Your Leadership Coach

How to Optimize Time With Your Leadership Coach



Successful leaders can benefit from a small group of confidantes who can impart wisdom and help evaluate situations from an objective perspective.  Investing in a leadership coach can help supplement this crucial circle of advisees.


Leadership coaches are often hired to work with individuals or teams to help polish rough edges, support transitions into new roles or provide insight as a thinking partner with no hidden agenda.  They can provide knowledge and wisdom, helping businesspeople think situations through from an unbiased perspective. K nowing how to optimize your sessions with a coach can maximize the benefit for your professional success, as well as that of your company.


Before the first session, brainstorm a bit about the specific reasons you would like to work with a coach and what goals you might want to work toward.  Goal-setting will be a major part of your first session.  The key questions you will discuss may be  What are your goals?  What drives them?  What goals do others have for you?  Where does each goal fall in a priority ranking?  No need to come to the first session with all the answers, as your coach will be able to guide you through this process.  However, coming to the session with these questions in mind will help get the ball rolling so your coach can then help you define specific goals.


These goals should be specific, realistic and within a defined period.  For example, my client John came to me a few years ago, and in his first session, he told me his main goal was to connect better with his Millennial staff. “For some reason, I just do not understand that generation,” he commented.  I was impressed by his emotional intelligence in acknowledging his challenges and eagerness to truly connect with his team.  His open-mindedness was going to be a great advantage.  After walking through his reasoning behind this major umbrella goal, we decided to lay out defined and specific goals to help gauge his progress.  The first one was to write down several instances of misunderstanding or missed connections with his reports in the past.  Based on those anecdotes, we would be able to discover a pattern or potentially identify missed opportunities for communication.


Another definitive goal was to set up informal coffee chats with several of his Millennial staff to see if he could connect with them on a personal level and see if there were any similarities or differences in his ability to connect with them professionally.


This initial goal-setting conversation is meaty and can take a session or two.  Once the goals are clearly established, you will walk through what success and progress looks like.  Since most clients choose long-term goals, recognizing markers of progress and celebrating them can help keep leaders motivated and proud of their victories, no matter how small.


Once your goals are clearly defined, make a time commitment to meet with your coach on a regular basis, such as every other week.  During these regular sessions, your coach will check in about your overhead goals and help you stay on track.  I recommend taking five to ten minutes before each session to review these goals to have them top-of-mind during your conversation.  Many clients choose to use a visual reminder, such as a simple Word document or—for the artistically inclined—a color-coordinated diagram.


Chat with your coach about specific situations in your work that present a challenge.  Based on these anecdotes, your coach can help you recognize the markers of progress that you have already established or help you identify a pattern in your communication or leadership style that may be either detrimental or beneficial for your goals.  By talking through situations in which you navigate obstacles or feel pride or challenged, your coach can guide you in examining tools and models that best work for you.  Coaches can use specific stories to help their clients build an impressive toolkit for similar situations in the future.


A close group of confidantes can support leaders in their professional careers as they navigate challenging situations.  However, it is important that these people are not “yes” people who agree blindly with everything.  True advisors listen and support and can offer perspective when needed.  Knowing how to optimize time with a leadership coach optimizes your investment.  Set goals and keep them top-of-mind.  Measure progress and celebrate your success, no matter how small.  Commit to your regular appointments.  Be honest and just show up.  Most coaches do not expect you to come with homework to your sessions, but they do expect you to be present and open, because that is the only way they can truly support you and be the wise advisor they have trained to be.

I Power Seeds

Here are our takeaways and thoughts - pause and reflect, then nourish and grow!

Having a group of trusted advisors is crucial for leaders to navigate professional challenges, providing support and diverse perspectives rather than just agreement.  Maximizing the benefits from a leadership coach involves setting clear goals, measuring progress, and being committed and honest in-person sessions.  Success in leadership development hinges on being present and open during coaching, allowing coaches to offer the targeted guidance and support they are trained to provide.

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