If you are in a position of leadership and your boss informs you that you will be working with an executive coach, that’s excellent news.
If your company hires an executive coach to work with you, it means they have tremendous faith in you.
The fact that your organization would bring in such a coach indicates that they have immense faith in you and believe your promise as a leader is great. You are, in other words, a Yo Yo Ma or a Renee Fleming in your organization, and you are well worth investing in.
The initial meeting with your executive coach can be a bit nerve-wracking, but if you go in prepared about what to expect, you can expect it to go well and to establish a great foundation for the personal and professional growth you’re about to experience. You can expect your coach to have prepared extensively for your first meeting because it’s the ideal time to clarify expectations, ground rules, and the tone of the executive coaching relationship.
Building Rapport: Expect Your Coach to Be Prepared Too
You can expect your coach to have learned something about you from having researched your professional accomplishments. If you have been in the public eye – either locally or nationally – you should expect your coach to have read up on you in the media. Expect your coach to view you as an equal partner, not as a pupil in need of correction. Expect them to know your name and demonstrate good professional etiquette.
One critically important component of an initial meeting with your executive coach should be a discussion of confidentiality. Your coach may be obligated to share some information with, for example, the HR department that is paying for your coaching. However, you should expect confidentiality so you can build a strong coaching relationship. If your coach doesn’t bring this up, you should.
Be Open-Minded and Willing to Discuss Your Goals
You may be somewhat skeptical about having a coach, but if you go into the process honest and with an open mind, you can expect outstanding results. Be ready to discuss your professional (and to some extent, personal) goals. If you are having difficulty defining or articulating your goals, say so. Part of executive coaching is the defining of goals, and honesty and forthrightness will help both of you in this task.
For your initial meeting, be open-minded and expect the same from your coach.
Open-mindedness is also important because you may feel like your coach isn’t right for you. This may be the case in very rare situations, but the coach-client relationship is more about complementarity than about finding a coach who is just like you. In fact, the slight friction that results from working with a coach who is different from you is often the very thing that helps you examine yourself, your performance and your goals more objectively.
The Reason for Those Survey and Assessment Tools
There is a good chance that your initial meeting with your executive coach will involve completing various personal and professional surveys, inventories, and questionnaires. The best coaches are extensively trained in administering, scoring, and interpreting these tools so they can help you define your goals, recognize your strengths, and discover skills gaps. Take these tools seriously, particularly if they are given by an experienced, reputable coach with a long track record. Checking all those “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree” boxes may seem dull or trivial, but in aggregate, the assessment tools benefit both you and your coach.
You should expect your executive coach to have prepared as much as you have for your first meeting. Any coach worth their salt knows that clients are far from interchangeable, and that the coaching experience will be significantly different from one client to the next. Expect your coach to give their best, and commit yourself to giving your best, and you can count on your first meeting to be the start of a productive working relationship that will make you a more effective leader.
Whether or not your organization offers executive coaching, it’s up to you to make the most of your position as a leader so you can make a difference today and leave a lasting, positive legacy. I invite and encourage you to check out my books, which cover critical leadership topics such as corporate culture transformation, performance management, and succession planning in great detail.