Those of you who know me well know that I was a cheerleader from the time I was 8 years old until I was 20 (those of you who know me less well, I have likely not admitted this to you yet.) While I had many cheer coaches over the years, Mrs. P, my high school coach, stands out by far as my toughest coach. She set the bar very high and was never satisfied with our level of effort, precision, nor timing. “Girls, that was garbage!” she would growl as we got into formation to do the routine again. At 5 ft nothing, in her perfectly appointed suit and her Jersey-sprayed hair — we were terrified of her and revered her. The competitions we won and the routines we were able to perform were a direct consequence of her coaching acumen.
Interestingly, my kids, too, have been drawn to the tough coaches they have had over the years. Lose the Jersey hair and the comparisons to garbage, but “coaching hard” is critical to coaching at all.
Fast forward to our professional lives, and most of us lose the routine exposure to a strong coach. And there comes a time in each of our careers when we would benefit from one. How do you know when you need this resource in your life?
The first step is to ask yourself, what are the biggest questions or challenges I am dealing with? This will help you determine what kind of a coach you may need. There are various types of coaching available in the market. Typically these are understood — though they are sometimes labeled differently — as Career Coaching, Skills Coaching, Relationship Coaching, and Personal Life Coaching. For purposes of this post, we will focus on Career and Skills — as these are the most relevant within the professional context.
After this first step of identifying what you are looking for, next find out if your organization will invest in coaching for you. Many companies offer this to employees at a certain level, but may not communicate this as a service broadly. Have a discussion with your boss or your HR partner to understand what is available.
Then, determine who will be the right fit for you. Below are 4 aspects that we find most relevant when determining a good coaching fit.
1. Find a coach with experience in doing what you do, or what you want to do.
My Vistage coach, Ed Robinson, had a career in professional services. This is tremendously helpful for me in leading a services firm, as he can provide insight on the subtleties and specific challenges of this field. At Noetic, we most often coach marketing and communications leaders which is our heritage and where our team has spent time as practitioners. This enables us to both empathize with challenges our clients are having, as well as to help them “see around the corner” at the challenges and opportunities we see others face who sit in their positions or have faced ourselves when in their seats.
2. Do your homework on yourself
While you will want to co-create your goals with your coach, it is important to do your own thinking upfront about what you seek to gain and learn. Prepare this thinking before your coaching selection, share it when you speak with coach candidates, and gauge their acumen and enthusiasm for helping you in the realm you seek. Together you will refine the path once you engage, but knowing your north star upfront will help you determine fit and long-term effectiveness.
3. Do your homework on the coach
Once you have a few coach candidates in mind, spend time understanding who they are: speak to people they have coached, look at their social media, read any books they have written, listen to podcasts, watch videos of their speaking engagements. Understand the thought leadership they are putting out into the world and whether this feels like a fit with what you seek.
4. Understand their energy and your chemistry together
Some coaches are lowkey, some high energy. Some coaches challenge directly, others more subtly. Have a 30-minute conversation and be attentive to how you feel when you are with them. This will be different for everyone, as it takes two to create an energetic connection. For myself, when I met Ed, I felt energized, like I would be pushed and challenged, and that I could be completely candid. This was the right energetic connection for me.
We all benefit from having a great coach in our lives who will push us, support us, make us better. Mrs. P. and Ed and all the other mentors, coaches, and leaders I’ve had through the years have absolutely made me a better CEO because of the ways they have both encouraged and — at times — really challenged me.