Previously published on Forbes
Dagmar was, by all outward signals, winning at her job. Her team was producing great results. She got terrific feedback from her peers and manager. She made helpful contributions in meetings and project conversations. Nothing was wrong. But something more was waiting to happen for her.
Dagmar was ready to raise the bar for herself. Not because she had to, but because she wanted to. She decided the best way to do this was to hire a professional coach.
What Dagmar recognized was this simple leadership reality: Just like a professional athlete, if you want to keep getting better, you need someone on your side who knows the drills that will increase your strength and skill. You need someone who will push you to be better than you ever thought you could be. You need a coach.
A Powerful Partner In Your Leadership Success
There was a time when it was a stigma to have a coach. Now it’s a status symbol. This is especially true as more and more executives have discovered the power of having a coach beside them. It’s become a signal that your company is proactive and willing to invest in you; they see your potential and want more of it.
An executive coach will help you reclaim balance, prepare for a critical interview, find your next job, expand on your vision and support you on your journey to other important goals you’ve set for yourself. As a partner in your leadership success, your coach will nudge you out of your comfort zone and give you straight feedback without worrying about whether or not you like it.
Rob, the CFO for a national health care company, discovered firsthand what an impact executive coaching can make. He had reached a point in his career and life where he was in over his head. He had a geographically dispersed team, he was working too many hours, and had an infant at home. He knew he needed help and working with an executive coach seemed like a decent place to start.
Together, Rob and his coach sifted through his current experience to see the patterns and shifts and wrong turns. His coach’s job was to mirror back what he heard from a higher perspective, from the “balcony,” as Harvard professor Ron Heifetz calls it. And by the end of their first session, they had a plan—a clear strategy to help Rob prioritize, delegate and lead his team in more effective ways.
What about you? What might happen if you said “yes” to having a coach?
Here’s what you can expect: First, your coach will gather feedback about how others perceive you, including what they think about your strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes this is done via a 360-degree assessment, other times via interviews with people who work with you. This will give your coach a good sense about where to start with you. Next, you’ll work together to create an action plan for the next few months—actions you will take to change your habits, behaviors, and perspective, all for the better. And then you’ll get to work.
Executive coaches typically work with their clients for six to 12 months and always one-to-one in a highly confidential structure. You will meet regularly with your coach to make sure that you are moving your plan forward and to work through any current challenges.
So let’s say you are convinced. It’s time. Here are the five things to do when you are ready to hire a coach:
1. Talk to people you know who have engaged a coach. Can they make a recommendation for a coach based on their experience? What did they get out of the experience? What might you expect?
2. Ask yourself what’s at stake if you don’t up your game. What do you stand to lose? Why should you invest the time and energy it will take? What’s the bigger game you are ready to play as a leader?
3. Interview three coaches. It’s important to find a coach who feels like a “fit” to you. Here are some questions you could ask when you interview a coach: How do you work with clients? What is your methodology? How long have you been coaching? Are you certified as a coach? What would you say about your style or approach to working with a client?
4. Come prepared to your coaching conversations. We have our clients complete the following questions in their journals before they meet with their coach:
- What have I accomplished since my last coaching session?
- What did I intend to accomplish but didn’t get done since our last session?
- What leadership challenge am I facing right now?
- What topic or issue do I want to address in this coaching session?
- What do I need to get the most value out of this session?
5. Follow through! If you make a promise to your coach, do it—no excuses, no whining. Do it because you said you would. Your coach will hold you 100% accountable. This is the gold of the coaching relationship. An external source of accountability is often the motivator we all need to do the really hard things.
Having a coach alongside you will help you accelerate your progress as a leader and a person. You will come out on the other side better because of it. Dagmar engaged a coach for six months and made positive changes that will serve her for years to come. Rob learned to delegate and empower his team so that he could focus on the higher order needs of his job – providing more solid counsel to his CEO. In both cases everybody won – the team, the leader and the organization. All this because they said “yes” to having a coach.