What to Expect from Executive Coaching
Updated: Mar 16
The first time I worked with an executive coach, I had no idea what to expect. Many of my clients have worked with a coach in a team setting, or attended a lecture led an executive coach, but most have never experienced one-on-one executive coaching before.
If you are getting ready to work with an executive coach, or considering coaching, here are a few things you can expect when working with a trained, certified coach:
Coaches are not consultants.
One of the first misconceptions I often run into with new clients is that they expect the coach to have all the answers - and give them upon request (or demand). Consultants tell people what to do (I know, I was one ). While coaches may offer advice or give you suggestions to consider, most coaches want you to spend time dwelling with your question and your own possible solutions before offering any ideas to consider.
Coaches avoid giving you the answer for a fundamental reason: you are a unique individual working and living in your own unique environment. You know what you are capable of and you must live with any decisions you make.
As a coach, I am just a welcomed visitor in your world. You have to live there.
Therefore, it really is best if you generate ideas and solutions from your own perspective, life experience, and understanding of the situation you are facing. A coach may point out challenges, obstacles, or even blind spots, but you must make the final decisions. And, in the end, helping you think through your own solutions helps you thrive without coaching.
Coaches ask a lot of questions.
Coaches are trained to ask a lot of questions. We even have a term for it: "Active inquiry." Unless you agree on a different approach, expect your coach to ask a lot of questions and sit with you while you think through the answers. (see Coaches are not consultants)
It is OK for you to ask questions too.
I was talking to a friend that was working with a talented, experienced coach. My friend was struggling with the approach the coach was taking. She did not understand where the coach was taking her and why she was asking her to do specific homework assignments. I encouraged her to ask those same questions to her coach. My friend soon learned that this coach was trying to help my friend see a blindspot that she was skillfully avoiding. If you don't understand something that your coach is doing or an approach they are taking, ask them about it.
It is OK to give feedback about what is working and not working.
I recently had a client tell me that her past coach was simply too lenient on her and never held her accountable for homework or commitments. I asked her if she ever gave her coach that feedback, and she said "well... no..." If you feel like something is not working, or if you need more or less of some thing from your coach, start that conversation. Coaches want to help, and if there's something you need, it helps us to know so that we can adjust our style to support you - or at least it opens the door so we can explain the reasons behind our approach.
You will experience a wide range of emotions. It can be uncomfortable.
Coaching sessions cover a wide range of topics, which means you may feel a wide range of emotions over the course of your coaching engagement. Depending upon the goals for your coaching engagement, you may touch on topics that are sensitive and challenging to address. Other times, you may celebrate accomplishments and victories. Still other times, you may talk about blindspot's or difficult feedback received from a peer, direct report or supervisor. Lean into it. After all, the cracks are where the light gets in.
We cannot coach a ghost.
We are coaching you. We are not coaching your boss, partner, direct report, peer or child. While we may talk through conflicts and possible approaches when working with others, it is impossible to coach a person who is not in the room (aka "coaching a ghost").
Do your homework.
Coaches may assign homework or ask you to make a commitment to take an action before the next coaching session. Coaching is all about building new muscles and building momentum from one session to the next. Homework and leaning into commitments between sessions is one of the ways that we build those new muscles and grow.
And, even if things don't go well, there's something to learn in the messiness. I ask my clients that if they make a commitment, and they struggle to keep it, or only partially keep it, bring that forward in the coaching session. We can learn from our failures as well as our successes. The point is to at least try.
If you are getting started with an executive coach, good luck! If you wish to learn more about executive coaching, reach out and let's set a time to chat!
Nicole Provonchee is an executive coach and strategist that works with women leaders and teams across the nation.
After 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, she started Bright Blue Consulting, where she can combine her skills as a coach with her practical experiences as a leader and executive.
Nicole is a sought-after speaker and can bring her "get out of your own way", self-advocacy, negotiation skills workshops to your organization or company. Learn more on her speaking page. Or, reach out to her today.