Law Practice Today
Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Executive coaching is quite the rage. Suddenly
it seems that everyone has a coach or is one. But is executive coaching
for you? Will it advance your professional development? There are many
questions that could be asked about this topic, but let's focus on a
single, but critical issue: coachability.
As someone who was a coach before coaching was
fashionable, I think this is the first issue to consider. Before you
spend money and time on a coach, be sure you are ready to take advantage
of coaching, by asking yourself the following four questions to determine
whether you are coachable:
- Do you acknowledge something that you need and want to improve
about your style or behavior? For example, a goal of finding better
ways to work with incompetent people is really still seeing the
problem out there, in other people or the situation. The only person
you can fix is yourself. Don't waste your time or a coach's time
unless you want to work on yourself.
- Are you open to feedback? There's no point in having a coach
gather and deliver feedback from interviews, surveys, or assessment
tools unless you are willing to listen to it, not rationalize it
away. An experienced coach can provide candid feedback on your style
and its impact on others.
Outside feedback, from the coach and others,
can provide new and useful information to uncover blind spots, unintended
impacts of your behavior, and priority areas to address. The feedback
may be hard to hear, but it can improve your effectiveness and ultimately
to more successful and satisfying relationships and outcomes at work.
- Are you willing to acknowledge your
need to change publicly? An important ingredient of a successful
coaching program is often going to others and letting them know
that you heard their feedback, that you are committed to making
some changes, specifying the changes you are planning to make, and
inviting feedback from them on how you are doing.
This does several things: it publicly commits
you to making changes, it implicitly apologizes to others, it wins the
respect of others for being brave enough to acknowledge things you need
to fix, and it makes others more willing to support you, despite the
inevitable stumbles in implementing the changes.
This is not really as difficult as it sounds:
in my experience, the things that clients acknowledge to others are
open secrets anyway. Public acknowledgement and repeated attempts to
solicit feedback from others on progress to date in meeting coaching
goals is related to successful outcomes.
- Are you willing to make the change effort
a priority? The research on adult learning shows that adults learn
one-on-one, with intensive work over a long period of time, using
small, measurable steps to make change happen. The goal of good
coaching is not just to make changes happen, but to sustain them.
If you are not going to make the coaching work
a priority and devote the necessary time over the long haul, wait until
you are. In my experience, successful coaching outcomes depend on creating
momentum through small wins and successes. Momentum will elude you if
you devote occasional spare minutes to the process. A good coach can
help you come up with simple, small steps to take, but you need to take
the steps. As a famous coach once said, it's simple but it's not easy.
Coaches can help you accomplish great things
but unless and until you are willing to acknowledge the need for some
changes in your own behavior, to acknowledge those changes to others,
to listen to feedback, and make the change effort a priority, you are
not truly coachable and even the best efforts of the best coaches are
doomed. Are you coachable?
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