Great coaches can do much more than just influence behaviors; they will be an essential part of the leader’s learning process, providing knowledge, opinions, and judgment in critical areas. Which brings us back to the key issue of honest constructive feedback. For many managers, their coach may be the only place they get totally honest unfiltered feedback, from someone who only has their best interest in mind
To begin this process, you need to start the search inside of yourself. No amount of coaching is going to do you much good unless you are highly motivated to change, develop and or learn whatever the case may be.
Part of motivation includes being very clear with oneself that the only time any real learning and development occurs is when we are slightly outside our comfort zone.
“Executives who get the most out of coaching have a fierce desire to learn and grow.”
– HBR survey
Bottom line, do you really want to change and are you prepared to suffer a bit as you do?
If not, forget it.
Assuming that you are ready, you need to be very clear about what it is you would like to be different.
What is the challenge that you are facing? Is it a skill set your need to build? Is it behaviour that you would like to change? How will you know that the coaching has been successful?
Most good coaches work with a specific methodology and within certain fields, and the more clear you are about what it is you would like to work on, the better the chance of finding the right ‘specialist’.
Where are the good coaches?
I have still to come across a good web based ‘find a coach’ service (There are endless directories/listings but that is not much help. What is needed is a review based neutral service, a TripAdvisor for coaches if you like; if you know of one please do let me know). So as with so many things, you need to use the word of mouth method and start asking around.
Reach out to people you know and trust who might be able to recommend a good coach. Ask friends and colleagues, post on Facebook and LinkedIn. Once you start getting some names, you check them out in more details for fit.
A few good questions to ask the person referring a coach:
- What specific things did their coach help them do?
- Was there goal setting and were those goals clearly met?
- What was the most valuable (or a couple of the most valuable) thing they got from the sessions?
- Did they see a direct impact on their business because of the coach?
- Did they genuinely enjoy working with the coach and if so why?
Eventually, you end up with maybe 3-5 possible names.
Then you schedule a first conversation with each of them. Most coaches worth their salt will give you a first conversation or shorter session for free. The reason the good coach will do that is that they too need to assure themselves that there is a good fit. (Personally, I turn down as much as 25% of the requests I get because I am unsure about the fit.)
“Good chemistry is a decisive factor in establishing a productive coaching relationship.”
– HBR survey
Online or face-to-face coaching?
Five or ten years ago it would have been a no-brainer. Coaching was almost per definition a face-to-face process. Today that is no longer the case. Face to face is still great but there are a huge amount of people out there who are benefiting enormously from coaching that is either done via SKYPE or even phone.
The perfect coach for you online/phone is in my view still much better than a so-so fit that you can meet with personally.
From a financial point of view, it is also my impression that you get more coaching for your money when you go online as the coach does not have to calculate travel time and expenses into their fee.
So what is holding you back?
Ask yourself that first crucial question. If I was reflecting on this a year from now and looking back on the year that had just passed, what would have happened this past year in order for me to feel that I had made serious progress?
And off you go…
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