If there is one adage in coaching it is listen, listen, listen. In the executive space, this is even more prevalent. I have been coaching for over 15 years and there is nothing more disabling and uncomfortable than not knowing how a coaching session is proceeding, or being lost in the dialogue, or losing complete focus.
Listening means just what it says, though it is also remembering what is said and being able to ask incisive questions. An executive or senior manager will know if you are not of value early in the piece, so there are some clear guidelines to follow.
My lessons over the years suggest the following:
- Securing the assignment. Be flexible as to this can be done, from a ‘free’ coffee (ie a tester) to hourly rates or longer term contracts. Know what you know and make sure you project with confidence what you have done and what you can do.
- Understand the scope. What are you going to do? What are the aims? Clarity is important otherwise you are promising something that you either cannot deliver or is not required.
- Research. Google the person you will be coaching. Look at them on LinkedIn. Read the websites of the businesses in which they have been involved. You cannot prepare enough. Have questions at the ready. Say what you know. Ask questions about themselves.
- Check in. Are you adding value? Are you going in the right direction? Do you need to change? Does your client want you to re-engage (ie have another session)? If so, what has been accomplished in this session and what is the aim for the next session? If you are not adding value, consider whether you proceed.
- Relationships. Who are their major relationships with and how are they going? With the Board, the exec team, the staff, the clients? What does their management style look like to others?
- Add value. Between sessions look for relevant articles and post them to your client.
- Report in. If the client has a sponsor eg Chairperson of the Board, CEO – let them know how the progress is and if the direction is clear. Ideally this will have been communicated prior to the first session.
- Keep it informal. If there’s one thing I have learnt that works well, it is that sessions to not have to be conducted in an office. Coffee chats can work remarkably well.
- Challenge. Ask smart questions and challenge beliefs.
- Action plan. Make sure that is an understanding as to who is doing what for the next session. Suggest reading materials, actions etc prior to next session.
- End when agreed. Don’t continue the sessions beyond agreed time frame unless you both agree there is value to this.
- Assess. If agreed provide leadership or personality assessments. This will need to be part of an agreed plan and have a purpose.
- Listen. And listen. And listen.