Executive coaching is growing in popularity. Former stigmas associated with having a coach are evaporating. There once was a time when Boards only hired coaches to “fix” someone. Now, very successful executives are hiring coaches to grow even further than before. Companies are embracing coaching as ways to leverage their investment in senior managers and leaders.
When executive coaching comes into play, it’s only natural that potential coaching clients (coachees) research the coach. Who is the coach? What kind of coaching does he/she practice? How do his/her clients rate the experience? What coaching certifications does the coach have? How deep is the professional experience? And then, once enough blind trust has been established, the coach is selected and the first coaching session is booked in the calendar.
However, in our conversations with coaching clients, we’ve learned that very few people actually research how to be a good coaching client. How should one approach coaching, from the client point of view?
There is a widespread belief that the coaching experience is entirely the responsibility of the coach and little to no preparation is undergone by the client. And this is interesting. While there are many definitions, types, and methodologies of coaching, coaching clients are aware, at some level, that the coaching experience will be about themselves, their problems/goals, their behaviors/feelings and what to do or who to become to change them, against given goals.
If this were true, as a coaching client, are you naturally ready to go there; diving into your behaviors, your feelings, your identity? How aware are you of what you really want? Are you naturally ready to reflect on your deepest inner workings, your belief system, your values? Probably not so much and it’s OK.
Finding the Edge
We’re not inclined to reflect on the deeper levels of ourselves. At least not as a general habit. But hey, that’s why we have the coaching profession, for those of us who are inclined to do these life searches and, having done it ourselves, we make it our mission to support others in this endeavor.
The thing is, having a good coach does not, by any measure, guarantee you’ll get where you think you want to go. Yes, good and experienced coaches will most likely help you spark some light that you never knew was there and you’ll use that light to shine in new and unforeseen ways in your life. Nevertheless, the road to getting ahead is neither easy, nor comfortable, nor fast. It is, most of the time, the exact opposite: complex, uncomfortable and slow. And, of course, not all coaches are good and experienced.
We’re going to share a few things to consider when preparing for that first coaching session. This will most definitely act as an accelerator for you on your path to your goal and will also help the coaching process reach its authentic conversational rhythm.
Think about your destination
Coaching is a journey. The coach is there to guide you, to make sure you are aware of the road, the scenery, the mud holes in the ground, to show you multiple potential paths towards your destination. However, you are the one to set the destination. It’s OK to not know exactly where you want to go, just make sure to reflect on it and ask the coach to help you identify a destination worth going to. Don’t pick any destination just for the sake of having a coaching goal. If you don’t really want or need it, you’re about to waste time and money.
Adopt the “Me stance”
As a coaching client, you’re there to discuss something that’s going on with you, be it a problem you have, or maybe a big decision you’re thinking to make, it doesn’t matter. It’s about you. Be prepared to have a conversation about you, how you see things, how you believe they affect you and why that happens.
Avoid talking about others (as tempting as it may be), because there’s nothing you or the coach can do about what others do/say/are. You can, on the other hand, focus on how external factors are affecting you, at all possible levels. This is the “Me stance”. Whenever you feel like talking about others, reposition that in terms of how what they do/say is affecting you.
As mentioned, coaching is a journey and one of the things you can expect from the coach is to show you multiple paths to try out. Remain curious about the coach’s invitations to explore.
A good coach will sense things that may be behind what you’re saying (or not saying) and will invite you to put it on the table, with the goal to deepen your understanding of the situation. Instead of questioning the validity or significance of the coach’s questions, go with the flow.
Be curious and explore (especially when it’s about your emotions), because it’s yourself that you are exploring and be assured: you are a fascinating human being and you are totally worth exploring. Without question, you will be astonished by your inner workings, just be willing to open the door.
Coaching is not just the conversation. It doesn’t end when the conversation is over. One of the ways we see coaching going wrong is when the coaching client does not attach any action to commitment. We’re not talking about the cases where the client hasn’t yet reached a high enough level of awareness of the problem, that would allow assuming the responsibility for the action.
No. We’re talking about when the client is aware of the problem desires to do something about it, yet he/she manages not to. There are many reasons for this, of course, most of them being traced back to a fear of something.
Be sure you will reach a place in the coaching process where you will need to commit to achieving your goal. In your endeavor to do so, you will be tempted to not do it. When those temptations appear, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to see your goals happen.
Learn from the coach
At some point, maybe you’ll start noticing some kind of pattern in the coaching process; some themes that the coach repeatedly invites you to explore. Use this to self-regulate, when you feel you need coaching. What questions that worked very deep for you could be applied to another problem you have?
What have you learned about how you function (rationally and emotionally) from the coaching experience that you could scale for yourself, to tackle new goals?
Basically, how can you be your own coaching client? This, of course, happens after several sessions and depends very much on your general awareness and presence. Keep in mind that the trick with coaching is to reach a place where you can start helping yourself, not to create a coach-dependancy. There will be times you actually need a coach, just make sure you’ve first given it your best shot, yourself.
The coaching conversation is very dear to us and we strongly believe it to be a critical tool in any professional’s “toolkit”, especially in that of leaders. And by the toolkit, we really mean mindset, because coaching is, a mindset. So, we trust the above 5 reflection points will help you in your own experience as a coaching client and we’d very much love to hear your thoughts on them!