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Tips for getting the best from your leadership coaching

If you are a leader, a business person or just want to learn to be more effective at work, executive coaching is one of the best investments you will ever make in yourself. A good coach helps you gain clarity and provides a safe yet challenging environment for you to practice self awareness and to learn from experience.

So what should you look for in a coaching arrangement?

You need to work with someone you can respect and spend time with. You will struggle if your coach’s style is not a good fit. Say for example that you are very structured and time conscious and your coach is often late, doesn’t send you things as promised, or moves appointments regularly. Or you are a deep reflective thinker and your coach talks all the time and doesn’t give you thinking space. Just a tip – an expert coach will gauge your style and seamlessly adapt to you.

A first informal get together prior to a commitment. A coach should offer you a “get to know you” conversation. That is your opportunity to meet, have a chat about your challenges and commitments, and gauge fit. You may feel pressured to sign up at the end of that meeting, but if you want to think it over, don’t feel obliged to commit on the spot. If you don’t feel you are a good fit, don’t be afraid to say so.

A contract or coaching agreement. You should both be clear about the objectives of coaching, the timeframe and the commitment. You should have options for timeframes and price points. The more intensive the coaching, the more the cost, but you should also be able to access an “on demand” option too if you wish. If you are signing up to a series of sessions with a coach you don’t already know, it’s always a good idea to ask for testimonials or references and to have an “out clause” if you are not getting what was agreed.

Your coach wears a number of hats during the coaching experience. They are things like:

  • Expert mentor
  • Reflective thinking partner
  • Feedback provider
  • Practice partner
  • Accountability creator
  • Positive reinforcer
  • Supporter

You should feel that your coach is flexibly switching hats, depending on your need at the time.

A structured approach. You should be making progress and have a means to measure that progress. Your coach will likely follow up your session with a reminder of actions, any key notes from the session and any promised materials or readings. Your coach may be accredited in diagnostics or psychometrics that can give you valuable insights into your competencies, preferences and behaviours.

You need to be committed to making change and be prepared to put in the time and energy. The leaders I work with who achieve the biggest outcomes are people with skin in the game. They have a very compelling reason to be coached, they are committed, responsive and reflective, and open to challenge. As with anything, people who are not committed to change will not get results. Ultimately, your coach is a trusted guide and the outcome of the sessions depends on you.

Rosalind Cardinal is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 25 years.  Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

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