Working with a coach for the first time? If you’re not even sure what an executive coach does, check out our what is leadership coaching post first.
For the rest of you who have been lucky enough to get a coach, we want to share a few tips on how to make the most out of the opportunity. Given how busy everyone is, it can be easy to go through the motions or even deprioritize time that is focused on your professional development because it feels like a luxury. It’s important to shift your mindset, particularly as a new leader, on always “doing”. At this point in your career, taking time to consciously work on these personal shifts can end up being some of the most productive “work” you do to set yourself up for success down the road.
The good news is that your coach can help keep you moving along a process towards those goals. You just have to:
(1) Commit yourself to the process: This won’t be easy. You’ll have to spend time on it. This will be more “work” on top of your everyday “job”. This can involve everything from soliciting feedback, rethinking goals, or allotting time for some self-reflection. Sometimes you may not feel like you know where it is going. Sometimes you may feel too busy for it. But stay committed. You’ll see progress over time.
(2) Get to know your coach: Coaches are trained in and have a great deal of experience in developing strong, trusting relationships with their clients. But it takes two to build a relationship. The more you get to know your coach, and allow your coach to get to know you, the more they will understand how you operate and how to support you.
(3) Be open: listen, share, observe & repeat: If you aren’t honest or don’t share tough challenges with your coach, you’ll always just be working on the surface. A coach can only help you as much as you are willing to let them. So be open – share those ambitions or worries that you have. And be open to hearing a perspective that may be different than yours. You don’t always have to agree, and your coach does not “know better”. They are there to push your thinking and help you come to your own answers.
(4) Set goals: Take time to talk through and set clear goals with your coach at the start of the coaching and what success metrics look like for your relationship. Then revisit these goals consistently throughout the coaching and set action items against them. This will not only help center and focus your conversations with your coach, it will help you stay on track in progressing towards them. If your goals change (which happens), talk about it and integrate them into a new go-forward plan.
(5) Do the work: It’s easy to talk about what you want to do. Coaches can also help you figure out practical ways to work towards those goals. For example, “improving communication with management”. But if you don’t actually apply techniques and put things into practice, i.e., setup the 1:1s, join the meeting, etc., you won’t get anywhere. You have to actually do the work! No one else can do it for you.
(6) Enjoy it! Leverage your coach: It can be exhausting to actively work on yourself, especially if you are trying to address skill gaps or put yourself out there in new ways. But take time to acknowledge yourself for taking the initiative. Share your wins and losses with your coach. You’ll find that they can simultaneously be your biggest challenger and supporter. It’s not often that you get to work with someone who is really just there to support you, no matter what. Take advantage of it!
These are just a few tips to get you started, but if you can keep these as guiding principles for your coaching there’s no stopping you as a leader. Any other tips you have found useful? Tweet your tips to us!