After years of coaching both nonprofit and for‐profit leaders, I’ve witnessed what successful individuals do to get the most out of working with a coach. Perhaps the most important element to your success is the attitude you bring to a personal leadership coaching session.
Coaching is an investment in you – either by your board of directors, boss, or yourself.
It’s primarily up to you to make it work, and to achieve results.
Unlike most other learning and development processes, you are responsible for setting your own learning objectives. Here is a list of strategies ‘from the field’ to help you get farther, faster in your coaching sessions.
7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Coaching Session
Be willing to change.
When I screen potential coaching clients, I look for leaders who are highly motivated to change, who have a fierce desire to learn and grow. Why? Because getting coached can be hard work. I have great faith in your ability to chart your own future as a leader and will challenge you, encourage you, confront you, affirm you and provoke you…always in service of your learning and leadership development. And, I can’t fix what someone doesn’t want to fix.
Show up and make the coaching session a priority.
Coaching is a commitment and it’s essential to make the time for it. Many people don’t appreciate this at the beginning. The engagement is typically six months to a year, and that time will fly; you can count on it. You’re a busy person with a lot of responsibility, and business isn’t going to stop while you’re engaged with a coach. This means you need to become very strategic in managing your time and making coaching a priority.
It is not an exaggeration to say that you will probably reach your goals faster if you make your coaching sessions a priority. Unless it’s a true emergency, don’t cancel or reschedule. Be on time. This means you show up rested, present, and ready to work for your Skype or in‐person appointment.
Be prepared for each coaching session.
It’s your goal and vision. It’s your life. It’s your problem. It’s your opportunity. So, get what you want out of each session — don’t wait for your coach to initiate. Be ready to report on your progress. Come with an agenda: What are the most important leadership issues facing you at this moment? How have you fared since the last coaching session? How can you best use your time with your coach? Use the Session Prep Form. Then, let your coach help.
Many of my successful clients gather their thoughts before each session – they spend 15 minutes quieting their mind from the frenetic pace of daily work and life and focus their intention for the session. Do what you need to do to get yourself ready to explore new territory, challenge your current thinking, and experiment with new leadership practices.
Do your homework.
Leave every coaching session with at least one specific action that will advance your leadership in some way and commit to completing this action before the next session. This will include things such as experimenting with a new practice, reading a book or magazine, listening to a CD, creating a vision board, having a difficult conversation, redesigning how you invest your time, restructuring your personal strategies, or acquiring the resources you need to meet your goals.
I’ve discovered that one of the most challenging aspects of coaching is for my clients to implement a discipline of leadership practice – those small steps in changing your behavior, which, when executed over time with intentionality and in an authentic way, create big shifts. Yet, I can tell you with certainty that my most successful coaching clients are the ones who put these new behaviors, no matter how unfamiliar or uncomfortable – into practice.
See your executive coach as a partner.
One of the best ways to get the most out of coaching is to stay in touch so your coach can be a real resource to you. It doesn’t mean you have to be in touch every day, or even every week, but there should be some regularity to it. I have a policy of being available on an unlimited basis by phone or email throughout the coaching engagement. If you call, I get back to you promptly, as soon as my other coaching or consulting allows. I know that time-sensitive issues come up, and I want to be able to offer timely advice or consultation. Staying in touch is one of the surest ways to make me your partner in your professional development.
Use the coaching process to get exceptional clarity on those principles and aspirations that are most important in your role as a leader. Likewise, use the coaching process to identify the assumptions, behaviors and habits that no longer serve you well and are best left behind. Think about this process as aggressively pruning your approach to leadership so that you can blossom into a much stronger leader.
Enjoy Your Coaching Sessions!
We have work to do together, but that doesn’t always mean intense effort. Leadership coaching is not always an easy, comfortable experience. And, it can also be a wonderful adventure with amazing insights and great personal victories. There are always sessions where my clients and I laugh a lot – at life, how you’ve grown, how things happen. So enjoy the journey. It will likely be one of the most rewarding times of your career.