Perhaps you’re new to the idea of Executive Coaching and you’re not quite sure what to expect. Or maybe you are just about to start on a Coaching programme and want to make the most of the opportunity. The following hints and tips might help you.
Coaching is a two-way process involving Coach and client as equals; the more active a part you take in the process, the better the outcomes are likely to be for you. These practical ideas and suggestions will help you get the most from your Coaching.
1. The role of your Coach. It’s not your Coach’s responsibility to solve your problems or achieve your goals for you. Your coach is there to support, challenge, listen, stimulate, encourage, share feedback and offer anything else they have in their tool kit to help you make the changes that are important to you. Ultimately you are the one that has responsibility for your own work and life. The relationship should ideally be an active, adult-adult partnership in Coaching rather than anything that suggests you are dependent on your Coach.
2. Communicate with your Coach. Be proactive in asking your Coach to change the way they are coaching you if you feel they could Coach you in a better way. Coaches have their own distinct personalities and style, yet a good Coach will be able to flex their style to suit you, e.g. by being more or less direct/challenging, by moving at a faster/slower pace or by sharing more or less of their thinking and ideas with you. They will welcome you making your preferences clear, because their aim is to coach you as effectively as possible.
3. The Coach’s job is to ask you for even more than you might normally ask of yourself
Your Coach wants the best for you and for this reason will be looking to offer and encourage ‘stretch’ wherever possible. Your Coach may well question the limits you set for yourself and encourage the setting of challenging goals and targets. Coaching should not be a ‘cosy club.’
4. Your Coach is your success partner, not an accountability service
Coaching will work best for you when you are actively seeking to get the best from yourself and when you take responsibility for your own growth and development.
5. The value of coaching isn’t based on how much time is spent coaching
The value of coaching depends on quality rather than quantity: when both you and your Coach are fully engaged in the task and working hard then success should follow – it is a bit like going to the gym and really working at it, rather than thinking you will get results just by being there.
6. The coaching session in itself is not what gets you results
Ultimately it is down to what you do and how you act after the coaching – what you put into practice. The coaching session is the starting point and should be the catalyst to help you to plan and prepare to get the best out of what you are doing.
7. Talk about what matters most to you
You are not there to conform to any expectation you feel your Coach may have on you – least of all are you there to please the Coach in any way. Yours is the only agenda that counts and if it is important to you, your Coach will work on it with you.
8. Focus on yourself
Sometimes clients worry that coaching is somewhat self-indulgent – even a selfish luxury. I would counter that you can only effectively do your job or serve others well if you are yourself fulfilled, purposeful and operating to your fullest potential. When you succeed, others should benefit too: if you are unhappy, unfulfilled or frustrated in your work or blocked in some other way, it is likely that others will not get the best from you. You can look at your coaching as a positive boost to the communities of which you are a part.
9. Be open to seeing things differently
Very frequently, the issues you face are not in themselves the real issues! Often it is the way we see issues and how we think about them that needs to change. Even when some of the issues we face are objectively daunting or difficult challenges, we can use coaching to open ourselves up to new ways of responding to them. Opening your thinking up will open up new possibilities for choice. Your Coach can help you identify ways of seeing, thinking and responding that may offer you very different options and approaches.
10. You can develop and evolve with coaching
Coaching is both a developmental process and an evolutionary one. It helps clients accomplish more with less effort – the developmental aspect – and can also lead to different thinking and possibilities for growth and change – evolution. Evolving is a skill worth building because life itself is about evolving, not just developing.
11. Use your coaching to help you think about – and design – the kinds of environments and systems you want to work in – you can go beyond yourself
We can all exercise some choice and responsibility in creating the kind of environment to allow ourselves to flourish. Even when our organisation places apparent restrictions in our way we can often exercise at least some discretion in the physical, social, professional and cultural contexts in which we work and live. Coaching encourages a whole-system approach and links personal change to the contexts we inhabit.
12. Take charge
You are invited to take charge of the coaching process, to get it focused on what you most want and need. I would encourage you to come to each session with a direction in mind, perhaps a list of issues or questions you want to address. Ultimately the more you know what you want out of your coaching the better. Your Coach can then work with you to craft really specific and relevant goals for the coaching.
13. Be Real – say what you think
When what we say does not reflect what we are really thinking, we are incongruent. Coaching is not an abstract exercise or an intellectual joust but an opportunity to work together with your Coach in a climate of shared honesty and truth. When you are authentic it really helps to get the best out of your Coach.
14. Promise what you can deliver
Whilst I encourage stretch and boldness in coaching I would also suggest that you’re mindful of what is realistic and doable in the context of everything you are trying to do. Overextension can cause anxiety and guilt. I’d encourage you to remain mindful of what you are realistically able to take on as a result of your coaching.
15. Share what you are doing with your coaching
People close to you may see and feel the effect your coaching is having, either directly or indirectly. It may be worth considering, where possible, that you are open to others about what you are trying to do via your coaching.
If you would like to find out more about BLT’s Executive Coaching service, please contact Liz Watt – firstname.lastname@example.org
As some of you will know, after (almost) 30 years at BLT I’ve decided to step down from the management consultancy recruitment business here.
So if you’ll indulge me, a few memories from my time as a management consultancy recruiter.
I was lucky enough to get in at the start of the boom in consulting in the early 1980s. The Big Ten accountancy firms were establishing consultancy arms, and my first hire was for Touche Ross (now Deloitte). I was also fortunate to be in the right place at the right time for Mrs Thatcher’s drive to bring private sector skills into the UK public sector. Consultancy firms were setting up public sector divisions, and BLT seemed to be the only recruiter willing to tempt fast-track civil servants, health service professionals and local government officers into the sector. Our reputation in this field led to BLT becoming one of the first external recruiters for the likes of McKinsey and PA Consulting.
As the 80s turned into the 90s information technology became the driving force, and firms started to recruit increasingly large numbers of younger, IT-savvy, new and recent computer science graduates. I have to say I was personally less interested in being involved in such hiring, preferring to focus on the growing numbers of MBAs who were looking to consultancy as an alternative to investment banking. A mistake on my part. For every MBA we recruited into a strategy house, we could have recruited a hundred IT specialists into Andersen Consulting, ICL and their competitors.
The brief DotCom boom of the late 90s provided plenty of work, as firms fought fiercely to attract and retain anyone who could claim to know how to use the internet for business. Advertising agencies and technology companies spawned dotcom consultancies, McKinsey converted a floor in Jermyn Street into an incubator for web businesses, and what became Silicon Roundabout was established in old warehouses around Clerkenwell. But the sugar rush didn’t last, and many of the new small clients we’d picked up vanished when the good times ended. And they didn’t pay their recruitment fees…
I had an enforced break from recruiting between 2000 and 2002 due to a brush with leukaemia. When I returned to BLT, the consulting firms had established in-house recruitment teams or outsourced recruitment to intermediaries, in order to avoid paying our outrageous fees. I saw our business switch from the (by now) Big Four to small and mid-sized firms. The latter were now winning work that the large firms couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed for (sub-£million contracts), and needed recruitment help.
So it was business-as-usual throughout the first decade of the new Millenium, until the fall of Lehmans in autumn 2008 ushered in the Crash. Overnight, our order book dried up.
Thankfully, businesses soon realised that they still needed the services of management consultancies – to help them survive the next six months, rather than come up with a three year growth plan. The consultancies prospered and as they entered the second decade, the rise of all matters e-, cyber and digital helped propel the sector to new heights. And no doubt working out how blockchain will affect business will be the next earner. Which is where we are today. And where I bow out.
I’ll be leaving towards the end of September. However, I don’t believe in retirement. So I’ll be continuing my work with the consultancy sector, not as a recruiter but as an adviser to business schools, MBAs and others on careers in consultancy. And my BLT management consultancy recruitment colleagues will continue to provide new and experienced consultants to strategy, management and in-house consultancies both in the UK and abroad.
Water - that simplest of products is probably not seen as one of our most innovative business sectors ……but something quite revolutionary could be flowing from the recent announcement that Anglian Water, Atos, Capgemini and Cognizant have formed an IT alliance over an eight year period.
It would seem to make sense – the utilities and infrastructure sectors routinely enter into alliances in construction and engineering projects ….so why should IT be any different? While it’s not uncommon for a number of consulting firms to be working for the same client at the same time on the same project ……the concept of a formal alliance between the firms is genuinely innovative in the sector.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the venture ……not just for Anglian Water and the consulting firms involved, but in the wider consulting market too. Will this lead to a trickle or even a flood of new alliances between other firms in response to this development? Could we have firms with different functional specialisms pooling their resources to offer a formal alliance to clients? Will it lead to a reduction in acquisitions within the consulting sector – why not just partner with a firm rather than acquire it? Will other major corporates follow Anglian Water’s lead?
Interesting development – let’s see what streams this creates for the future……..
Tariq reads about a Paralympian’s story which puts a whole new perspective on both complaints of career obstacles and what one can achieve in the work place…
It’s now been 2 weeks since the dust, sand and green water settled on the Olympics in Rio. I love the Olympics – more than the World Cup, World Twenty20 and Ryder Cup combined. The politics and history are of course fascinating; Berlin 36, Mexico 68, Munich 72, the endless drugs scandals, the boycotts of 1980 and 1984. But it’s all about the sporting achievement above all else; I remember reading about Emil Zatopek in Helsinki 52 and have stared in awe at the TV to watch Carl Lewis, Maria Mutola, Haile Gebrselassie, Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Mo Farah and countless others. Incredible feats on the highest stage, breaking records, overcoming all obstacles.
Now, we talk a lot in business about glass ceilings, the ‘old boys network’, insurmountable obstacles, lack of boardroom diversity – but while there’s still so much to do in all these areas, doors are opening faster, wider and in more places than ever before. It’s not perfect, but it’s also never been easier in that respect. Spare a thought for those who decided to put their efforts into actually battering those doors down in the first place.
Which brings me to the Paralympics which starts on Wednesday 7th September. I realise there’s a whole other element to the idea of overcoming adversity, achieving incredible feats, and what it means to be a hero.
Take the example of Tatyana McFadden; she was born with spina bifida which left her paralyzed from the waist down. The first six years of her life were spent in a St Petersburg orphanage where she walked on her hands as no wheelchair was available. After being adopted by an American couple and moving to the US she brought a lawsuit against her school which directly led to the passing of a pioneering state-wide Disabilities Act requiring schools to give students with disabilities the opportunity to compete in interscholastic athletics.
Take about adversity! Talk about a change maker! I suspect Tatyana’s personal experience of obstacles, glass ceilings and resistance-to-change might just out-do your own. It certainly does mine.
And then we get to the achievement bit;
at 15, she qualified for the 2004 Athens games in wheelchair racing as the youngest member of the USA track and field team and by the end of Beijing in 2008 she had collected 4 silver and 2 bronze medals in total. In London 2012 she won 3 golds and a bronze across 100m, 400m, 800m and 1500m.
By any measure it is an unbelievable record. However, much like all athletes and business people at the top of their fields, there was a hunger to achieve more and to further break down barriers:
2013 was an incredible year for her; at the world championships she won gold at every event from 100m to 5000m, and in that same year she won each of the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City marathons – the first person (able-bodied or otherwise) to win four of the major marathons in the same year. You might want to re-read that last paragraph to make sure you got it all.
In every year since she has consistently broken course records at major marathons and in 2016 won the London and Boston editions again. In Rio she is attempting to win the 100, 400, 800, 1500, 5,000, 4×400 metres and the marathon. The most amazing thing is that most commentators expect her to do it.
I could list athletes such as Zatopek and Farah as heroes of mine, and business leaders such as Bill Gates – but whether talking about sport or business, Tatyana McFadden is a true inspiration. She’s created opportunities which didn’t previously exist, opened doors which were once bolted shut and has achieved feats many probably thought impossible. She has devoted herself to both her own game-changing sporting success and pioneering positive change for those around her. Just one of those is too much for most of the rest of us. A quote of hers sums things up perfectly:
“Sports is my passion, paving access for others is my purpose.
What’s more, hers is just one example of what will be many amazing back stories across the Paralympics in Rio. I’ll be staring at the TV in awe once again at some new heroes.