How to Extract the Most Value From Your Executive Coach

The decision to hire an executive coach can require a leap of faith. Facing unknowns, breaking old habits, and making changes within yourself and your organization can be an uncomfortable process that quickly moves you out of your comfort zone. But sometimes that’s what is required. Despite the fact that your company might not be as profitable or successful as you want it to be, it’s easy to become accepting of the status quo.

As comfortable as you might be with dysfunction, there can come a time when you realize that it might be necessary to bring in an executive coach—someone who is capable of not only helping with professional development but who is also capable of facilitating change within your organization. That change can come in many forms, including:

  • Professional development—becoming a better and more effective leader
  • Developing a long-term vision for your company
  • Setting realistic and attainable goals for both the short and long term
  • Strategic planning and budgeting
  • Improving company-wide communication
  • Creating accountability standards for all levels of management and employees

While all those items are important in their own right, one of the biggest benefits of an executive coach is their ability to help you prioritize and create a plan that you can execute. Once your plan is in action, they can help you assess its effectiveness and each critical juncture.

In order to maximize the results you receive from executive coaching, you need to be committed to the process. But what does that commitment look like? What are some of the specific things you can do in order to experience the best results? Let’s take a closer look at what you should be prepared to bring to the table.

Be Clear About Why You Hired a Coach

Although part of the coaching process involves a discovery phase, it’s still beneficial to understand in advance why you’re hiring an executive coach in the first place. Even if the reason is initially broad in nature, it can help bring about a sense of direction and clarity that can provide your coach with a jumping off point.

There will also be times when your perceived challenges or solutions aren’t actually the things you need to be focusing on. Through experience, your coach can help to identify the real challenges and the areas of potentially impactful change. Give some thought to the different areas of your business that are causing you to struggle, such as:

  • Are you struggling to communicate effectively with your team?
  • Have you developed a clear and concise long-term vision for your company?
  • Do you feel like there is a disconnect between your goals and the actions of your team?
  • Are you frustrated by what feels like a reactionary management process?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of which strategies are worth pursuing and which aren’t?

As you can see, coaching can be related to professional development, strategic planning, or a combination of the two. The key is to become clear about why you are hiring a coach in the first place. What problems or challenges need to be solved and what are your key areas of frustration?

Keep an Open Mind

The longer you’ve been in your current role, either as CEO or owner, the more likely you are to have preconceived notions surrounding how your company should operate—what management techniques are most effective, who is best suited for which role, and which long-term strategies your company should be focusing on.

The problem is that if you continue to do things the same way, a year from now you’ll be in the same situation. Creating change requires that you maintain an open mind. Be willing to try new ways of doing things and even abandon practices which consistently demonstrate a poor return on invested time or capital. Ask questions, be open to feedback, and accept that there is almost always a different and sometimes better way of approaching any situation.

It’s also important to realize that your plan will change over time. Your coach can help to make sure that at least on a quarterly basis, your plan remains relevant and updated. Coaching is a live process where you’ll both be required to act and react to constantly changing circumstances.

Build Trust

Getting the most from your executive coach requires the same things you would want and expect from any relationship—trust included.

This process begins by being honest with both yourself and your coach. Be upfront with your thoughts and feelings surrounding your business. Sometimes in a family environment, this can be both difficult and uncomfortable. If you’re fearful of trying something new, share that information with your coach so they keep you accountable. There is a high probability that your coach has not only faced the same fears but has also helped other clients move past theirs. The more open you are, the easier the process becomes.

Commit to Taking Action and Effort

Most leaders find themselves in a situation where they are hiring an executive coach because they aren’t happy with the results they have been able to achieve on their own. Does this sound like you? It it fair to say that what you’ve been doing isn’t working? If so, then ask yourself, “What do I have to lose by committing to the coaching process for the next 6-12 months?”

One of the things a coach can help you do is develop both a vision and a plan to then act upon that vision. If you’ve been honest with your coach throughout the process of setting goals, creating your plan, and strategizing, you should find yourself in a position to take action with both passion and purpose—the process will feel natural.

The bottom line is that if you’re not 100% invested in working with your coach, your results will be limited. You’ll be wasting both your time and your coach’s time.

Track Your Results and Be Patient

Bringing about positive change as a leader or as an organization is not something that happens overnight. Just like the planning process takes time, generating tangible results will too. It’s important to trust that if your short-term activities are properly aligned with your long-term goals, you will eventually bring about the results you desire.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting overnight results. If you’ve already committed to the process, doesn’t it make sense to track and record your progress? The best way to know whether you’re getting closer to your long-term goal is to create a scorecard that enables you to track key metrics. Then, review your progress on a quarterly basis and make adjustments as required.

Final Thoughts

As a leader, there can come a time when you realize the one thing standing in the way of your company’s success might actually be you. Don’t look at it as a fault, or as a criticism of leadership ability. Instead, look at it as opportunity to become better at what you do with the help and guidance of an executive coach. Just think about the way in which a professional athlete relies on a coach to help guide them towards their goals through programming, structured training, and well-defined objectives.

If you’ve made the decision to work with an executive coach, the qualities we’ve discussed in this post—clarity, openness, trust, commitment, and patience will contribute towards making sure you experience the best results possible.

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Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

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