A coach isn’t a therapist, a friend, a mentor or a counsellor. The focus of coaching is on achieving specific goals. In this increasingly complex and fast-moving world, managers need all the support they can get to enable them to achieve their goals.
A coach will help you build specific skills that will bolster your professional performance. While a coach might encourage you to share your past experiences, the emphasis is on the future and, especially, on removing particular roadblocks from your path.
In general, there are two kinds of executive coaching. The first is remedial coaching. This is when a manager, director or executive is creating problems, and possibly completely out of their depth and misaligned. However, turning to a coach when everyone is at the end of their tether seems logical but is never ideal.
The second, and most successful, kind of coaching is when a manager, director or executive is feeling challenged, and may be in a “stretch” position. A coach can help to equip you with what is needed to do the job well. In an ideal world the situation is pre-empted and the coaching starts when the goal-setting takes place.
In other words: don’t wait for a crisis before contacting a coach. Instead, consider coaching when you are not feeling entirely up to dealing with the challenges you’re facing. Typically executive coaching helps managers who want to move on to the next level of leadership. Coaching works for anyone who knows they can do a lot better, who is not satisfied with their current performance and has a bigger dream.
How does coaching work?
The approach will depend on the needs of a client. Typically I start with a 90 minute session exploring goals, values, strengths & weaknesses, pitfalls, etc.
Goals are critical in coaching. Unlike therapy and mentoring, coaching is exclusively focused on achieving specific objectives. These could include a whole range of goals from all areas of life. Oftentimes these areas are interconnected and progress on one side might lead to leaps on another side.
The relationship with your coach will typically have an end-date, and won’t continue indefinitely. The coaching sessions are typically intensive for the first few weeks, and then less frequent as the client works on achieving goals. A large part of coaching is holding you (the client) accountable to do the work for themselves. While everyone is different, it can take three to six months before behaviours start to shift in a meaningful way.
How do you choose a coach?
The coaching sector is relatively unregulated. Currently, the gold standard is an accreditation from the International Coach Federation (ICF). ICF coaches have completed courses that have been certified by the organisation.
To find the right person for you, personal referrals can be useful. Get references and also scrutinise the coach’s CV to see whether they have the skills that will help you. Get a sense of where the person has worked and confirm their qualifications. The latter is crucial, she says. Many so-called coaches will punt their experience – “30 years in HR” or “extensive consulting work” – but don’t have any credible (e.g. ICF-certified) coach-specific training.
Also, and probably most importantly, have a coffee (or a call) with a prospective coach to make sure you are a good match. It has to be someone you will trust. There should be chemistry between you: your interaction should not be forced and you should feel understood.
Curious to find out more? Why not give it a try!