Imagine sitting down with your boss for your regular update session and hearing her utter the following words: “I would like you to start working with an executive coach.” Your first reaction is likely to be, “Why, what’s wrong with me?” and not, “This is great! She must really believe in me.”
Almost without exception, senior leaders invest in executive coaching for high potential individuals, not employees with low potential. And while the coaching will likely involve developing your strengths while identifying your weaknesses, the emphasis will be to help you grow.
Key Benefits for Executive Coaching
- Coaching prepares you for larger roles and next steps. Every step up in responsibility offers new challenges and opportunities to learn as well as make mistakes. Coaching helps you acclimate to the demands of the new role for critical thinking, leadership, and decision-making.
- Coaching helps you amplify your strengths and gifts. While much of professional development is preoccupied with fixing weaknesses, the biggest gains come from emphasizing the further development of our strengths. An effective coach ensures that developing strengths is a focal point of the engagement.
- Coaching supports the development of the discipline and mindset necessary for success in complex situations. Career growth means you are accountable for problems of increasing ambiguity, including strategy and talent selection. A proper coaching program exposes you to these challenges and offers help in cultivating the tools and skills necessary for success.
- Coaching allows you a chance to look at and work on yourself. If you are being groomed for executive positions, you are probably managing people and helping them to develop with no time to work on your own development.
During Executive Coaching
Accept that there is room for growth in your professional skillsets. Do not let ego and arrogance get in the way of recognizing there are always opportunities to improve. The world’s elite athletes reached their levels of peak performance with great coaches helping them tune and tweak techniques.
Bring a beginner’s mind. This concept borrowed from Zen Buddhism describes setting aside preconceived ideas and being open and eager for new ones. Without this beginner’s mind, learning becomes difficult, and you end up fighting the improvement suggestions.
Recognize that the coach’s role is not to offer answers or to do the work. The coach is there to observe, ask questions, challenge you and hold you accountable. The heavy lifting and hard work of change are all yours.
Accept that success means you will have to change your behaviors. We all understand how difficult it is to change our behaviors. How’s that fitness program or diet going? Have you kept your commitment to meet with your team members every 60 days to discuss their professional development? Regardless of the issue, changing our own behaviors is incredibly difficult. Coaching can give you some change management techniques,
Accept that you need help from those around you. In the most successful coaching engagements, the person being coached is open with their teammates and colleagues about this professional development work. Many invite team members to hold them accountable and support the process.
By doing this, you will be modeling a set of behaviors around personal professional growth that others will emulate in their own careers. And most of all, the coaching is about how you engage with others, and you need them to be involved in evaluating your progress.
Create additional mechanisms to reinforce personal accountability. One executive coach paid a person to call him every day and ask 32 questions, that he defined, about his own performance. This daily reinforcement coupled with the visible indicator of his failure on key questions that are important to his work and life serves to drive his own improvement.
Show up to your coaching meetings and be in the moment. As trivial as this sounds, many of these arrangements are derailed because the client is consistently out of pocket or dealing with a crisis during scheduled coaching call times.
The opportunity to work with an executive coach can be transformational. However, coaching only works for someone who truly wants to improve. If you are willing to listen and work to make changes, you have a good chance to become a more effective professional.