Working with an executive coach can have a huge payoff for leaders as they develop, improve their skills and stretch in new areas. Like anything in life, coaching is as much about what you give as what you get back.
Throughout my career, I’ve acted as an executive coach, working with leaders to tap into their potential, set and achieve goals and transition into new roles, while also learning how to coach others. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot from my own coaches and mentors.
Creating a strong foundation of trust is the first step in any coaching relationship. A great executive coach is a thinking partner, someone you can talk openly with who provides support, guidance and an objective viewpoint, while also helping you problem solve and explore new ideas to reach your goals. Building this type of trust with a coach can only be established over time, gradually, through a series of successful meetings. It takes commitment, hard work and confidentiality on both sides.
An example of a successful coaching relationship I developed was with a rising executive at Amazon. As a bright, ambitious and high potential leader, he operated at lightning speed to deliver results. This could be a towering strength and opportunity, but also could be challenging when he moved faster than his team.
We met regularly and developed a framework to have candid discussions around his approach as a new leader taking on a global team. Among the areas we covered were best practices for navigating a new environment, and various leadership skills he wanted to develop, grounded with specific examples and insights. By building a foundation of trust, he was able to leverage our coaching sessions to better navigate, approach and influence the organization, while successfully leading his team to reach and exceed their goals.
Getting the most out of executive coaching takes both emotional IQ and investment. In order to grow from good to great, you have to be willing to invest time to not only amplify and develop your strengths, but identify and address potential blind spots.
Here are 5 tips to help you get the most out of your executive coaching experience:
- Stay open to feedback from your coach and others. Getting the most out of coaching starts with an open mind and an honest self-appraisal your strengths and vulnerabilities, leadership style, personality traits and potential challenges. An executive coach can help you become more self-aware, identify blind spots and potential derailers, which in turn improves your decision making, communication and ability to effectively lead others.
- Be ready to think outside your comfort zone. Having too narrow a focus can limit your perspective as well as potential opportunities. A great coach will help you to see the bigger picture and think outside your comfort zone. This may include stretching in new areas, seeking out new opportunities for professional growth or talking openly with peers or mentors to look at a particular challenge from a different angle.
- Build your goals around your strengths. While everyone has development areas to work on, it’s important to build your goals around your strengths first. An executive coach can help you to develop a framework for your goals that acts as a guiding light to keep you focused and on-track, while also developing your vision for where you want to go.
- Don’t let your strengths play as weaknesses. My executive coach helped me learn there were times when my strengths could also act as weaknesses, especially in situations when I took on more work than I should. My tendency to offer to ‘carry the piano’ on commitments or projects could lead to unrealistic scope and goal setting for my team and I. Working with a coach helped me learn to set realistic boundaries and overcome self-doubt.
- Take action to achieve results, while creating balance. At the end of the day, the best leaders are those who are able to clearly communicate their vision, co-create a plan with their team and execute it successfully, while maintaining balance. In order to get the most out of coaching, you need to create both time and space in your life to learn and grow beyond where you are today.
Stepping into any leadership position takes courage, grit, motivation and emotional intelligence. Executive coaching can make a huge difference in the trajectory of your career if you embrace it and put in the hard work to stay humble and challenge yourself to improve, while also seeking out new mentors and learning opportunities.