Ask any two coaching clients how the experience impacted their careers and lives, and you might get two very different answers. But with luck, those answers will both be very positive. For the leadership coaching experience to be optimal, three forces must all come together: the right client, the right coach and the right process.
To get the most from the coaching experience, candidates need to determine whether they are ready to do this very important, and sometimes very difficult, work. A great candidate for the leadership coaching process should have:
- Change readiness
- Active engagement
- Clear goals
- Emotional intelligence
- A willingness to look inward
- Commitment to the process.
No one comes to their first coaching session with all six of these areas of readiness in tip-top shape, but the clients who get the most meaningful and timely results from the coaching experience are the ones who are 80% of the way there in terms of their commitment and interest. I know I’m working with a great client when they are asking me for more exercises, writing assignments and reading opportunities, or they are going back to the office after every session with specific plans for how to test their new insights and skills. Great clients are those who are willing to sit with the discomfort of difficult questions while they search for authentic answers. And great clients always find the right balance between how to see the coaching process as an opportunity not just for their own careers, but for the short-term benefit of their colleagues, customers, and employees.
Coaching is a very individualized process, and when done well, it helps people to know themselves better, live more consciously, and contribute more richly. As a coach, it’s my role is to help inspire great business results for clients and the organizations they serve.
So what kind of coaching client is destined for failure? It’s fair to admit that not all coaching engagements have rosy endings. Even with a great coach and a great process in place, the experience can miss its mark if the client has:
- Deep behavioral problems
- Different values from their organization
- Tension with their organization that can’t be mitigated
- A poor style or personality match with their coach.
Sometimes, people aren’t ready to change. They aren’t ready to accept their workplace weaknesses or explore their career choices and decisions they’ve made in a critical light. They aren’t ready to be stronger, to develop plans for achieving their goals, or to let go of old folklore about what works and what doesn’t in the office environment. A recent Harvard Business Report stated simply “Coaches cannot forces executives to become something they are not.” Indeed.
So if you’re considering engaging a coach for yourself or one of your employees, take stock of what will be brought to the table by the coaching participant. If it’s a healthy mix of open-mindedness, commitment to the process, and emotional intelligence, I can assure you it’s going to be a worthwhile ride.