Hiring a coach is a big decision, and one that often comes with the stress of managing a professional transition. To ensure you are prepared to get the most out of a coaching partnership, ask yourself these questions before you begin.
Let's be honest, almost no one thinks about hiring a coach when all is well, profits are surging, and employees are blissfully happy. Instead, we think to hire a coach when we are facing career difficulties or transitions and trying to keep the wheels from falling off the bus at the same time. The coaching process is one designed to help leaders cultivate their potential and design fulfilling professional lives, yet where does a leader begin and how do they decide if coaching is right for them?
The best coaching partnerships begin with a period of reflection, used to consider the key expectations, levels of commitment and stylistic preferences necessary to produce positive outcomes. Coaching is a highly and interactive approach to professional development that relies heavily on clarity in these areas to foster a productive relationship. Leaders considering hiring a coach should review the following questions to effectively communicate desires, expectations and preferences at the onset of the partnership.
What current challenges am I trying to improve or overcome?
It is helpful to accurately identify and communicate the key opportunities for professional development. By describing the unfavorable or unrealized potential in current circumstances, leaders can provide their coach with valuable information about the performance measures that matter most and identify areas for targeted coaching intervention. Ask yourself:
Which areas of my professional life need to change?
Which habits, behaviors or reactions are making my life more difficult?
What are my goals?
Discussions about potential outcomes for the coaching relationship at the onset of the partnership not only ensures that all parties are operating with the same goals in mind, but also provide an opportunity for the coach to introduce goals that may be beyond the leader’s current frame of reference. Leaders should consider goals for the coaching relationship and come to early sessions prepared for collaborative discussions designed to expand the leader’s perspective of what is possible and develop an inspired approach to professional development. Ask yourself:
What do I want to achieve in my professional career?
What do I want my legacy to be?
If I fast-forward 10 years and everything worked out, what would I see?
What is my readiness for change?
Questions separating a desire for change from a willingness to change is an important exercise for anyone considering a coaching partnership. Coaches are in a position to identify opportunities for change and develop strategies to produce successful outcomes, yet this work is only valuable if leaders are prepared to navigate change within the organizations they lead. Leaders need to be ready for change and willing to commit to implementing the strategies necessary to fully realize their potential. Ask yourself:
What is my reaction when I anticipate having to change?
Does change feel like a "have to" or a "want to?"
How will I prioritize coaching?
Coaching, like any other partnership, requires time, attention and commitment to ensure positive results. Leaders are often daunted at the prospect of adding an additional obligation to their already busy professional lives. However, it is important to evaluate the short-term commitment of one to two hours per week with a coach to the long-term growth potential this type of partnership can cultivate. Ask yourself:
Where can I make room in my schedule for coaching sessions?
How will I find time to increase communication with my team?
How can I prioritize my physical, mental and emotional health outside of work?
Am I ready to solicit feedback from colleagues?
Effective coaching partnerships rely on feedback from colleagues about areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Colleagues may include mentors, advisors, managers, peers and direct or indirect reports. Although care must be taken when creating the list of contributors to the coaching relationship, leaders must be prepared to disclose the coaching relationship and openly receive feedback from others regarding evaluations of leadership performance. Ask yourself:
How will I process feedback from my team?
Can I receive feedback without becoming defensive or dismissive?
Am I prepared to hear criticism and subjective or unfair feedback?
Am I ready to measure my leadership skills?
Objective assessments of leadership skills provide valuable insight about leadership strengths, blind spots and opportunities for improvement compared to a national or global normative group of those at the same professional level. These instruments are not predictive of leadership potential. Instead, they function as leadership evaluations against key performance metrics that can be used to capitalize on proficiencies and mitigate maladaptive leadership behaviors. Ask yourself:
What is my experience and belief about assessments?
How will I leverage my strengths and avoid over-emphasizing areas for improvement?
Will I commit to action when issues are identified?
Leaders who appreciate leadership insights but remain unwilling to act on behalf of those insights are missing a valuable opportunity to improve themselves and the organizations they lead. The single best predictor of successful outcomes from the coaching partnership is a willingness to act and implement change quickly once a leadership goal has been identified. Strong leaders gain insight, act and learn from the challenges change can present.
How will I demonstrate commitment to implementing the leadership lessons learned?
How will I secure buy-in from my team to adjust current methods of work?
How will I define success?
One of the disciplines developed over the course of a coaching partnership is the habit of beginning with the end in mind. This practice goes beyond typical goal setting and considers the outcomes one can expect when the goals are fully realized. It is essential for the leader and coach to be aligned when it comes to goals and expected outcomes to effectively design the strategies that lead to a holistic definition of success.
If the coaching partnership surpasses my greatest expectations, what would I see?
By defining success, preparing for insight and prioritizing coaching development, leaders increase the quality of the coaching partnership and increase the potential for long-term satisfaction. We highly recommend reflecting on these questions and contacting us if you are ready to explore the benefits of coaching in your professional life.