Coaching is an increasingly popular way to improve your performance as a leader, but when your time and reputation are on the line, you need to know its true value.

You need to decide, what are you trying to achieve? What are the consequences of not meeting your goals? How will the coach help you improve performance?

Coaching comes in many formats and can address many different issues. The key is to be clear on desired outcomes and work with a coach in a way that emphasizes improved performance.

For instance, senior executives and high potentials may benefit from coaching that allows them to build on existing strengths, develop strategies for leading in new or complex situations, and push their goals forward. One leader may work with a coach to go from “good to great.” Another may use coaching to shorten her ramp-up time in a new role or to help navigate a significant increase in responsibilities.

For middle managers, coaching can reinvigorate a job or even a career. A coach can help a leader identify strengths, skills to be developed, and strategies for improvement. Coaching can focus on achieving goals within a leader’s current job or move in new directions.

Derailing executives stand to gain from leadership coaching, too. Coaching helps these previously successful leaders, who for any number of reasons have jeopardized their prospects, to identify problem areas and make tangible performance improvements that serve the needs of the organization and the individual.

Coaching to Improve Performance: 4 Proven Ways 

So how does leadership coaching lead to results? Research shows that coaching can improve performance in at least 4 ways:

  1. Greater self- and contextual-awareness. Coaching is about you and where you work. You’ll gain insight about yourself as a leader within your organization.
  2. Greater understanding of others. A coach helps you understand why others might think and act the way they do. You’ll learn about actions you can take to help them or to focus them in a direction that’s better for the organization.
  3. Enhanced ability to communicate. A coach works with you to find ways to improve how you convey what’s important to you, to the business, and to others.
  4. Enhanced ability to coach others. Once you’ve experienced the value of coaching for your own development, you’ll be much more prepared to notice and leverage coaching opportunities with your team. This capacity will be a key differentiator between a good leader and a great one.

However, a good coaching outcome requires a good coaching relationship. Asking the right questions in the beginning sets the tone for a strong coaching partnership.

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What to Consider When Seeking a Coach

Finding a good coach isn’t just about the coach’s credentials. For a one-to-one coaching partnership to work, a strong match on several fronts is required. A coach who worked well for your friend in marketing, for instance, may not be the best choice for you.

Here’s what you need to know about choosing a coach and establishing a solid partnership.

To begin with, you should ask yourself What do I expect from this coaching engagement? What is my purpose? What am I trying to accomplish? What kind of commitment am I giving?

Consider the expectations of your boss or organization, too. Whether you choose your own coach or are assigned one, you want to be sure that the coach has experience and skills that will help you face your goals and challenges.

As you get underway, the 2 of you will likely have a face-to-face or virtual meeting to get a good feel for each other and begin to build rapport and trust. You’ll want to make your goals and expectations as clear as possible; the coach will also be clear about their approach and expectations.

You’ll want to consider the practical aspects of your coaching relationship by asking these 4 questions:

  1. How will coaching sessions take place? One benefit of executive coaching is that professional coaches can work with you in many ways: face-to-face meetings, virtually, by email or in combinations of these. Think about your preferences and talk to the coach about the ways they with clients.
  2. What kind of schedule will work best? Talk about the frequency of coaching sessions, but also consider when and how the coach is available to you at other times. Is the coach accessible when you need to report and acknowledge progress, or discuss barriers and problems, or get questions answered about the process?
  3. How is confidentiality handled? Coaching requires you to reveal a lot about yourself and your organization, and it’s only effective if you’re willing and able to do so.
  4. How are fees and payments handled? Even if coaching isn’t paid out of your pocket, you should understand the financial arrangement. Do any coaching services incur additional costs? Under what conditions are you charged for cancelled appointments? What happens if you’re forced to discontinue the coaching engagement?

Remember, coaching is a 2-way relationship. You have your responsibilities and the coach has theirs. Your job is to take an active role in the process and to be receptive to new ways of understanding yourself, to new perspectives and to new ways of acting.

If you’re ready to invest in yourself, coaching offers a tailored, focused way to connect your performance development with your day-to-day work demands.

Learn more about our high-impact Virtual Coaching solutions designed to ignite individual, team, and organizational effectiveness.

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