The executive coaching experience is a unique one in business. When you hire one, you have brought one person into your life whose only interest is to help you achieve your most important goals. But what can you expect when you get started?
Last week I showed you how you could find and hire an executive coach. This week, I will share with you what the experience will be like once you get started. Every coach does things a little differently, but we all have some common themes.
The Advanced Work
The first step in your executive coaching experience is onboarding. What does that mean? I provide an onboarding packet for my clients, which allows me to get to know them before our first session. While your coach may not have this exact list, you should expect something similar. My onboarding packet includes:
The welcome letter lays out the coaching/client relationship and sets out expectations for both parties. It’s critical to be transparent to get the most out of the relationship.
The coaching agreement memorializes our relationship based on what we outlined in the client’s decision-making process. It covers payment, scheduling, and both parties’ responsibilities. Importantly, it also notes that clients can cancel the engagement anytime during the first 30 days and get a full refund. Sometimes the relationship doesn’t connect.
This helps me understand what has brought the client to this point.. What are their strengths and weaknesses, priorities, and challenges? I design this as a thought-provoking exercise to help the client get into the coaching mindset.
Core Values Index
This assessment provides an objective view of the client’s innate and unchanging core energies and values. It helps to see their “go-to” approach for any project or task set before them and how they interact with other people. This provides a baseline for the conversation on how to approach and complete their goals.
Understanding the areas of focus for the client as they look forward. These goals can be professional or personal, a number to attain, a project to complete, or a change/habit to make.
Why make the client go through so much work to get started? It’s vital to get the client to think about the coaching engagement. What is their self-image? Where do they want to go? What are their motivations? It can be a couple of hours of work, and it’s a down payment on their investment of time in coaching to accomplish the change they desire.
What is the executive coaching experience in the first session?
Once the client completes the onboarding process, they will have their first session. What can they expect? First, the client can expect to think and talk; if the coach is doing all the talking, that’s a red flag.
You can expect the coach to open your sessions, asking you what’s on your mind. In most sessions, you will be working on your long-term goals for the engagement. There are always issues that pop up that are urgent and essential. The client may want to spend the session working on that. Or they can allocate some time and then return to the long-term goals.
In any case, the client sets the topic for the day. You can expect the coach to ask you some initial questions to set the stage for the discussion. From there, your coach will ask questions to clarify your thoughts. Sometimes they will reflect your opinions to you. Other times they will challenge your thinking. Many clients create a story about a situation that may or may not hold up to scrutiny. Your coach will help you explore that.
You may also come to the session believing there is only one outcome or conclusion. You can expect your coach to challenge that and spur you on to think through alternative scenarios. So often, the client creates a set of assumptions about a situation. The coach will push back on those assumptions and see if they hold up to scrutiny. If they don’t, they will guide the client to new thinking on possibilities and outcomes.
The Long Term Engagement
I recommend clients expect their executive coaching experience to last at least a six-months to get clear on their goals, build a plan to achieve them, and deal with roadblocks during the process.
Early in the engagement, you can expect your coach to help you get clear on your goals. That could well take a couple of sessions to achieve. If you’re not clear where you want to go, it will be hard to assess your engagement’s success or failure.
Once the goals are clear, your coach will work with you on the plan to achieve them. Different coaches have different methodologies and practices they follow. At their core, all approaches have a few things in common.
The first thing is to know where you want to go, and the next step is to be very clear on your present situation. What is going on right now? You can expect some challenging questions to ensure an accurate view of the current state. Your coach will help you break through negative thoughts, assumptions, and excuses. You must be clear on the present state as it’s the launchpad for achieving your goals.
The second thing you can expect is to develop a plan or path to get from where you are to where you want to be. What things will you need to do? What pieces are dependent on you, and which will you need to accomplish through other people? What is the optimal order of events, and what milestones will you use to assess progress?
Then you begin to execute your plan. Through this phase, the coach has two roles. The first is to hold you accountable for doing the things you say you are going to do. It’s easy to make excuses for lack of progress. Your coach will help you cut through excuses, get to the real reason a goal was missed, and work with you to get back on track. In this phase, the coach is also working with you on the roadblocks that inevitably come up. No plan can cover every possible contingency. Your coach will help you deal with unexpected problems and work through them.
The final step in the engagement is to celebrate success. Too often, we focus so much on the next goal we forget to celebrate our achievements. A good coach will help you pause and think about what you have achieved. And in addition to celebrating that success, they will help you assess the work to find ways to do even better in the future.
Are you ready to start exploring how an executive coach can help you achieve your professional goals? Do you still have some questions? Then join my upcoming session: From Accidental Leader to Confident Executive on October 21. You will leave with three actionable steps to improve your leadership confidence. Registration is limited to allow for a more personal and interactive experience. Register now!