What is executive coaching and is it relevant to my life?
February 5, 2018
Want to make a shift in how your career is going, or make your current role more manageable or meaningful? Perhaps start a side-gig or become a better manager? A coaching relationship could help you. Here are some basics about coaching. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested to learn more.
What is coaching and how can it be relevant to your life?
The aim of a coaching relationship is to help you articulate and achieve your professional and personal goals. The primary way to achieve this is by helping you shift the way you see the situation, thus opening up new possibilities for action. Another important dimension of coaching is creating forward momentum: designing steps to move you towards the goal.
Coaching can be helpful to you in all sorts of situations. These could include:
Transitions. Be it taking on a managerial position, moving city, company or role, having a new baby, starting and ending relationships, transitions disrupt our existing ways of being and doing. Working with a coach can turn transitions into the most fertile grounds for learning and growth, rather than a source of resentment.
Achieving Goals. You may have a clear goal in mind – such as getting that promotion, becoming a better manager, hitting that fitness level or improving a significant relationship – but you’re having some frustrations staying on the course. A coach will help you take a candid look at what hinders and helps you, and work with you to design a more effective path.
Decisions. Decisions may leave you tangled up in knots in your head. You may feel paralysed from the immensity of the decision and the breadth of possible options, or exhausted from trying to do it all and please everyone. You can work with a coach to carve a path that is true to who you are, giving yourself the right level of challenge without being overwhelmed.
Unspecified unease. You may feel a vague sense of unease about how work, family or a relationship is going, but you’re unable to pinpoint why, or what to do. With a coach, you can achieve better awareness and begin to take action.
How is coaching different from other conversational professions, such as consulting or therapy?
There is no definitive answer to this, but I would point to two distinctive traits of coaching:
Coaching conversations focus squarely on creating your future. Our conversations will help you clarify your goals, illuminate your possibilities, and design a path forward with you – one that is unique to who you are. At times we may explore the impact of your past on the way you perceive your situation, but it will always be in service of the goals you want to achieve.
A coach’s role is primarily to ask good questions, rather than to give you answers – quite unlike a consultant or advisor. In a coaching conversation, don’t be surprised if you find many of the answers within yourself – my job is to help you discover these. This approach is borne from a deep respect for your agency, experience and abilities.
Why have a coach, rather than talk to a family member, peer or boss?
Bosses, peers and family can all be incredible resources. However, here are two ways a coaching relationship could be more effective.
Want to be truly challenged? While I will support you, I am trained to challenge you. When we talk about the issue you want to tackle, we will challenge your cultural narratives, assumptions of what is possible and not possible, and your self-assessments - because these all limit your possibilities for action. In general, someone who is part of your day-to-day work and family settings is more likely to share your interpretations of a situation, which limits how much they can challenge you.
Ever felt that you don't want to tell a boss or family member something because they'll have a strong opinion on what you should do? Wanting to please the person you are talking to (or make sure their interests are met) can get in the way of delving deep into what really matters to you, and what you are willing to stake for that. As a coach, my role is to create a neutral space for you to discover things about yourself - I will have no judgment or vested interest in what you decide to do. This can be an avenue for the free-est and deepest conversations.
What will a typical coaching session look like?
There is no formula for a coaching session, but broadly, we will cover the following areas:
1. Clarifying your goals.
Come to each session with a problem or issue you want to work on. It need not be fully formed, so we will spend some time clarifying why, what’s at stake, and what you want to achieve from the coaching conversation.
2. Creating awareness: exploring your perspectives on the issue.
When faced with a problem, it’s tempting to go straight into developing new solutions. While it seems the most ‘efficient’ way to do things, sticking to this level of discussion narrows your options significantly. If you’ve come for a coaching session, chances are that you’ve tried several solutions, and you already feel tired thinking about the rest.
To open up new options – ones that motivate and inspire you – we’ll have to first go a little deeper and uncover your perspectives on the situation. Windows into this include:
Your language, which reveals beliefs, assumptions, interpretations and narratives
The emotions and moods you experience in this situation, how they impact your effectiveness, and what influences them
The way your body is responding to the situation, how it impacts your effectiveness, and what influences this
This step is all about becoming more aware of who you are in this situation.
3. Challenge: New perspectives and possibilities
As we uncover your perspective on the issue, we’ll also explore where it might not hold up. I will challenge you. For example, where are you turning your assumptions into “facts of life”? Which beliefs about yourself and others are grounded, and which are not? How does your mood affect your effectiveness, and can your mood be shifted? How?
These are springboards into a greater curiosity about what else you could do to achieve your goal. It typically opens up possibilities and realms of change which you never saw before.
4. Designing an action or practice, setting up accountability
We will end off by designing an action or practice which will serve your goal. You will commit to doing it between now and the next coaching session. We’ll scope it together to make sure it provides a challenge but is not overwhelming. The key is to take baby steps, assess our progress at the next session, and re-evaluate.
Finding an accountability mechanism is an essential part of this step. As your coach, you can ask me to be part of this. We will discuss the timelines for your commitment and conditions of satisfaction. Accountability is an essential part of helping you stay on course to achieve your goal.
How do I get started?
I recommend committing to four coaching sessions to start with (30min to 1 hour each).
I suggest committing to four because at the start of a coaching relationship, we will spend a large part of our sessions on steps 1) and 2) above – clarifying goals and creating greater awareness.
Having been coached myself, I know this is the territory that generates most impatience in the person being coached – why can’t we get to the solutions now? I have a decision to make and a life to live! No kidding – I was tempted to shut down a coaching relationship because I was so impatient.
Yet, I have seen time and again that if we skip the hard work of this part of coaching, we will be stuck in the cycle you know very well – of finding limited solutions because we are living within a narrow perspective.
Once you and I get into the groove of coaching after the initial sessions, the actions will come. They will feel more congruent with who you are and more energizing than you imagined.
Confidentiality and Ethics
All that you tell me within a coaching relationship will be strictly confidential. If a potential conflict of interest arises which I know of, I will inform you immediately. Please let me know if you see a potential conflict of interest as well. We can have a conversation to evaluate how we want to proceed.
A coaching relationship is always in service to you. If at any time you want to end the coaching relationship, I will be happy to refer you to a network of coaches.
In-person, online, on the phone?
I am based in Palo Alto and do coaching via Zoom/Skype or in person (in Palo Alto or Redwood City).
Ready to get started? New possibilities await in 2018.
Email me at karentay at gmail dot com for a free coaching session.