Having a coach is a huge investment. Either you personally made the decision to have a coach or your organization has chosen to provide you with one. Either way, coaching is an investment of time and money.
A coach can help you achieve your goals and reach the next level. That “next level” varies from person to person. It may be succession or retirement planning, more effective leadership presence, how to perform well in a new role, acclimate to a new company, inspire those you lead, etc. Everyone is unique, and the possibilities are as endless.
No matter what the area of focus is in coaching, it is crucial that you, as the coachee, know how to make the most out of your coaching experience.
In all of my years of coaching, there has only been one time when my client told me they had nothing to talk about. Do you know what I did? I canceled the session. If the client has nothing to discuss, we have nothing to coach.
This was a risky call for me to make as a professional coach. The client could have walked away and decided not to continue coaching at all. But this tough decision made the client aware of the value and purpose of being prepared with something to work through during a coaching session. In the long run, the client was grateful and so was I. Without focus and intention, the coaching session can end up simply being a conversation and most likely will not be valued as it should be.
Here are a couple of ways a coachee can make the most out of a coaching session.
1. Identify your goal(s) and/or area of focus. The most important thing is to have a focus area and set goals to work toward with your coach. You want to come into each coaching session prepared for meaningful conversation. Although there may be a number of items you want to work through, keep in mind the importance of coming to each session with an area of focus and intention. One of my favourite quotes is by business management writer Patrick Lencioni: “If everything is important, then nothing is.” Get specific on what it is that you want to work on.
2. Keep a journal. I highly recommend keeping some sort of journal to take notes on what is happening between coaching sessions. This will not only help you self-reflect but bring real-life situations into the session. Sharing specific situations takes the discussion to deeper levels. Review your notes before the coaching session to help you focus. When you have specific details to share with your coach, your coach can ask more meaningful questions to get to the root of the problem.
3. Be open. In a coaching relationship, it is critical for the coachee to be open and honest with their coach. Connection and trust between the coach and coachee are crucial. Your coach should ask you thought-provoking, inspiring, challenging, supportive and powerful questions to help you identify the root of the problem, other possibilities and/or what is next. When you provide honest and transparent answers, you will have more meaningful results. If your coach has spent time peeling back layers to get to what is “real,” the coaching process will often take longer and may not be as effective. It is helpful to prepare yourself to be vulnerable with your coach.
4. Be prepared to be challenged. Your coach should ask you powerful questions to help challenge your thinking and help you see other possibilities. You will be taking an inward look and thinking critically. As you work on achieving your goals with your coach, you will be challenged to get out of your comfort zone. As Stephen Covey says, “Seek to understand before being understood.” Remember that your coach is there to support, encourage, challenge you and, ultimately, create a space of accountability for what you have identified as your goals.
5. Expect change. I’m sure you have heard, “what got you here won’t get you there.” To accomplish your goals, there is going to be a change in your behavior, mindset or beliefs. This takes intentional effort. Your coach should be there to support you through this process.
I have the unique perspective of being both a coach and a coachee. There are several things a coach can do too to help the coachee get the most out of their session, like creating a safe environment for the coachee to be open/vulnerable, listen intently without judgment, ask meaningful and thought-provoking questions, ensure next steps are in place and much more.
In summary, remember to get the most out of your coaching investment by being prepared and focused. It will help you use your time with your coach more efficiently and effectively. Coaching works best when the coachee is fully invested in the engagement. You don’t want to waste your time or finances with coaching, but use it as a time to set and achieve goals, create self-awareness, critically think, gain new perspectives, be supported, challenged, inspired, encouraged and ready to change and reach new levels.