Even the best laid plans fail. The decisions we make so carefully with deep contemplation can still end up being the wrong choice. All the planning in the world sometimes can’t account for the unexpected, the intangible, and the uncontrollable.
Choosing the right executive coach is one of the decisions in the business world that is not taken lightly. Working one on one with someone very closely and allowing them into your personal work experience and journey to becoming a better executive is a big deal. Most people or businesses speak with multiple coaches and coaching companies before officially committing to the one they feel is the right match.
On paper, you may feel like you and your coach align in work styles, communication, and philosophies. You may feel completely confident about how your coaching experience will go after discussing the plan with your coach of choice. You may feel excited to start your sessions and begin making progress.
And although you chose your coach and were sure the relationship was the perfect fit, the arrangement might not work out.
A number of factors could be contributing to why you feel your coaching experience isn’t what you expected. Perhaps you’re at a point where your frustrations with the situation are beginning to arise, or maybe you’re already set on getting a replacement coach. No matter how deep you are in your feelings of disappointment, be careful not to make any quick drastic changes. In a Harvard Business Review article, 20-year executive coach Sharon Dougherty suggestions the following three steps:
Find the Root
Pinpointing the concerns you’re having in your relationship with your coach are key. Finding the root of your dissatisfaction may be a difficult process, as perhaps the problem seems hard to put into words or can really just be chalked up to a lack of chemistry. Do your best to name something specific about the relationship that isn’t working out for you. Have a conversation with a trusted colleague or mentor about your struggles. Speaking out loud or hearing someone else’s insight can help you determine the cause of the mismatch.
One purpose of identifying the main issue is to determine whether or not it’s fixable. Another reason is so that you have a very clear idea of what to look for or not to look for if you decide to find a new coach. If you’re aware of a specific coaching style or way of communication that hinders your ability to improve, then you can be on the lookout for other coaches who better meet your needs.
After you have identified some of the concerns you have with your coach and you feel confident in them, the next step would be to call a meeting with your coach for the two of you to sit down together and analyze your relationship and the progress thus far. Make sure your coach knows the purpose of the meeting so that they can take some time beforehand to also analyze what’s working and what’s not working in the relationship.
When the meeting commences, be as transparent as possible with your coach about your concerns. The only way to create a better relationship and system is by being honest about your needs and preferences. Your coach should want to prioritize your experience so that the overall process is a success for you both.
Although you may know what’s not going well in the relationship, try to come up with possible solutions. After voicing your concerns, give a few suggestions that you believe could make the arrangement still be successful. Your coach may have had a similar experience and have a fix that worked in the past. Be open to suggestions, but also don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Do you need structure? Do you need feedback? How much, how little, how often? Be specific.
Every relationship is a two-way street. At this point, you’ve made it clear that you want to make the arrangement work and you have brainstormed ideas how. You’re willing to put in the work, but you need to know if your coach is, too. If your coach is willing to adjust their style to fit your person needs, then consider the conversation productive. Set a short-term trial period, about 2-4 weeks, to test out the new plan. On the chance that your coach is unwilling to change their ways and be open to your feedback, now is time to look for a new coach.
Meet with Your Coordinator
Next, set up a meeting with whoever arranged for you to have a coach, perhaps your boss or someone from human resources. This step is only necessary if you decide that you would like to move forward with finding a different coach.
During the meeting, explain to your sponsor that you would like a new coach and be ready to explain your reasoning. Cite specific problems you have with the relationship. Be prepared for your sponsor to be skeptical and ask you difficult questions about your coach and the feedback they have given you thus far.
You now have a better understanding of what you like and don’t like in a coach. Bring this knowledge into your search for a new coach. Interview other coaches if possible and see how they respond to your needs. Once you find one you like and want to move forward with, take caution by only doing a short-term trial period with them before making a long-term commitment.
Your relationship with your coach is a personal one. In order for the experience to be deemed a success and for very real long-term improvement to be made, executives must be invested in their coach and the overall process. Finding the right coach can sometimes be a rocky road, but it’s worth your time and energy. If you’re looking to improve developmental needs and better utilize existing strengths, check out what iGenCo’s performance coaching program can do for you and your company.