How to get the most out of executive coaching

By Joyce E.A. Russell
Monday, February 21, 2011

Executive coaching as a technique for enhancing a leader's skills has grown significantly over the past decades. No longer is it viewed as a sign of trouble if a top executive signs up for coaching. Rather, it is viewed as a perk. A recent book by some of the foremost scholars and practitioners on coaching, "Advancing Executive Coaching," edited by Gina Hernez-Broome and Lisa A. Boyce, estimates that 70 to 80 percent of companies are using coaching.

The increase in the use of coaching for leaders can be attributed to the greater demands of managing global, more diverse teams in more challenging technological, uncertain environments. Leaders today are expected to quickly deliver results while managing more workers of varied backgrounds and talents all across the world.

One challenge leaders often face is how to effectively use their executive coach. As the director of several executive coaching programs, I'm often asked: What should I do in my sessions with the coach? What should my goal be? How can I get the most out of my sessions?

Think about what you want out of a coaching relationship.

Coaches come with all sorts of training and backgrounds. As a result, they can provide varying types of services to you. Most coaches should:

-- Support and challenge you.

-- Help you better understand your strengths and areas for improvement.

-- Talk with you (and possibly assess) your values and purpose.

-- Help you create a developmental plan.

-- Maintain confidentiality.

-- Serve as a sounding board.

-- Broaden your perspectives by providing an additional viewpoint and serving as a devil's advocate.

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