates them.

"Assessments help you know where you're going to be out of your comfort zone, and do it in a way that makes you feel OK. The better you are at that, the more you're able to lead your own life," Carr said.

What is the value of a personal assessment in career development?

You have to understand your style before you understand how to manage it. If you've got a purpose or mission, coaching can help you figure out that end game.

How do people apply the information from the assessment?

The way you used to handle tasks was do the best you could and complain about it. You narrow your focus inadvertently. You push back and say, "I shouldn't be doing that, I'm not good at it." Then you're not seen as a leader. The second level is to say, "I'm still on the hook for this. I have to figure out a way to do it." The third level is actually coming to terms with that. "I have to put strategies in place because it is still in line with who I am or who I want to become." Some folks can adapt their style faster, and they get into leadership faster. High-dominant folks are more apt to do that. The rest of us have to learn it differently. Everyone is a unique snowflake.

If someone can't afford a professional coach, can they still benefit from assessments?

Any assessments are good. There are free versions of the DISC, free Myers Briggs tests. If you want to be more valuable to the organization, know who you are. Self-awareness breeds people who are more easily managed. □