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How to prepare for impactful executive coaching

Congratulations! You’ve made the strategic decision to engage in executive coaching. You’re investing in your personal and professional growth. Here are some guidelines on how to prepare for impactful executive coaching. Ensuring that you extract maximum value from your time together.

Establish a Vision

Before your first session, take time to envision what success looks like for you. Consider the following questions:

What would success mean? Imagine a successful collaboration with your coach. What specific outcomes do you desire? Is it about achieving a specific leadership position, enhancing team dynamics, mastering a particular skill, or something else?

What is optimal leadership for me? Visualise yourself as an optimal leader. How do you want to show up? What impact do you aspire to create? How do you want people to experience your leadership? Think beyond the metrics—what legacy do you want to leave?

Review your vision. If you’ve already had your first session with your coach make sure to review the above from time to time. Let your coach know if anything has changed. If you want to return to any of that thinking for an update set this as something you want to work on.

Take Inventory of Your Current Condition

Assess where you currently stand in your career and leadership journey.

What’s going well? Acknowledge your achievements and strengths. What aspects of your career are thriving? Celebrate these wins—they provide a solid foundation.

What are my areas for improvement? Identify areas that could be better. What challenges or opportunities do you face? Be honest with yourself. Remember, vulnerability is a strength in coaching.

Reflect on Recent Experiences. Consider any recent experiences or situations that have been particularly impactful or challenging for you. Reflecting on these moments can provide valuable insights. Pay attention to both successes and setbacks. Both can offer valuable learning opportunities.

Gather External Perspectives

Do you have a good sense of how others experience you and your leadership?

Feedback. When did you last receive feedback? Sources of this can include:

  • A formal work based 360 feedback process.
  • Annual performance reviews.
  • Informal feedback from friends, family and trusting colleagues.
  • Operational feedback from your board or manager.

Psychometrics. Whilst opinions on psychometric tools may vary they do provide food for thought. They also provide a language to use as a reference during coaching.

Have you undertaken any psychometric tests recently the conclusions from which could be usefully taken into executive coaching?

Your coach may be certified to “debrief” you on these or similar tools, or help you work through the results.

Prioritising Short-Term vs. Long-Term Objectives

When you think about how to prepare for impactful executive coaching, consider whether you want to focus on short-term or long-term objectives. Here’s how to decide:

Short-Term Objectives: Address immediate challenges or pressing issues. Tackle urgent matters that impact your day-to-day effectiveness. Examples include: Time management, conflict resolution, specific skill development.

Bring these topics to your sessions if you seek rapid results.

Long-Term Objectives: Think strategically about your leadership journey. Consider your career trajectory, personal growth, and legacy. What transformations do you want to deliver? Examples include: Vision-setting, succession planning, cultural transformation.

Use coaching sessions to explore these broader objectives.

Remember, you can bring this decision into your coaching dialogue itself. You can work with your coach to explore where would be most helpful for you to focus. Your openness and commitment will shape your journey together.

KISS: Keep, Improve, Start, Stop!

Sometimes it helps to use the KISS method to break down and better understand areas to work on. Use the KISS framework to refine your approach:

Keep: Identify practices or behaviours that are working well. What should you continue doing? These are your anchors.

Improve: Pinpoint areas that need enhancement. How can you refine your leadership style or decision-making process? Seek growth opportunities.

Start: Consider new practices or habits that could benefit you. What actions should you initiate? Perhaps it’s active listening, delegation, resilience-building. It could be taking action to learn more about a particular aspect of leadership that you want to work on.

Stop: Reflect on habits or mindsets that hinder your progress. What should you eliminate? Maybe it’s self-doubt, procrastination, or micromanagement.

The Urgent-Important Matrix: Prioritising Topics

As an alternative to KISS, or as well as using that, you may find the Eisenhower Urgent-Important Matrix helpful to prioritise topics.

The Eisenhower Urgent / Important Matrix presented by on how to prepare for impactful executive coaching

Crises: Do. Address urgent and important matters. These are immediate fires that need extinguishing. Examples include pressing deadlines, critical project issues, or major setbacks.

Goals and Planning: Schedule. Allocate time to non-urgent but important topics. These are strategic discussions related to your long-term vision, goal setting, and planning. Examples include leadership development, succession planning, and career path alignment.

Interruptions: Delegate. Minimise time spent here. These are urgent but less important distractions. Delegate or manage interruptions efficiently.

Distractions: Eliminate. Avoid these non-urgent and non-important distractions. They drain energy and divert focus. Eliminate or limit them.

Remember, coaching sessions are an opportunity to dive into the Goals and Planning quadrant —where meaningful growth happens.

Bring Specific Challenges

Intentions. When you’re thinking about how to prepare for impactful executive coaching think about your intentions. What do you want to explore or achieve during your time together?

Examples include:

  • How can I navigate a difficult conversation with a team member?
  • I’m struggling with work-life balance. How can I improve?
  • I want to gain strategies for managing stress.
  • I need clarity on my long-term career path.

Past Experiences. Reflect on past experiences related to these challenges. What insights can you draw from them? How did you handle similar situations before?

Outcomes. What specific outcomes are you looking for? Do you want to have made a specific decision? Or maybe you want a set of notes of your thoughts on a topic? Perhaps you want to have written down the pros and cons of a decision. Or even a written set of actions. How will you and your coach be sure that the intended coaching conversation outcome has been achieved?

If you want a thinking-partner do you know what a useful thinking process will have involved?

Be Open-Minded and Courageous

Embrace Feedback. Remain open-minded when receiving feedback and challenges during the coaching process. Coaching is about growth, and constructive challenge is part of the process. Be curious, not defensive.

Step Outside Comfort Zones. Be willing to explore uncomfortable topics. Discuss both career and personal goals openly as there may be an interplay between them. Be open to challenging your assumptions and beliefs. Vulnerability allows breakthroughs.

Bring a Coaching Mindset

Mindset. Approach coaching with curiosity and a growth mindset. Be ready to explore new perspectives. Trust that insights will emerge.

Confidentiality. Coaching sessions are a safe space. You can share openly without fear of judgment. Use this context to explore thoughts and emotions authentically.

No Need to Filter. You don’t have to filter your thoughts or words. Honesty accelerates progress. Share your concerns, fears, and aspirations candidly. Trust that your coaching relationship is built on a foundation of trust and confidentiality. Trust the process and trust yourself. Be prepared to make the most of the opportunity to be vulnerable in a safe setting.

Commit to action. Be prepared to identify specific action steps or strategies to implement moving forward. Your active engagement in the coaching process is key to driving meaningful change.

Create the Right Environment

When thinking about how to prepare for impactful executive coaching it’s important to also consider the following:

Be present. Consider how you will make sure that you are fully present during coaching. Will you set aside time beforehand to clear your mind of the immediate pressures of the day? Perhaps a walk outside for some fresh air, or listening to music – a “personal reset” if you will.

Your physical environment. What can  you do to ensure that you will be free of interruptions and distractions. Can you find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed? Turn off notifications on any devices you have with you.

Bring Relevant Materials. If there are any documents, reports, or materials that are relevant to your discussion, be sure to have them on hand. This could include performance evaluations, project plans, or stakeholder feedback. Or any other documentation that may provide context or insight into your current professional landscape.

Note taking. Have a journal to hand, or easy access to whichever method is most natural for you to take notes and actions.

After Your Coaching Session

The work is often not complete once the coaching session is over!

Bring actions to life. Make sure to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, and develop a plan for tracking your progress over time. Commit to these actions and hold yourself accountable for progress between sessions.

Reflect and Iterate. Take time after each session to reflect on insights gained and lessons learned. Consider how you can apply these insights to your day-to-day leadership practices. Also, how will you continue to iterate and refine your approach over time. Keep a journal to capture key takeaways and reflections. Revisit these notes regularly to reinforce your learning and growth.

Seek Continuous Feedback. Seeking feedback from others, such as colleagues, direct reports, or stakeholders, allows you to gain additional perspectives on your progress and development. Incorporate feedback into your coaching journey to enhance your effectiveness as a leader.

Invest in Self-Care aka “be kind to yourself!”. Recognise the importance of self-care and well-being in supporting your growth and development as a leader. Prioritise activities that promote physical, emotional, and mental health. These could be exercise, mindfulness practices, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Such self-care is not selfish but essential for sustained high performance and resilience.

Conclusion: how to prepare for impactful executive coaching

By preparing thoughtfully and engaging actively, you’ll maximise the value of your executive coaching sessions. These comprehensive guidelines on how to prepare for impactful executive coaching can be your ally! Together with your coach you can unlock your potential, enhance your leadership, and achieve meaningful transformational results.