Being told you’ll be working with an executive coach is an entirely different situation from needing a college calculus tutor when you had trouble with partial fraction decomposition. When it comes to executive coaching, only the highest potential executives are worth the investment, so it is in no way a sign that you’re falling short. In fact, it indicates your organization thinks you are worth the investment of time and resources because you’re likelier to move up to larger roles.
If you’re assigned an executive coach, it’s because you’re well worth the effort.
Companies don’t invest in executive coaching for problem executives. Rather, they fulfill their obligations to them while otherwise steering them toward the exit. The people who hire executive coaches know that there’s no percentage in throwing good resources at bad people, and that executive coaching delivers an ROI when it’s used with people who have real potential and promise. Here are some ideas for getting the most from your experience with an executive coach.
Recognize the Privilege, Yet Approach with a Beginner’s Perspective
First of all, recognize that if someone is hiring a coach for you, then you’re worth investing in. Believe this. Second, however, set aside your preconceived notions about what will happen in the executive coaching scenario. This lets you open your mind to new ideas, rather than trying to shape the coaching relationship to fit your expectations of it. Much of our dissatisfaction in life results from clinging too tightly to our expectations. Let them go, and see this as a new journey altogether.
Suit Up, Show Up, and Participate
If it’s time for your regular phone call with your coach, don’t be on the other line, or difficult to reach. That’s like going to the doctor, being told what medicine to take, and then ignoring that information. Make your schedule incorporate the times you spend with your coach, either remotely or in person, and make clear to your assistant that unless there’s an emergency, those executive coaching sessions take priority. Missing one coaching session only makes it easier to miss future ones, so it’s a precedent you ought not set. You’ll get from coaching what you put into it.
Realize that the Changes (and Ultimately the Successes) Are Your Responsibility
Ultimately, you’ll be the one making that glorious music, not your coach.
It’s not your coach’s job to “make” you into the outstanding executive your organization believes you can be. Think about it: it isn’t Andy Murray’s coach that makes those outstanding groundstrokes and wins Wimbledon. Expect your coach to observe you, ask questions of you (and possibly of your coworkers), challenge you, and make you accountable. It’s your job to do the actual work and reap the actual benefits. It requires a willingness to change behaviors and commitment to stick with changes until they become second nature and new forms of excellence develop in your work.
Don’t Let the Coach Be the Only One Holding You Accountable
Obviously, you have to hold yourself accountable, because if you don’t, nobody else can do it effectively. But you might need to be held accountable in different ways from the people in your professional, and possibly your personal life. Make sure your assistant helps you remember all executive coaching meetings so you don’t miss any. Ask a trusted colleague to check up on you regularly, even after the coaching relationship has concluded, to ensure your commitment to your new skills and behaviors doesn’t waver.
If your direct reports or coworkers provide your coach input at the beginning and at the conclusion of the coaching relationship to gauge progress, pay attention to it. Remember that it probably wasn’t easy for one of your direct reports to say that communicating with you was a challenge, and they probably wouldn’t have brought it up if it wasn’t an issue. Accountability starts with yourself and your coach, but it certainly doesn’t end there.
Working with an outstanding executive coach can transform you as an executive. But you have to want to make positive changes, and you have to do the work it takes to make them. It can be disconcerting to make it to the upper echelons of corporate leadership only to realize you really don’t have it all figured out, but you can be utterly confident that your organization wouldn’t invest in executive coaching for you if they didn’t believe in you. I encourage you to learn more about executive leadership coaching, and to feel free to get in touch if I can be of help or answer any of your questions.