Sustaining Change and Making Progress After Coaching

By Nick Tubach, MBA, PCC

If you’ve experienced the benefit of a professional coaching relationship, you might’ve witnessed a significant and transformational change in the way you show up. Perhaps you’ve achieved progress unlike anything you’ve experienced before coaching. A breakthrough.

As a coach, I’ve always contemplated how a client can continue their journey of progress, and not revert back to the old ways, or into a passive mode, whereby they grow as a function of what happens to them and not by what they make happen. In this blog I will focus on specific steps, call it a methodology, you can follow to help keep on track. It’s a way for you to remain in the driver’s seat instead of the passenger seat. Now, I don’t want to downplay the role inertia plays in our growth. Often, it’s a function of things we’ve done, albeit it often lacks calculated intentionality. I equate this to the passenger seat of a car; you still have some control, but perhaps not as much as you could. When things happen to you, your reaction to said events can have a significant impact on where you end up. In the driver’s seat, however, we can create more of those opportunities for intentional change. 

Want to Make a Change? What’s Your Goal?

Regardless of whether you have worked with a professional coach, it is important to know you can’t hit your goal until you know what it is. While this may sound obvious, it is often more elusive than one might think. For example, if your goal is to be a more effective leader, what will be the indication that you have achieved your goal? I find that we usually have a pretty good sense of what our goal is, if we can answer these questions:

  1. How, precisely, will I know when I’ve achieved my goal?
  2. What will I notice?

The answers to questions like these will help paint a vivid picture of where you are heading. It can serve as your beacon to keep you on track. Let’s assume your answers to these questions are as follows:

  • I will notice I’m more inquisitive than directive.
  • My direct reports are leaning in more. They’re coming up with fresh ideas and coming up with solutions to their own problems.
  • I’m more tuned in to my employees’ wants and needs.
  • The team dynamic seems to be more collegial and people are coming in earlier.
  • I am being more transparent about my intentions.

Consider these your sub-goals, or mini-lighthouses, all in support of the big lighthouse. It’s like when you are planning a vacation. You will likely begin contemplating where you will go, when, with whom, where you will stay, how you will get there, how long you will stay, what your budget is, etc. You get the picture. 

Arguably, with transformational goals (e.g. becoming a better leader, spouse, employee, friend, etc.) you may never actually get there, but you will continue to make progress to get closer.  Let’s call this goal your lighthouse. Once you clearly see the lighthouse for which you are aiming, it will be infinitely easier to direct your energy in support thereof. It’s also noteworthy that sometimes discovering your lighthouse is a journey in-and-of-itself. Be patient, and give yourself some leeway to take the time to discover your lighthouse. Sometimes you may have to try a few things to collect new data points to help you figure out just what that is. 

3-Step Lighthouse Process

Let’s assume you have identified your lighthouse. Here is a three-step process to keep your momentum going.

  1. Experiment. As you think about making progress towards your lighthouse, what is the most immediate or significant obstacle you need to overcome? What is one specific thing you can do differently from what you’ve done before in support of overcoming this obstacle? By being intentional and taking some calculated risks, you’re likely to experience more significant growth. A quick word about risk: I’m not suggesting we jump out of an airplane without a parachute. We are talking about a small change. The key here is to come up with fieldwork (aka an experiment) which requires you to do something you’ve not done before. In our example of becoming a better leader, it might entail several things, such as being tactfully transparent about your intentions (including how you are trying to develop as a leader), or asking more questions to make your team think, instead of directing with answers, or synthesizing what your team is saying to demonstrate you heard them, etc. Make sure you’ve identified your measure of success for each experiment, just as you have for your lighthouse, i.e. what, specifically, will be your indication that the experiment was a success.
  1. Reflect. After you’ve conducted your experiment, ask yourself the following questions: a) What worked? b) What didn’t work? c) What did I learn about being a leader? d) What did I learn about how I relate to my team? e) What did I learn about myself? At times it may also be appropriate and helpful to gather feedback. In our example, perhaps we would ask the team: What are you noticing?
  1. Adjust. Then based on whatever new learning you discover, decide what is one thing you will do different the next time

Repeat this process weekly. Once you’ve made enough progress on the first of your sub-lighthouse goals, think of the next area requiring your attention… all in support of your big lighthouse. Voila!  You are now in the driver’s seat!

To learn more about effective approaches to driving change and strengthening your leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Nick.