Not everyone is coachable. So the first thing to do before hiring a coach is to look in the mirror and ask:
- Am I satisfied with my current situation?
- If your answer is “yes,” you may not be sufficiently motivated to stretch and grow in the ways a good coach will push you.
- Am I confident and passionate about the path I’m on? Do I like where it’s taking me?
- If the answer is “yes,” you might think twice about hiring someone who could nudge you off your success path.
- Do I have sufficient knowledge, experience and insight to achieve my career goals?
- If your answer is “yes,” you may consider it a waste of resources to invest in someone who will have insights and perspectives different from your own.
- Am I confident with what I know, AND curious about what I don’t know?
- If your answer is “yes,” then this question trumps the first three and you would probably benefit from a good coach. You are probably coachable.
In sports, there are situations where a coach has to tear apart a player’s form, and then try to build it in a more healthy, powerful way. Take golf: if you spent years teaching yourself bad habits in the mechanics of your swing, you may need to tear down and completely rebuild a new swing if you want to make dramatic improvements in your game.
In executive coaching, I have NEVER encountered someone who had to throw away all of their management and leadership practices and replace them with the ones I espouse. Conceptually, such a case may exist, but I have yet to encounter it. Management is sufficiently vast and complex that there is no one way to succeed, no one style that is “right,” no one approach that will work for any given situation.
In the context of a coaching relationship, this means you need to be confident with what you know, while staying open to new ideas and perspectives. Do not blindly accept assertions or recipes for how to perform your tasks. Instead, look at empirical evidence for how “your way” is working or not working. If a coach suggests a different approach, test drive it a few times before you embrace it and make it your own.
Your relationship with the coach should feel collegial and peer-like. You should not have to surrender your knowledge and experience and defer only to the coach’s way. Most business leaders do not want a drill sergeant as an executive coach.
Another way you get the most out of coaching is to push yourself between sessions. A good coach will propose “homework.” It might be something to read, or observe, or try. If you make a commitment to the homework, do it. This will accelerate your learning and growing, especially if the homework is a stretch of your comfort zone.
In many – maybe most – business relationships, it is prudent to manage your tongue, to pay at least some attention to political correctness. With acoach, on the other hand, you maximize your learning when you trust him or her with your fears, insights and assessments. It is powerful to have someone with whom you can share honest, un-edited views.
It’s ok to rant to a coach, vent your spleen, blow off some steam. While this may be therapeutic, and vitally appropriate in some situations, it is not the most productive way to maximize your development. Instead, spend most of your energy on unpacking situations – what worked, what didn’t, what could you try next time? Ask your coach for alternative interpretations, and alternative actions. Keep your coach engaged and active in the dialogue. Don’t put yourself on a therapist’s couch.
While good coaches will ask questions and hold clients accountable for their past commitments, you need to own each session. Bring your own agenda, your own questions, your most vexing situations. Ask for help. Ask for insight. Ask for new avenues of growth and experimentation.
In time, your coach will have many experiences of you. While a coaching session is not necessarily transferable to all business relationships, generally, the You who shows up at the office is the same You who shows up to the coaching conversation. So ask your coach for assessments. What do you see as my strengths, weaknesses, blind spots? What progress have you noticed? Where do I seem resistant to change? What do you see as the next learning edge for me to work?
Finally, offer feedback, praise and gratitude to your coach when he or she is deserving. If warranted, refer them to others who are coachable. Help them succeed to the degree that they have helped you succeed. How you treat your coach may very well reflect how you treat other key stakeholders.