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4 Behaviors That Limit Your Progress in Executive Coaching

Want to get the most out of working with a coach? Avoid these 4 behaviors.

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Do you have an executive coach?

If you don’t, you’re not alone. A 2013 survey conducted by Stanford University indicated that although almost 100% of the CEOs questioned said they enjoy the process of being coached or receiving leadership advice, 66% do not have a relationship with an outside executive coach or consultant. Further, almost half of senior executives in the study were reportedly not getting any sort of coaching either.

Research has shown that coaching has many benefits including helping professionals to achieve increases in performance, well-being, coping, and goal achievement. So, getting a coach can definitely be worth the investment in time and money, assuming you choose the right one.

However, even if you want to get the most out of executive coaching, you might inadvertently be holding yourself back. After all, in my work with clients over the years, I have seen even smart professionals make some common mistakes that can limit their results. Curious to see if you’re guilty of any of them?

Read on for 4 mistakes that limit your progress in executive coaching.

  1. You Don’t Set a Timeline

Although some individuals prefer to have a coach who is available to them for an indefinite period, in my experience, the most productive coaching engagements are those that have an agreed upon timeline. Knowing that you’ll only have a set number of sessions with your coach injects a sense of urgency into your work together, and provides additional motivation to experiment with new behaviors and move towards goals. Once the set number of sessions have been reached, it’s always possible to evaluate progress and determine if additional coaching is needed. However, without a timeline, coaching can become unfocused, unproductive, and can even result in an unhealthy dependence on the coach.

2. You Don’t Set Clear Goals

It’s part of your coach’s job to help you to set clear objectives. However, at times, I’ve worked with clients who seem resistant to settling on specific goals. Sometimes it’s because they are perfectionists who are afraid that they might not accomplish the goal. Other times it’s because they don’t think that they really have anything to work on. Sometimes it’s because they just have a preference for being flexible and keeping things open. If you find yourself leaning in this direction, remind yourself that there is a wealth of research that shows that specific and ambitious goals lead to higher performance. Besides, without them, coaching can devolve into chat-fests, that might feel pleasant, but don’t lead to any sort of progress.

3. You Don’t Take Ownership for Your Coaching Sessions

Unsurprisingly, I’ve found that the executives who benefit the most from coaching are the ones who take the most active role in our meetings together. While I’ve worked with some who just show up to see what happens, the ones who thrive are the ones who come prepared with items to put on the agenda, notes on insights that they’ve had as a result of reflecting between sessions, and specific examples to discuss. If you’re not engaged or taking your coaching seriously, your coach can only do so much. So, prioritize coaching like you would any other important initiative that you are undertaking, and enjoy the benefits.

4. You Don’t Do Your Homework

I get it — you’re busy. But, just as a child won’t get the most out of his schooling if he doesn’t do his homework, so too will you limit your gains from coaching if you don’t do yours. While your work with a coach might include some “typical” homework such as reading a book or attending a training, the bulk of your assignments should be activities that you can do on the job like trying out new skills and managing your workload differently. And, while time might be partially responsible for failure to follow through on commitments, often it’s because clients can be reluctant to tolerate the discomfort associated with trying something new. So, accept that change can be difficult, but challenge yourself to try to do things differently. It’s the only way to grow.

As car-racing legend, Mario Andretti, said “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” With motivation, determination, and commitment, you can achieve your professional goals.

Patricia Thompson is a corporate psychologist and executive coach who has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, CNN, Entrepreneur, Time, and more. She is also the creator of the Executive Mindfulness Online Course. To get her infographic on the benefits of mindfulness for your career, click here.

Originally published at on November 30, 2016.

Originally published at

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