6 Tips to Leverage Your Executive Coach

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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!

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Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & Chief Coaching Officer

Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.

Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

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