‘Every coach should have a coach’ is an oft repeated mantra when you step into the world of coaching. It is an idea with merit. During the recent Coaching Accreditation Programme with Growth Coaching International, we were given the opportunity to experience being a coachee. Delegates coached each other, sometimes in pairs, and other times in groups of four, over the course of many weeks; finally, we were given an expert coach for two sessions at the end of the course so that we could once again experience being a coachee. At its conclusion, we had coaching and coachee practice in a variety of contexts, and a thorough appreciation of the benefits and nuances of both roles.
Despite the fact that having a coach is an empowering and uplifting process, we tend to write more about coaches than coachees. There are numerous blogs and books about becoming an amazing coach, including my own post. But Pete Foster asked on Twitter this week if anyone had written a guide to getting the most out of being coached. I was stumped; I knew of none. It makes sense, of course: how can we best utilise these powerful conversations so that we get the most out of them, and in, Jim Knight’s words, unlock our potential?
So, without further ado, here are my 10 quick tips to get the most out of being coached.
- Choose your coach carefully
The coach-coachee relationship is built on trust and rapport. The person you choose to be your coach will be someone with whom you share laughter, vulnerability, and a lot of deep thinking; therefore the fit must be right. All coaches will likely be trained and competent, but it’s important to find someone who you feel will bring the best out of you and your thinking.
- Be open to coaching
Once you’ve chosen your coach, the next step is to make sure you are as open as possible to being coached. One could arrive at a coaching conversation with a preconceived idea, readily packaged and rehearsed – you can go through the motions and answer questions with mild thought and neglect any deeper thinking. Or, you can accept that within a trusting and open coaching relationship, your coach’s questions will move you to ideas, thoughts, and feelings that you haven’t encountered before. You will need to share things that you perhaps only just understood or realised yourself, and then admit when you’re feeling unsure. These are the moments when you make breakthroughs in your thinking and the magic happens, but we have to be open and available with our coach.
- Make sure you have contracted
At the beginning of a coaching relationship, and thereafter briefly at the outset of each session, your coach will set out a contract for the relationship. This is a good opportunity for them to lay out what you can expect from each other, and possibly, as Margaret Barr did for me, ask you what level of challenge you’d like from them as a coach during the sessions. Contracting is a vital first step in the relationship, to ensure that both parties understand and consent to the style and methods of the following conversations.
- Prepare for the conversation (but don’t over-prepare)
Your coach will likely ask what’s on your mind, or what you’d like to talk about today. You know it’s coming, so do you need to have a topic in mind? Of course, it’s worth thinking about your coaching session before it begins – with any luck, you’ll be looking forward to it! As a coachee, I have walked into a session feeling sure of the challenge that I’d like to tackle that day. Then, a few questions later, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve found something more pressing, important, or inspiring. How does my coach do that?! The point is, it’s worth being flexible about the avenues that your mind will open up during the conversation. Therefore, I’d recommend thinking about your session in advance and preparing a few possible ideas, while being open to the dynamic nature of the conversation and your own thoughts.
- Utilise powerful thinking beyond the coaching sessions
While a coach’s skilled questioning is difficult to emulate when you are alone, you should begin to use what you gain from coaching conversations to, in essence, coach yourself. For example, if you recognise that your coach uses the GROW model, you can begin to apply similar processes to a problem you are thinking through. We often act on the first option that we think of, but if you coach yourself, you’ll push harder for 3,4,5 options before you commit to the best approach. Coaching conversations are energetic and empowering, but there’s no reason to confine your learning and thinking to that occasion.
- Give your coach feedback
A good coach is keen to evaluate their own performance, and whether or not the style of coaching they use with you is helping you to maximise your potential. They will seek feedback and act on it, for your benefit. It’s important that the coachee responds to this request for evaluation and lets their coach know what’s working, and what they’d like more of.
- Hold yourself accountable
Most coaching conversations will end with some tangible actions that the coachee can implement to begin to achieve their goals. As a coachee, you will have expended much energy and thinking on your chosen next steps, with a sense of optimism as you transition from the conversation into implementation. It’s vital that, at this point, you bottle your enthusiasm, hold yourself accountable, and work hard to achieve your goals. Sure, you will likely bring these actions to your next coaching conversation, but it isn’t about your coach holding you to account. What matters is how you capitalise on your intense thinking and transform that into actions and habits that will truly help you to take steps forward.
- Consider using a journal to record your experience
I’m not necessarily advocating detailed in-meeting notes, as this can hamper the conversation. But I’d encourage a coachee to begin making notes about the sessions – the ideas they came up with, their next steps, what worked well, etc. As I’ve said already, coaching conversations often evoke ideas and thoughts that haven’t existed until that moment; recording them and revisiting these notes can be a good way to reflect, and to recapture the magic of that session, so that you can carry this energy into the following days and weeks of implementation.
- Be honest if it’s not working out and request a change of coach.
It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but not all coaching relationships work out. This could be down to a difference of styles, or perhaps just a lack of chemistry, which means the trust and rapport don’t build to a productive level. Either way, if it’s not working, it’s best for both parties if you change and find a match that works better.
- Think about training to become a coach
Hopefully after making the most of your time as a coachee, you will have enjoyed the wonders of coaching. You will have felt the weight lift from your shoulders as you become more empowered to achieve your goals and set new, ambitious targets. Perhaps, dare I say, you will have the desire to become a coach yourself, and to help others maximise their potential in the same way that you have started to.
Thank you for reading