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Unlock the full potential of a coach. Most people don’t know how to!

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Everyone needs a coach! But not everyone knows how to find one, or how to make the most of them. For many people, the thought has never even entered their mind.

Highly successful people can reflect on their careers and pinpoint the opportunities, events, or training programs that transformed them and brought them to the next level. A productive coaching relationship is just such an opportunity.

Coaching has proven, time and time again, to be a rich development tool for future business leaders. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and thousands of other industry leaders have all worked with executive coaches and attested to the crucial insights they gained from it. Yet unlocking the full potential of a coach remains elusive for many people. Read on for valuable insights and strategies that will optimize your experience with coaching.

There are more than four million coaches on LinkedIn and other platforms. Fitness coaches, life coaches, sports coaches, wellness coaches, career coaches, finance coaches…the list is endless. So where do you begin?

It’s essential to have a defined point of view, POV, when you engage a coach. You are in the driver’s seat. It’s up to you to establish clear goals, use your time wisely, and align with your coach in a collaborative partnership. This clears the way for truly remarkable outcomes.

It might take some time to gain perspective and develop your point of view, and you’ll likely shift your orientation as you work with your coach. Just know that it is your perspective and your stated goals that shape the sessions.

Step One: Define Success

In the business world, coaching can take many forms. Assess your current state to identify your path forward. You’re seeking strategic alignment between your desired outcomes and their expertise. Look for a coach who’s known for strength in your target area.

What would a successful coaching experience look like to you? Business transformation? Resolution of a specific issue? Ironing out some tricky relationships? Knowing what you want is essential to identifying the right coach for you.

Step Two: Set Expectations

It’s important to embrace your vision, identify your goals, and establish your guardrails before entering this relationship. There are two -- or sometimes three -- characters in the coach-client discussion, and many questions:

  • Who is the coachee, and why?

  • Who is the coach, and what makes them a viable choice?

  • Is there a sponsor involved or engaged in the process? If so, who and why? What are their expectations?

  • Are others aware of these arrangements, or is it confidential? Is confidentiality important?

  • What are the parameters and feedback mechanisms?

  • Does the coachee see the relationship as an opportunity or threat?

  • What are the coachee’s expectations? Who is the buyer? Who is the client?

  • How long will the process take?

Before committing to coaching, make sure you know the answers to these questions and that you’re comfortable with those answers!

Step Three: Align the Relationship

Aligning the relationship takes time and agility to achieve optimum results.

As the above chart illustrates, there is a clear “Success Zone” when the roles of Coach and Coachee are balanced. If the coach’s role is too small, there is a high risk of failure. The coach won’t be able to influence their client and realize benefits if they’re not fully engaged in the process.

But there’s also a risk of failure if the coach’s role is too large. This can create a skewed dependency relationship, lowering the likelihood of sustainable benefits.

Clients must have their own perspectives and point of view, knowing when they understand things and when they need to seek advice or guidance. The coachee defines the relationship.

"Just showing up as a passive subject to be “doctored” won’t yield great outcomes."

That’s how you enter the Success Zone: by leveraging a risk-balanced, collaborative approach with your coach, creating a robust and sustainable dialogue. It’s not always straightforward, but a trained coach can help keep you on track.

Step Four: Get Coaching!

Just get started, right?

Having sorted the needs, expectations, and agreed relationships, it’s time to begin the coaching/consulting process. Simple enough…

Think of this relationship as a collaboration where you acknowledge your blind spots and solicit a second opinion. But you don’t necessarily know what you don’t know, so it’s a bit of a balancing act. If you do your best to openly communicate your challenges, a good coach can read between the lines and get to the heart of the problem.

Let’s return to the doctor analogy: no one likes to be told what to do without context. If a doctor just prescribes a solution without a diagnosis, there is no trust. In a productive coaching relationship, your coach becomes a decision partner, and you’ll gain transformative insight and clarity by embracing your coach’s expertise. You’ll experience the sessions and your time together as a healthy place to grow, sound out ideas, get unstuck, and recognize that you are not alone on the journey.

How will you use a coach?

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