Getting the best from working with a coach

Making the most of any coaching support you invest in takes effort.

Coaching is often transformative. However, like most things in life, what’s right for one won’t suit another. And understanding the circumstances by which the relationship might be put under pressure can be helpful before you commit your time, brain and cash.

How coaching can feel

Coaching can feel invasive if you’ve never experienced it before. 

You might be used to quietly working things out for yourself and tend not to reach out to others for their input, preferring to rely upon your own head to resolve matters. Then suddenly finding someone else in your world asking questions or challenging your thinking can be unnerving, provocative or downright annoying.

Those feelings can distract from the quality of the questions being asked and the support being offered if you don’t see that coming and prepare for it.

Not everyone is used to being asked lots of open questions that don’t follow through with the answers being neatly provided. If you’ve earned your business stripes in a culture that relies more on telling than coaching, then suddenly being asked lots and told little can be disconcerting.

The benefits of having a coach

Almost without exception, people go on to feel more empowered and involved. But the initial experience of being asked to think deeply, taking time to reflect and answer your own questions can be a new experience for some. And not always comfortable.

Perseverance is key.

Being vulnerable

Most of us have something that helps us face the world on our off-days. A kick-ass lipstick, a bouncing song, a pair of mad stripy socks, any half-eaten chocolate-bar that’s to hand…the list is endless. They perk us up and give us the momentum to carry on leading, managing or sometimes just coping.

Nothing wrong with that at all.

Coaching can however rock the boat as it asks you to be vulnerable. Willing to be honest about what you can do and what you can’t do or are scared of trying. Asked to surrender our own ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card that many of us carry around for just those occasions can be unnerving. Having to remove our façade can wobble the best of us, with or without those socks.

The most effective and most honest coaching relationships are those that are warts and all. But if you’re used to hearing “yes” more than “no” and want that to continue; or are in the market mainly for affirmation, praise and hugs for being an awesome leader, then coaching may be a real challenge for you. (And also very good for you!)

Grans are almost always better at hugs than coaches and will usually do this for a box of fudge!

Dealing with ambiguity

Similarly, if you’re used to having all of the answers and others never hearing you admit you are stumped, then coaching may prove a challenge (or be exactly what you need!)  A coach doesn’t go out of their way to be hurtful or contrary, but they will be doing you a disservice if all they do is reinforce what you already believe, think or do. Not everyone wants a Jiminy Cricket sitting on their shoulder holding up a mirror to them.

Coaches can also find themselves at the mercy of self-reported progress and impact. If they aren’t working in your business alongside you and can observe what’s happening, it’s likely that they will be relying on a very small sample (you!) to guide their conversations. 

Not everyone is blessed with amazing self-awareness and emotional intelligence, so many coaches will either triangulate what’s being described via another person, or ensure others are offering some form of 360-degree feedback. This can be a challenge for some business owners, but if viewed with an open mind and a willingness to flex, the results can be transformative.

Needing a fast result

If you’re in the market for a fast sales result, then you might be better off spending your money on a mentor or on sales consulting. Coaching often demands time to think, muse, experiment and reflect. 

If you, your sales problem or your business doesn’t have that time available, then a different choice might be wise.

It’s them not me

And finally, coaching almost never works if you are hoping to use a coach to ‘fix’ someone else you manage or lead but expect your own behaviours to remain “just the same thank you very much.” 

You may not be the root cause of another person’s behaviour or impact; but if you lead them, then the chances are that your fingerprints are somewhere there too. You’ll be implicated in what’s happening. And if you really are committed to seeing change, that may well include you too.

Of course, all of the above is also reason enough to pursue coaching, if you do want to change or grow – a curiosity for what might be and where you might go.

Finding the right coach

It’s important that you find the coach that’s right for you. Both parties have a responsibility to making a coaching relationship work, and coaches come in all shapes and sizes.

The best coaches:

Ask great questions. Right at the start of their exploratory conversation with you they should be working hard to determine what’s going on and whether they are the best person to help you.

Are really observant. Tuned in enough and brave enough to mention something others may not have told you. Making insight easier to uncover and breakthroughs more likely to occur.

Without this the root cause risks being obscured forever. You can end up having a series of conversations that explore the symptoms when really what’s needed is for someone to notice the cause and then speak up. 

Will flex their style. Whether they are certified in a single coaching framework or have a wider toolkit at their disposal; a coach prepared to accommodate your speed, start point and thinking makes for a more fruitful experience.

Listen more than talk. A great coach keeps their own ego firmly in their pocket. It should always be turned right down; and their ears turned right up. All of their senses should be tuned into you. If you find that your coach does more of the talking than you do, then you might be with the wrong one.

If they’re unable or unwilling to do this for you, then you may not get the end result you’re after…but you’ll learn a lot about what they think instead!

The skills of a sales coach

And, of course there are some basic givens: Confidentiality: Trust: Honesty: Being on your side: Kindness: Humour and Empathy. 

Not sympathy though – that’s back to your Gran for that! 

If they’re all there you should make amazing progress. 

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