Coaching is one of the best investments you can make in your personal and professional development. However, as a wise investor, you will want to get the most from the time, energy, and money that you devote to your coaching. These 12 tips will help you get the biggest return on your coaching investment.
1. Clarify your reasons for seeking coaching and the outcomes you hope to achieve. Coaching outcomes vary by individual. However, coaching is most effective when the outcomes relate to the key competencies you hope to achieve to enhance your current effectiveness and/or fulfillment or to prepare you for a future role. Identify the specific objectives and outcomes that you hope to achieve through coaching. Are you seeking more personal and professional fulfillment, a higher level of effectiveness, or preparation for a new chapter in your life? Define specifically what you want to achieve through your coaching and share these objectives with your coach. If you are having difficulty identifying and articulating your coaching objectives, that’s OK. Address this issue with your coach as a first step in your coaching engagement.
2. Select a coach you trust and from whom you can learn. Trust is fundamental to forging a coaching partnership that yields successful results. Your ability to trust your coach will be based, in part, upon whether you believe your coach represents himself or herself authentically, has your best interests at heart, will speak the truth, and will adhere to agreed-upon confidentiality guidelines. Your coaching success will also depend upon whether your coach has the necessary training, knowledge, and experience to assist you in the issues you want to address and has a coaching perspective and style that match your needs. Keep in mind, too, that your learning may require you to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Your coach's ability to give you useful feedback and in a manner you can hear will be critical to your coaching success.
3. Build support with relevant stakeholders. Partnerships become extremely important when coaching is related to your role in an organization. You may need to partner not only with your coach but also with stakeholders such as your manager, human resources professional, and leadership development team. Your role in creating support for your coaching within your organization will be to ensure that the appropriate parties agree about their roles and involvement in your coaching process – and in a manner that will support and not hinder your development.
4. Take ownership and responsibility for your coaching. The coaching process will be what you make of it, not a process that happens to you. You must take responsibility for establishing your coaching objectives, scheduling and keeping your coaching sessions, updating your coach on changes affecting your work together, following through on agreed-upon actions, and monitoring your results.
5. Ensure that your coaching objectives align with your organization's objectives. Coaching contracted for and paid for by your organization should support you in achieving both your own objectives and those of your organization. Your coaching objectives in such situations should fit within the context of your organization and/ or your core work, the key drivers of organizational success, and the metrics upon which your performance will be measured in your organizational role. In addition, your coaching objectives must be relevant to the stage your organization is in and what your organization needs most at that stage, whether your organization is in a start-up, growth, turnaround, or steady stage.
6. Be fully present in the coaching process. Coaching involves bringing your whole self to coaching and being fully engaged in the process. This means different things to different people. For certain, it will mean turning your cell phone off while you are in coaching, making sure that you are not interrupted by others while meeting with your coach, and attempting to balance what may be most urgent for you at the moment with what is most important as you partner with your coach in your dedicated time together. Being fully present will also mean that you may need to prepare notes before, during, and after your coaching sessions. It may mean, too, that you will need to reschedule a coaching session if it is likely that you will be distracted or interrupted from your coaching focus.
7. Take risks in your learning. Coaching is a process of discovery and learning. It will provide you with the time and space to take in useful feedback; to self-reflect; to experiment with new strategies, tools, and tactics; and to see mistakes and lost opportunities in the light of day so you can admit to and learn from them. The success of your coaching experience will depend upon your willingness to be open and receptive to your own learning, to take risks, to be honest even when it may be uncomfortable to do so, and to experiment with new ideas and behaviors.
8. Tell your coach what is working and not working for you in coaching. Your coach has a repertoire of approaches. Some of these approaches will work for you and others will not be as effective. Provide honest feedback to your coach about the approaches you find most and least useful to increase the likelihood of coaching success and to accelerate your learning. For example, if you learn best by doing, then a coach who gives you conceptual models and frameworks and asks you to apply them on your own will not serve you as well as one who draws upon dry-runs, role plays, or low-risk real-time practice sessions. Share with your coach how you believe you learn best.
9. Do your homework and come to your coaching sessions prepared. Your coach may request that you read particular articles or books, keep a journal, or use assessment and/or self-reflection instruments and exercises. Keep an open mind to your coach’s tools and complete your homework assignments wholeheartedly and on time. Use what you learn from your coach’s assignments to increase your knowledge base, expand your thinking, and assess the impact of your learning.
10. Aim for early coaching successes in achievable areas. Most coaching clients find it helpful to get traction early on in their coaching, especially when they find themselves in new and/or challenging situations. Identify the specific areas or ways in which your coach can support you to achieve early, visible wins. Early successes can be extremely reinforcing and will fuel the more challenging and longer-term coaching goals you will establish with your coach.
11. Persevere in your coaching. Make a commitment to complete your full coaching engagement. There may be some setbacks along the way or you may feel that you’re not progressing as rapidly as you would like. If so, you may be tempted to terminate your coaching engagement or to project blame onto your coach. These are the times when you can achieve the greatest gains in coaching, provided that you stay with it and focus on the lessons learned. Coaches know that in times of setback, stagnation, or even failure that individuals often make their greatest gains in their coaching -- if they are willing to persevere.
12. Commit to your long-term development. Your learning must not end when you complete your coaching engagement. Commit to a plan of long-term development and discuss with your coach how you can continue to progress on your own or with the help of other stakeholders. Make good use of check-in sessions with your coach and follow-up coaching engagements as needed to continue your progress.