How To Get The Most Value from an Executive Coach
Do you have an executive coach? Are you thinking about it? Do you want to be sure you get your money’s worth from the investment? How will you know it will be a valuable use of your time?
Coaching has been a part of my practice for nearly 30 years. I’ve coached at every level from senior managers to Presidents and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and through it all, there have been a few clients who I believe received more value from me than others, not because of what I did, but because of what they did. I now share this with all my new clients and there will still be those who take advantage of it and those who don’t. Here are five notable steps clients can take that will maximize value from an executive coach:
1. Select the right coach.
A few weeks ago, I did an entire blog on this topic. Check it out here. The point is that if you are working on some specific issues or trying to deliver particular business results, choose a more senior coach who has either done that themselves or helped clients do what you are seeking to do. With coaching, experience, NOT chemistry, can often win the day.
2. Come prepared.
One of my most prepared clients was a Chief Revenue Officer for a large multinational company. Every time we met she had a list of things to talk about. Often, they were things she was struggling with or difficult conversations she was preparing for. In many cases, there were complex issues she needed to address with people I had met interviewing her stakeholders. My interviews allowed me to understand the personalities involved and minimal preparation on her part frequently allowed me to weigh in on various angles of the issue that she had not considered. Coming prepared with a few areas where your coach can help also keeps the conversation focused on the topics that matter and maximizes limited time. If your coach has to fish for how they can help, you may get some great wisdom, but you may not get the most value you could for their time.
3. Build a realistic action plan early.
Without a few specific areas to work on, you and your coach can be left guessing and you may not get the most critical help you need to change perceptions. In my practice, action plans are often a result of 360-degree stakeholder interviews and a personality assessment. The challenge can be that when stakeholder interviews take a long time to schedule, you are left with more time in the engagement without a plan. Granted, your coach can still work with you on situations that arise, but the outcomes may or may not hit the mark. If your company is investing in coaching for a particular reason, figuring this out and planning for it as soon as possible makes good sense. A typical coaching engagement is six months. Getting started early on what matters ensures that it will make a difference.
4. Show up.
This shouldn’t have to be said, but if your coach and their team is focused on trying to get on your calendar, they can’t focus on helping you. Coaching is a big investment that can add incrementally greater value if you make it a priority. Most coaches can tell when a client isn’t taking it seriously and those who are smart won’t work harder than their client because they know that is a fruitless effort. You will benefit much more when both you and the coach are working hard to set you up for success. I tell my clients that they own the calendar and scheduling. Of course, my team helps that, but when the client takes ownership for the engagement, great things happen every time.
5. Focus on business results.
Of course, there are behavioral and leadership issues to work on. Building relationships and driving performance through others are critical. But if those don’t lead to business results, frankly, there is no reason to do it. Even if you’ve been told you need to get along better with peers and team members, your company isn’t paying for a coach so you can win a popularity contest. The more you can link specific results to your action plan, the more value you will demonstrate to your organization as a result of coaching and the more credit you will receive for having worked on it. Results matter.