Getting the most from your executive coach

In a recent post, we wrote about choosing the right coach and preparing for your sessions. In this week’s post, we look at ways you can put in the effort and maximise the outcomes from your coaching experience.

Your organisation has decided to invest in you by engaging an executive coach. Or you’ve decided to invest in yourself. Either way executive coaching is a significant investment in time and money, so you want to make the most of this experience.

Executive Coach Exchange hurdle pixabay domeckopol
Putting the effort into your coaching sessions can help you clear career hurdles

Stephen Key has written about coaching as a two-way street and suggests 11 steps to take to get the most from this experience. Amongst these are some we believe are critical to your success:

  • Get in the habit of recapping what you’ve learned via action steps. What are you going to do next? Document what you are planning to do and share this with your coach.
  • Make the focus of your course a top priority. Actively work toward accomplishing assigned tasks each week. Look for ways to get the work done, not for excuses as to why you couldn’t.
  • Listen with the intent to take action. Focus on action steps at all times. There’s a big difference between passively taking something in and actively noting what needs to be done. All the instruction in the world won’t help if it falls on deaf ears.
  • Do the work. Better yet, return asking for more.
  • Be patient. Nothing happens overnight. Accept that it might take longer than you want.

Joyce E.A. Russell from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business advises that for executives to get the most out of the coaching they should:

  • Periodically provide feedback to their coach about what is working or not in their sessions.
  • Remain open to the feedback they get in return. She writes, “You may hear things that you never heard before. Instead of immediately denying and rejecting the feedback, ask questions to better understand it.”
  • Make sure the coach works with their client on crafting a developmental plan. “At a minimum, this should outline your key strengths, developmental areas for improvement, obstacles to changing, and action plans along with timetables.”

Jeannette Purcell suggests you should “Be clear about what you want to change. The more specific you can be about your coaching ‘goal’ the more effective your coaching will be.”

She then writes about the importance of preparation. “Prepare for each session by reviewing what has happened since you last met your coach. What has gone well? What has not worked well? Has a specific issue arisen that you would like to discuss with your coach…?”

Next, she points out the importance of follow-up. “Make sure that each session ends with a summary of what has been discussed and what actions you are going to take…Agreed actions allow you to put into practice some of the good ideas or options you have discussed at the session.”

Finally, she points out the importance of being open to the experience: “Be prepared to challenge yourself and your ways of working. Be open to new ideas and to trying new things. Coaching provides you with a safe environment in which to be honest and open about what is happening at work and what needs to change. If you are not completely open you will not realise the full benefit of coaching – it will be a missed opportunity.”

To sum up, at Executive Coach Exchange we believe you will get out what you put in to your coaching experience. Invest in yourself and have faith in your ability to make positive changes. Coaching can be a very challenging experience but by making the effort in preparing, doing the work, taking action and being open to new ideas, you will have a rewarding experience with long-lasting benefits and exponential personal and professional growth.

Create your personal board of directors

Dr Lubna Somjee takes an interesting approach to the concept of mentors. She suggests that you can go a step further, by creating a personal board of directors.

Executive Coach Exchange boardroom pexels pixabayWhen she works with her clients as an executive coach, Dr Somjee suggests you choose a group of people to help you in your career. She advocates you find “…a group of people you can turn to and discuss various career or business issues, obtain advice, and gain new perspectives.”

She suggests the group be as diverse as possible and include both champions and people who will be candid, or even blunt. You can choose someone from within your own industry or someone from another industry to bring a fresh perspective. You can also choose an explorer who “…forces you to stretch your vantage point on yourself and career, and helps you be more self-aware.”

Dr Somjee recommends adding people you find to be knowledgeable or inspirational as virtual board members. She believes that “Assembling one’s own board can be one of the more valuable things you can do if you are wanting to strengthen your career or business…”.

Why not consider your coach as a member of your personal board? Executive coaches can bring objectivity and an outsider’s perspective to the process. They can take the roles you assign to them – explorer, provider of candid feedback or champion. By helping you build your self-awareness, they can also help you choose the right people for your other board positions. Executive coaches can help you end up, long term, with your best personal board of directors.

Fuzzy vision to SMART goal

RoadMost people are well aware of SMART goals.  A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attractive), Realistic and Timeframed.  In their excellent book, Solution-Focused Coaching (Jane Greene and Anthony M Grant. 2003. Solutions-Focused Coaching: managing people in a complex world. Pearson Education. pp: 55-57), Jane Greene and Anthony M Grant take this a step further.

Greene and Grant write about the importance of creating a fuzzy vision first.  They say that a fuzzy vision is “an approximation of the way you want to feel, the place you want to be in…a sense of how you want things to be rather than a precise outcome.”  They propose that before we create SMART goals, we need to create a fuzzy vision or risk losing energy “for the journey”.

Greene and Grant say, “The skill of coaching is taking someone from the fuzzy vision and getting them to develop specific goals, designing an action plan and supporting them in getting their result.”  They say that in creating a fuzzy vision, a coach asks how the client would like things to be. From this starting point, SMART goals are developed then refined to form an action plan.

We think the idea of starting from a fuzzy vision is most effective because it allows a client to imagine how they would feel when they reach their goal.  This gives the goal meaning and moves it from an abstract idea to something purposeful and personal.

And so it becomes a powerful focus for action.