Are You Ready?

How do you know when you or someone on your team is ready for leadership coaching? This question often arises among my prospective coaching clients.

So, I’d like to describe traits shared by my clients who have made the most extraordinary progress. The work of coaching can be inspiring and can also take you out of your comfort zone. Leaders who feel ready to spend the time and energy experimenting with new behaviors and mindsets typically find coaching to be transformative. People who feel invested in their coaching goals likewise find coaching most effective. If someone else—a board chair, supervisor or colleague—sees a flaw in you that they believe needs fixing, coaching can still be helpful but may not be as potent or fun.

Consider leadership coaching when you’re at a moment of inflection such as when you move into a new role, seek to generate buy in for a new strategy or want to manage growth at your organization. Each are examples of times when a leader often realizes that strengths that led to their success to date may not be enough to overcome future hurdles.

To assess readiness for leadership coaching, consider these questions and rate each answer one to four:

  • 1=strongly disagree
  • 2=somewhat disagree
  • 3=somewhat agree
  • 4=strongly agree

I feel a level of urgency and motivation to grow as a leader.

Change readiness can take many forms. You may feel ready take on your own blind spots; after years of responding defensively or denying a trait was an issue, now you realize you need to change. Perhaps you need to take a metaphoric jump from a burning building (you can no longer stay where you are). Or maybe you feel over your head as a leader as you confront unprecedented levels of complexity.

I am willing to look in the mirror, make myself vulnerable and reexamine my deeply held assumptions.

Feeling motivated may not be enough for you to benefit from coaching. Your motivation must be strong enough to sustain the discomfort of experimenting and failing. Can you accept that you might feel uncertain and vulnerable as you engage in the necessary work to move to higher levels of effectiveness and impact? People who believe that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks,” may not derive as much benefit from coaching.

I am willing to open my mind to new kinds of approaches and frameworks—including doing things that may well feel contrived or “not me,” or that might seem touchy feely.

As we become more senior in our careers, we should feel more confident about engaging in learning and self-reflection. After all, we are likely wiser and more mature than in earlier chapters of our lives. However, I have found that too often the opposite is true—particularly for people who attribute their success to their analytic capabilities (academics, scientists, journalists, lawyers). Navigating vulnerability (yours and others) is an essential component of effective leadership. Yet some leaders feel they don’t have time to learn new approaches and are concerned their reputation would suffer if they use new techniques to manage interpersonal interactions or if they more intentionally manage their time, stress or presence.

I am open to spending the time and putting in the work.

Structured time to think big is a key value of coaching. Busy executives need to take time away from the fray to think more broadly and creatively. Coaching sessions typically occur two hours per month over six months and are quite efficient. Sessions focus on work you are already doing rather than adding extra content or activities. However, extra energy and intention may be needed to preserve regular coaching time, experiment with new ways of doing things and take full advantage of the accountability and resources a coach provides.

I am aligned in my coaching goals with the mission and needs of my organization.

Just as you must be highly motivated to embark on a coaching process, your organization must support your development. Your supervisor or board chair’s priorities should align with your goals. If not, there is a risk that you will put in a lot of work yet be undermined when stakeholders have a different set of expectations.

As you consider starting a coaching journey, clarify what you want to achieve, and whether you have the courage, flexibility and organizational buy-in to get there. Answering 4 to every question above means you’re likely to achieve great outcomes from leadership coaching; and the same may be true if your responses are mostly 3s and 4s.

If you feel ready for the adventure and benefits of transformative coaching, I would be delighted to help you steer toward your highest goals.


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