I was fortunate to work with an excellent executive coach several years ago. He helped me gain new insight into who I am and how I lead. I am a much better leader as a result of our year-long work together. And I periodically reconnect with him now to bounce around ideas when going through major transitions.
Deciding to work with a coach can be unsettling.
I told myself, “sure there are things on my performance evaluation I could work on but mostly I’m fine and don’t need any help; after all no one is perfect”.
And I also told myself, “ok, I admit I could use some help but how much do I really have to expose and what will people think if they know I’m using a coach”.
So yes, I had those kinds of thoughts when I started and expect you might as well.
But my coach put me at ease. He got to know me and started helping me look critically at my leadership style and areas I needed to improve. He was not there to judge me or make me feel inadequate. He took me where I was at.
A good coach doesn’t have all the answers but knows how to ask the right questions. A good coach helps you look critically at yourself, your relationships and how you come across to others. A good coach walks the fine balance of challenging you and encouraging you.
I have provided professional coaching services to a number of people in the past year and plan to do more in the future. While I have been both a formal and informal mentor to many people over the years and will continue to do that, coaching is different.
“Mentoring involves a developmental relationship between a more experienced mentor and a less experienced partner, and typically involves sharing of advice. Coaching is assisting leaders to perform, learn, stay healthy and balanced, and effectively guide their teams to successfully reach desired goals and exceed individual and organizational expectations. Coaching leaders enables them to close the gap between who they are and who they want to be.” — from Linkage on Coaching Leaders
I encourage people to find a mentor – look for someone who you consider a role model in your field or in your organization. Ask them if they would be willing to spend some time periodically talking with you and providing guidance and encouragement.
Working with a professional coach needs to be considered as an investment in you.
Some large organizations develop an internal cohort of coaches to work with others in their organization. They train the cohort and then make assignments or provide them as resources when employees request a coach. These coaching services may be tied into overall leadership development programs. If you have such a program at your organization, consider talking to your boss about whether you can use it.
If you don’t have this option at your organization but you are ready and willing to engage in a deeper, focused coaching relationship then consider finding a coach to work with. Depending on your level in an organization and if your management is willing to invest in you, they may cover the cost. Or you might consider sharing the cost – this could send a strong signal to your boss that you are serious about your professional development and willing to invest not just your time but some of your own money. Or you may decide it’s something you can and will pay for on your own as part of your long term investment in you.
Just like your gym membership and the time you spend working out is an investment in you, so too is your professional development. Working with a coach is an investment in you.