There is now research aplenty proving just how powerful and value-adding executive coaching can be. You may have experienced this first-hand or observed the impact of coaching on your colleagues. In case you’re still wondering why leaders hire coaches, take a look at the business case. And as an eye-opener into what exactly happens during a coaching engagement, we’ve produced a eBook to capture the highlights. And if you—congratulations!—are poised to dive into a coaching relationship for the first time, here are some pointers to help you get the most from your coaching. My experience shows that the following, seemingly simple actions play a crucial role in improving your results. Spoiler alert: this is going to get granular.
1) Make notes during your coaching sessions
You will experience a wide range of insights during your coaching sessions. Still, after each session is over, it can be difficult to remember these. Recording your own notes during every session is crucial to preserving and leveraging your learnings and insights for future use. Do not assume your coach will send you her notes; it’s not her responsibility. You own your coaching.
2) Log milestones and learnings beyond your coaching sessions
Even between sessions, you will experience profound insights. Yes, really. All sorts of Aha’s can crop up during a coaching sessions for sure, but there will be, I guarantee it, plenty of Aha’s percolating outside the sessions. These can be fleeting and sometimes easily forgotten, despite being potentially profound. Capturing these will lead you to a more immediate understanding by helping you internalise your experience even more. Revisiting these will help deepen your learning.
3) Do your Homework
At the end of each of session, you’ll make some commitments to take specific actions intended to move you closer to your goals. These may be inquiries your coach designs with you, for you to chew on. An inquiry, by definition, does not have a straightforward answer. Your coach may also make a request, like a mini-challenge for you to take on: something you will do differently, or practice doing more/less of, until your next session. Inquiry or request, write them all down and actually do them. They’ll become reflective discussion material for your subsequent session. Some clients reduce the potential benefit they could derive from each session by a lack of commitment to their homework. It’s important to realise that the magic of coaching tends to happen between your sessions. The more effort you make, the more engaged you are with the work, the more you will benefit.
4) Be honest with yourself
The coaching is about you and you alone. You do not have to impress your coach. The homework (see above) is not about demonstrating prowess or perfection. Be yourself, be honest with yourself, honour your commitments to yourself, then you’ll make progress.
5) Show up
Although this seems obvious, we coaches have been in situations where we had to chase down a client who went AWOL. I have also had to “fire” a client once or twice for not showing up systematically at our scheduled meetings or calls. Since you only get out of coaching what you put in, honoring and attending your scheduled sessions—and preparing for them—is fundamental. Not showing up is generally a sign of disinterest. Your coach will call you on it.
6) Trust your coach
Most coaches can tell when the person in front of them does not exhibit trust. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you feel you can’t be honest with your coach. If you don’t trust your coach, or they aren’t what you expected, say it! This can and must be discussed immediately in service of a productive coaching relationship.
7) Review and reflect
Block out time, at least weekly, to review your action plan and reflect on the notes you made during your last session, don’t shy away from reviewing progress. Take this time to prepare for your upcoming coaching session.
8) Use your coach
Your coach is as committed to your progress as you are. If you are unsure, feel frustration, experience any problem, speak up. By email between sessions or at the very beginning of the session, to clear the air. Harbouring something important about what’s not working for you and saving it for the end of the session (or worse: avoiding it altogether) will cloud the air in your session and will erode the value you’ll get from that session. I encourage my clients to put it out there, whatever IT is. Your coach is a trained professional and he or she can handle it. The health and soundness of a coaching relationship is always a joint responsibility, so never shy away from speaking up!
9) Give constant feedback
Let your coach know how best to support you. Most coaches are pretty intuitive, but they’re not mind readers. I regularly ask my clients how our partnership is going for them, and I encourage them to honestly let me know specifically what’s working and what isn’t. And the earlier the better. Direct feedback—both ways in fact, and as much as possible—is the easiest means to ensure that you get what you need. You’ll find that when your coach makes adjustments to suit your style, you are more likely to quickly achieve or surpass your goals.
The coaching we provide combines a specific set of process and skills to support you. We are serious about our profession and dedicated to your success, and to you getting real value from our work together. But it takes two to tango in a coaching engagement. It is your responsibility to show up fully and do the work that assures a return on investment for the coaching you receive.
To partner with Gilly, contact her for a chemistry conversation.