If you’re a leader who will be working with an executive coach, then you are to be congratulated. Companies don’t invest in coaching people they don’t care about, because it wouldn’t make good business sense. Maybe you’ve never been coached before, or maybe you have in other contexts (like sports). Bear in mind that you will be working with a coach, not a cheerleader. And while nobody wants your success more than your coach does, he or she is going to be honest and tell it like it is. Here are some ways you can prepare for executive coaching to ensure you get the most from it.
How do you want to feel when your time with your coach concludes? What do you want to be able to do better than you do now? What do you want to lose your fear of? You and your coach should work together to define goals for your executive coaching, because you’ll get better results if you’re both on the same page and are both working toward common goals. Your goals may be specific (“I want to delegate better.”) or general (“I want to inspire team members to give their best.”) but they should be spelled out and generally agreed upon.
Be Open to New Perspectives
Your coach won’t see things in the same way you do, and that’s good! Opening yourself to new perspectives can feel vulnerable, but seeing things from a different viewpoint can be tremendously valuable. If your coach describes something from their point of view that doesn’t mesh with your own, dig deeper. Do team members really become intimidated and hide out when it’s time for quarterly reports and you’re under pressure from the Board? Learn to see yourself how others see you.
Don’t Just Participate, Commit!
It’s one thing to participate in practice sessions, role-playing exercises, and “homework” assigned to you by an executive coach. This is important, but to get the most from your executive coach, you must commit to putting those lessons to work. Doing a homework assignment and then forgetting all about it can be a big waste of time, as can role-playing tricky interactions with team members and then dismissing it when the real situation arises. You get out of your executive coaching relationship what you put into it.
Offer Feedback and Listen to Feedback
You need to have a coach with whom you can be candid and honest, and you need to provide feedback along the way. If your coach’s goal seems completely out of alignment with yours, then you need to talk about it and learn how to align your goals. By the same token, don’t dismiss feedback that your coach gives you, especially if they clearly make the effort to be constructive and offer feedback in pursuit of a larger goal. In short, it’s important that you have trust with your coach and are comfortable speaking honestly with them at all times.
Carry Coaching Lessons into the Rest of the Workweek
If you look, you’ll find opportunities to put things you work on with your coach into practice during the many hours of the week when you’re not being coached. Something as simple as learning to consistently say, “Thank you” to subordinates when they turn in work or help you out can make a positive difference. Think about it. If your tennis coach were to show you how your backhand falls short, and then works on it with you until you develop better form, what good would it do to go back to the way you always did it next time you’re on the court? Put what you learn in coaching into practice.
Executive coaching is very much a two-way street. The enthusiastic client who commits, practices what they learn, is honest, and is open to new perspectives will get the most from coaching. By the same token, the astoundingly brilliant executive who half-heartedly goes through exercises and forgets all about the coach once a coaching session is over won’t get much from the process. Leadership coaching has been a major part of my life for a long time. I can tell you with certainty that the executives who prepare, who take coaching seriously, and who strive to put what they learn into practice can become exceptional leaders and make the coaching investment pay off over and over. I encourage you to contact me if you want to learn more about my leadership coaching services. Investing in top leaders definitely pays off.