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7 Ways to Get the Most from Working with a Coach

I’ve been coaching for more than ten years and have seen great strides in the range of reasons companies choose to hire coaches.  Importantly, you need to know how to work with a coach to get the maximum benefit of this partnership.

Ten years ago, coaching was for the C-Suite and senior leaders.  It was very expensive and often meant only a small handful of leaders benefitted. 

Coaching was also used to be corrective.  If a senior leader was having trouble in their role, coaching was often a last resort before the person exited the organization.

But today, organizations are realizing the benefit of coaching, and coaching companies are organizing to provide coaching at scale. 

It’s not unusual for a millennial to receive career coaching or leadership development.  Mid-career leaders are often receiving coaching to take them to their next level.  Women are often being coached to move into more leadership positions.  High potentials are being offered coaches, and leadership training programs are augmenting programs with coaching.  Some companies are even beginning to add coaching into their wellness programs as an offering to help employees with stress and change fatigue.  And the list goes.

So how do you, the beneficiary of coaching, make sure you’re having the optimal experience.  You may have more control over this than you realized.

  1. Secure a level of trust with your coach.  Be vulnerable.  Tell your coach who you are, where you have strengths, and where you are challenged.  This is crucial information to your coach when proposing strategies or experiments towards your coaching goals.
  2. Coaching is a partnership, and you hold the power. Coaches are trained to focus on the agenda of their clients.  If you come into a coaching session having done your homework and prepared a few thoughts on what you want to focus on for that session, you enable your coach to come into full partnership with you.  The downside is when you’re not prepared, time during your coaching session will need to be spent on formulating your goal for that session.
  3. Commit to the action steps. At the end of each session, your coach will work with you to design experiments or other homework you can do to further develop what’s being discussed during the coaching session.  Make sure you understand the action steps and then commit to completing them.  When you complete your action steps, you are taking responsibility for your own learning and growth.
  4. Schedule time right on your calendar to do your homework (experiments). Doing the in-between work is so important to your overall coaching experience.  It’s where you’re reaching outside your comfort zone, trying on new behaviors, engaging at different levels of conversation, or even testing out your beliefs.  This becomes new data for you about who you are becoming.  You then bring this data back into your next coaching sessions to discuss what worked, your successes, challenges, and findings with your coach.
  5. Protect your coaching appointments. Whatever coaching cadence you have with your coach (usually weekly or bi-weekly), be consistent in keeping your appointments.  Put appointments on your calendar for the months ahead so that you’re scheduling around your coaching and protecting this time.
  6. Celebrate your successes. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight.  Being who you are and how you see the world has been a lifetime in the making.  Coaching may cause you to release some things that no longer work for you and allow you to develop in new ways.  Celebrate when you see a shift in how you approach a situation or notice that you are trying on new skills.  Give yourself credit for your effort.  (Our organizations can be so results-oriented that you may find yourself discounting effort.)
  7. Be open to the tools your coach suggests. Coaches are trained in toolkits that may not be used in your company.  These tools are designed to help clients see what they normally can not see about themselves.  Be open to these tools.  Give them a try and then share your experience with your coach.

If you follow these steps, you’ll get the most from your coaching experience.

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