Companies across a wide range of industries are increasingly turning to executive coaching to help their senior executives improve their leadership skills. When companies hire an executive coach for an employee, they’re communicating that the person is important and worth the investment. In addition, these companies expect the executive to take the time and put in the effort necessary to benefit from the experience. Those receiving coaching need to build time into their schedule to really work with the coach and engage with his or her advice and feedback. However, many executives may not understand how to work with their coach effectively.
Below are some of the key tips to get the most out of working with an executive coach.
1. Set achievable goals.
When executives first start working with a coach, they typically have some general idea of the goals they would like to achieve. However, these aims are often vague and lofty, and it can be difficult to see any progress toward them. For that reason, executives should work with their coaches to set achievable goals that keep them motivated. If executives feel like they’re taking on too much, they may become overwhelmed and then discouraged from continuing with the coaching. Instead, they should collaborate with coaches to prioritize goals and figure out a strategic plan for moving toward them with small, measurable progress. Executives should see how the incremental steps bring them closer to their overarching goals and how these achievements fit into the bigger picture. Over time, it is important that executives and coaches check in with each other about progress to examine goals and make changes, if necessary.
2. Understand the coach’s purpose.
An executive coach is not the same thing as a cheerleader. Executives need to understand what they’re getting into when they begin working with a coach and remain open to constructive criticism. Of course, personality plays into the success of the relationship, but executives who refuse to accept constructive criticism are ignoring the point of coaching. If an executive has dismissed several coaches because of personality conflicts, the coaches may not be at fault. While it can be difficult to accept criticism, executives need to question the value of a coach who says nothing but “Good job!” Such a coach is a waste of time and resources, because neither the executive nor the company will see any benefit from their investment.
3. Remember who benefits.
While it may seem like the executive is the only one who benefits from coaching, this is an incomplete view. In reality, the benefits of coaching also extend to the executive’s employees, and ultimately, the company. When executives keep this fact in mind, the criticism that they receive becomes less personal. Coaches help people become better leaders, and they seek to improve the way an executive interacts with his or her employees, and in turn, how the employees view the executive. The feedback that a coach gives is meant to be helpful not simply on a personal level, but on an organizational level, too. By distancing criticism in this way, executives can keep their head up and maintain the motivation they need to work on their shortcomings and become a better leader.
4. Change requires commitment.
Executives should not expect to change unless they are committed to becoming better leaders. Simply showing up to coaching sessions is not enough to improve. Executives need to pay real attention to the advice they receive and think about it mindfully. Without the intention to change, they will make little progress toward their goals.
Above all, commitment involves self-awareness and the deliberate application of advice received from the coach. Deliberate application means following the coach’s advice and paying attention to the effects of these changes. It also involves continuing to make changes accordingly until personal goals are reached. Often, people will find that shifting their behaviors according to the suggestions of a coach has positive implications for both their personal and professional lives.
5. Schedule time for practice.
Business leaders have extraordinarily busy schedules, and because of this, it’s easy to prioritize other activities over coaching. For that reason, executives need to build time into their schedule to meet with coaches and to make plans for implementing the feedback that they receive. Without this dedicated time, executives won’t make much progress with their goals, because they’re not doing what’s necessary to incorporate behavioral changes into their everyday lives at the office.
Importantly, this scheduling needs to continue even after the engagement with the coach ends. By making time for keeping track of progress, executives can continue to work toward their goals, rather than falling back into unproductive habits.