How Coaching Works

Often a new client asks me: So, how does this work? What they’re really asking is: What is coaching going to be like? How are we going to spend our time? How will this be structured? What should I expect?

Here’s an overview of what we’ll do:

Talk about your context.  I’ll want to learn about your team, your manager, and key challenges you face.

Talk about you. I’ll ask about your professional background and some general questions about your life (family, health, etc.), as all this is relevant to your leadership.

Clarify your goals.  You may have crystal clear professional development goals; but more often my clients are looking for help clarifying goals. With your approval, I’ll talk with your manager and HR partner to get feedback on what they see as development opportunities and strengths. Sometimes coaching is about maximizing your strengths.

Leverage 360 feedback or other assessments.  I may conduct 360-degree feedback interviews or use other assessments to help you gain insight into yourself and further refine your goals.

Make the most of each session.  Coaching conversations fall into one of three categories–or a combination. First, I will act as a sounding board, asking open questions, listening deeply, and providing a mirror so you can gain insights and reach solutions.

Second, I’ll provide advice based on what I’ve seen work for others and based on research. I may bring leadership models or tools to help you develop a new skill.

Third, I’ll be your practice partner. If you’re working on your communication, say, your skills presenting or giving feedback, we can do mock practice sessions. I’ll give you feedback and leverage video. This is especially helpful in preparing for specific high stakes communications.

I’ll also try to strike the right balance of supporting and challenging you.

Maintain confidentiality.  Is the coaching relationship confidential? In short, yes. There are a few exceptions though. In most cases, the goals – what you are working to improve and your progress on those goals – are usually shared with your manager and HR partner.

What’s the magic?

People often want to know what the keys are to a successful coaching engagement. The truth is, there’s no magic. But here are a few key ingredients that really make this work.

  • Chemistry. The better the “fit” is that we both feel in the relationship the more likely we’ll work effectively together. This is supported by research on effective coaching.
  • Openness. I’ll try to be very open and candid with you. The more you do this with me, the more I can help.
  • Motivation and application. The more keen you are to grow, and try things out, the better your outcomes will be.

For more on executive coaching, check out 3 Ways Executives Can Manage Challenging Moments in Their Career.