Wow, we’ve covered a lot of ground this series of articles! So far, we’ve talked about what coaching is, demystifying the coaching experience, and the distinctions in coaching. At this point you might be thinking, “Enough already! You’ve sold me on coaching. How do I get myself, my team, or my organization started?”
There are two important parts to the process of getting started with a coach:
- Assessing Readiness
- Finding the Right Coach
Let’s dive into the first – Assessing Readiness. Are you ready to do the work of coaching? Henna Inam, writing for Forbes, offers a number of key considerations in her article on the topic.
- Is the potential client considered high-potential or in a high-impact role?
Coaching is an investment most often made at more senior levels in organizations, or where the client has an outsized impact on the organization relative to their role. Research shows feedback drops off as leaders rise in the ranks, so coaching can be leveraged to help you get good feedback.
- Do you need customized development?
Coaching is a highly customized approach to development and gives you, the leader, the opportunity to focus on your unique issues and challenges. Coaching goes beyond behaviors to look at mindset as well, offering a deeper experience than other leadership development approaches.
Coaching requires you to be engaged and open. Often leaders are stretched for time or are simply not in the right frame of mind to receive developmental feedback and “work on themselves.” Coaching should be engaged when you are able to devote the time and energy to do the work and have the right mindset.
- Does the development need require a sustained change in behaviors?
Coaching is a sustained approach, lasting anywhere from a few months to a year or more. The work of coaching also occurs mostly in between sessions with the coach – not during them. In this way, coaching is uniquely suited to provide accountability and reinforcement for changes that need staying power.
- Is your environment changing significantly to require a step-change in leadership?
It is often difficult to release one frame of reference in favor of a new one. Coaching can help you adapt to significant new changes or demands in your work context, such as restructures, merger or acquisition activity, changes in the marketplace, and so on.
- Are you going through or being prepared for a significant change in responsibilities?
Coaching is an excellent choice to support leaders who are taking on significant new responsibilities in the organization, be it a promotion, a new initiative, or other scope-expanding changes. Complexity almost always increases as responsibilities increase, and coaching is useful to identify and navigate the new landscape.
- Are you new to the organization or function?
You can often benefit from coaching if you are onboarding to a new organization or to a new part of your existing organization. This is because the culture of the organization or the expectations of the role itself can be a big departure from what you’ve known and how you’ve operated. Often new leaders are brought in to initiate change.
- Are you at risk of derailing?
Sometimes, previously high-performing leaders can suffer lapses due to a change in context or because you are experiencing personal difficulties. Coaching can help you become aware of your performance lapses and take steps to correct them, or step into your agency with a decision to depart.
Finding the Right Coach
A key concept for finding the right coach is fit and how comfortable you feel with the person you’ll be working with. While you should feel comfortable and able to be vulnerable with your coach, you’ll also want to choose someone who is going to help you move forward on your goals, which is the reason you came to coaching in the first place. This often involves the coach offering gentle challenges to your thinking or observations that you may not (initially) agree with. Look for a coach who feels like the right balance of safety and challenge – where you can be yourself and grow into a bigger version of yourself.
Henna Inam, again writing for Forbes, offers a handy list of questions to consider when selecting a coach:
- How does the coach handle confidentiality?
Confidentiality is key to help you feel safe and vulnerable during coaching, which facilitates progress. The International Coaching Federation has a code of ethics which offers guidelines for confidentiality. A good coach will follow these.
- What credentials does the coach have?
Coaching is a relatively new profession, and as such not everyone who calls themselves a coach has been trained or certified. Ask potential coaches if and where they completed their coach training, and if they are certified by the International Coaching Federation or another certification body. This will help ensure the chosen coach has the appropriate skills.
- What’s your coaching experience and track record with leaders like me?
While direct experience in your industry or function is not an indicator of improved coaching outcomes, you should inquire about that if it’s important to you. More critically, you should inquire about the coaches’ experience coaching leaders at a similar level and with similar desired outcomes.
- How does the coach define and measure success in a coaching engagement?
Outcomes in coaching can be defined externally and internally. External success is concrete, observable, and measurable. Internal success can be measured more subjectively by the “joy and ease” you experience at work and in life. Coaching is a holistic modality, so quality coaches will be attentive to both aspects.
- What kinds of clients have you had the most success with?
Coaches often have strengths with particular kinds of client engagements, such as onboarding, transition, certain organizational levels or skill sets.
- What is your typical coaching process and cost?
This question and the next one are the most tactical – what can you expect over the course of the entire engagement, and session by session? What assessments may be used? How will goals be set and progress tracked? Is the coach available in between sessions? What happens when the coaching isn’t working?
- What happens in a typical coaching session?
This is where the roles and responsibilities of the coach and the client are outlined. You are often responsible for setting the direction of each session once the overall goals are established. Coaches generally employ a mix of powerful questions, deep listening, reflecting what they hear from you or notice, and occasional challenges to stretch you into your best capacities.
- What kinds of issues can I bring to the table?
Coaching can be comprehensive, extending into a client’s personal life. And yet, there are ethical limitations to a coach’s expertise (they cannot treat mental health issues, for example).
- How does the coach work with stakeholders?
The system within which you lead is an important part of coaching. A good coach will want context on this system, potentially through 360 feedback, alignment meetings with HR and/or your boss, and so on. It’s important for coach and you to be aligned on when and how stakeholders will be involved.
- How do you address lack of motivation or resistance to coaching?
Change naturally involves resistance, so it’s a good idea to talk to any potential coach about how they handle this. If a coaching engagement stalls due to lack of motivation or resistance, a coach should raise the issue and help you work through it.
- What would you like to know about me?
This helps you get a feel for a coach’s style, and helps the coach assess your readiness and fit for themselves. It’s a two-way street!
- What else would you like me to know about you?
Coaches may want to share things about themselves that you have not asked about. This gives them a chance to do so.
If you’ve decided to engage in coaching for yourself, your team, or your organization, congratulations! These questions will help confirm the readiness of the participants and make sure the right coach is identified. Schedule a complimentary call with me, Jessica Bronzert, to get the conversation started!