Executive coaching was not something I ever saw myself either signing up for, as I was always of the impression that only poor performers or under performers needed coaching and I never saw myself in that category.
That all changed around ten years ago when DHL decided that coaching was going to be a key part of their leadership development.
To be honest, I wasn't convinced that this was going to be of much benefit because at the time I was leading a $100m It program, and the coach assigned to me had never led a small project, let alone a large complex international change program,
But this turned out to be one of the pivotal moments in my career, one that instrumental in helping me move from Director level to Senior Vice President. Since then I have always looked to work with a coach, have sought our former coaches whenever I have been in need, and have now moved into the Executive coaching space myself as I can clearly see the benefits that it can bring.
Here are five things that I got from coaching which helped me in my career.
1 - Increased Clarity and Focus
Sometimes we are just too involved, too close and cannot see the wood for the trees. This was the case for me and the fact that my coach had no experience in the area in which I worked turned out to be a real bonus. It required me to explain everything to her clearly and simply which then helped increase my understanding. It seemed painfully slow at first, but the more questions she asked, the more, I realized I was busy but not necessarily productive. I lacked focus because I had just dived in and didn't fully understand, but now with my increased understanding of the situation, I could focus on what was important.
It turned out that my coach had a much better understanding than I thought, but played dumb to help increase my clarity, focus and ultimately my effectiveness.
2 - Increased Accountability
It's so easy to make excuses to yourself to get out of doing things that you know you should do, or persuade yourself that if we let it slip to next week, it will be okay. Having a coach act as an accountability partner helps to make us keep our commitments, because when we think about making those excuses to our coach we can hear how weak they are., which then negates them.
3 - Increased Confidence
Our negative self-talk is one the biggest inhibitors to our success. It's so easy to see all of the problems, the pitfalls, and reasons why failure await us, so much so that it can actually stop us from even trying.
Good coaches will help you picture success, help you put in place a plan or strategy that will help build confidence, and eliminate doubts. Confidence is critical to success, but it can be difficult to build our own self-confidence.
4 - Better Ideas
It can be difficult to know whether an idea is good or bad, madness or genius and talking them through can help us to understand better in which of those categories and idea might end up. I have lost count of the times I have discounted a good idea because I have either talked myself our of it or decided that a lesser idea would be a better option. Ideas need to prod and challenged as this helps to improve them or to realize that there are better solutions available.
5 - Better Decision Making
We all have our prejudices, preconceived notions, or beliefs about people or situations that can actually be detrimental to our performance and decision making, by clouding our judgment.
Having that unbiased view, someone who can help us differentiate reality from perception will help us to see things as they really are and help us make better choices.
Since that first coaching session, I have made coaching a part of my annual development plan. I now realize that you can read all the books you want, attend training courses, seminars, and conferences but the real progress comes when you have a coach, as they can help you improve focus, hold you accountable, build your confidence, help you shape your ideas and give you a different perspective which we all need from time to time.