The First Coaching Session: It’s All About You!
The first appointment with a business coach sets the foundation for a successful experience. Get the most out of the coaching relationship by coming to your first meeting with an open mind and clarity on your goals and expectations.
The key task to achieve in that first meeting is to define how this relationship will benefit your work or your company. There must be specific issues that you and your immediate supervisor or your board agree need to be addressed. It is crucial that you feel your coach is a trusted advisor who can hear a summary of those issues, provide feedback based on industry experience and keep it confidential. If any doubts exist about this, find another coach. An effective coach is typically outside of your workplace and has a range of experiences in or out of your industry supporting individual and team performance. While coaches often come from many disciplines, holding some business experience, combined with advanced work in human relations is key.
If you have confidence in your coach, here are some important topics to discuss in your first session:
1. Think of all the various domains of your professional work, what are the top three focus areas you want to address? Typically that list includes: [a] professional image, [b] business acumen, [c] presentation skills, [d] interpersonal communication (including cross cultural skills), [e] technology skills (managing various digital platforms that are part of your company’s required communication) [f] networking skills, and [g] project management.
2. In some cases, clients come to the coaching process with a great deal of self-awareness — they know what kind of “blind spots” may exist for them. It is helpful to consider taking a few profiles that allow you and your coach to know about your leadership style, thinking style or key strengths. A good coach is typically familiar with a suite of “psychometric profiles” and should suggest one for you. If this is not part of your contract, I suggest purchasing a book called “Now Go With Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. This book contains a passcode to take a survey on line that will help you identify key strengths you bring to the work place. This can be shared with your coach or your boss or both as a means of gaining perspective on whether you are maximizing your potential.
3. What expectations are there about who will report the progress of coaching efforts underway? Coaching is not meant to be a form of therapy and yet there are many confidential issues that surface throughout the coaching process. I usually require the client to summarize their progress and to communicate that to their boss on their own. If they have any challenges with this, I prefer that there be a 3-way discussion so that everyone stays transparent while maintaining the confidentiality of the coaching relationship.
4. At the end of the coaching process, what kind of results does the client expect to have accomplished and what does their immediate supervisor expect? This allows us to be clear that the process must be driven with clear goals in mind and that we will have specific milestones along the way to meet.
5. In most coaching assignments, there will be an informal or formal 360 Review for the client—this means I will ask their boss and their peers (sometimes their biggest customers) for feedback on the client’s performance. Why is this done? Mostly to get a full picture of the client’s skills—some executives are great managing up but forget that they must work with colleagues in order to get work done. It is key to get clear what that 360 will address and make sure those interviews are focused on the client’s core needs.
6. Some times coaching assignments are a veiled attempt to rescue or get rid of a poor performer. For some reason the client is under a false sense of security that the company is investing in them because they are ready for more responsibility. As much as it is painful to know your job is in trouble, this is a factor that must be clarified by Human Resources, your supervisor or both. If in doubt, this is an important question to ask and be willing to hear the truth.
The most important factor in your coaching experience is to keep in mind that it’s all about YOU and what you want to achieve. Talk to your coach with a strong sense of partnering with him or her to make this process a success. – Maria Hernandez and Julia Sullivan