There was a time in my coaching practice where I laboured under the misconception that anyone could benefit from coaching as a tool to grow professionally.
Actually, the vast majority of the executives, managers and professionals whom I’ve had the pleasure of supporting have been very good or excellent coaching candidates. But, as you may have surmised, a minority among them, maybe 5-10%, may resist or simply “surf” through the coaching process without ever getting too wet. There are also people who aren’t in the best position to benefit from coaching because of mental health issues.
In fact, specific conditions for success must be in place for a person to get the most out of coaching:
- A true desire to actively work on developing new skills and abilities. These skills can be technical, such as effectively managing one’s priorities, or “soft”, such as improving one’s interpersonal or communication skills with a view to increasing one’s impact or building win-win partnership-type relationships. The idea is for the leader to invest in his development or adjust his leadership style in order to positively affect the organization’s performance indicators.
- A commitment to freeing up time in one’s agenda. All too many people say they don’t have time for coaching, yet the top people and performers seem to find time! A 60-90 minute coaching meeting every 2 to 3 weeks is all it takes to create the momentum needed to meet one’s goals.
- A minimal capacity to look at oneself, to act and to reflect. Obviously, coaches are trained to help their clients enhance this capacity, but the person must have a basic capacity to look inward. During the exploratory meeting, the coach can assess this dimension.
- Openness to feedback. We all have a blind spot that we would benefit from accessing. Like a compass, coaches use feedback as a tool that gives the coachee access to what escapes him. This feedback must be clear and direct, but phrased with kindness and respect so the client can learn something useful or even instrumental about himself. So it’s really important for the coachee to be open to the information offered and to sincerely want to get the most out of it.
- Understanding the importance and being willing to record the insights gained. For coaching sessions to pay off, the coachee needs to develop an action plan to transfer his learnings. The coach will ask relevant questions to get the client to re-examine certain beliefs and consider previously unimagined avenues in order to overcome obstacles, grow and achieve goals, so it’s very important for the client to keep a record of what he has learned. And since the coach will encourage the client to use what he has learned in the real world, flexible but rigorous follow-ups on both the coach’s part and the client’s part are particularly important.
- The support of one’s organization and especially of one’s boss. While the person most responsible for a successful coaching process is the most interested party – the coachee –, the person’s boss can play a key support role. After all, the boss is often the one who gets feedback from other members of the organization, and he can make the coachee benefit from this feedback. The boss is also the one who aligns performance targets with organizational orientations, which will steer the coachee’s actions and attitudes. Not to mention that the boss is the one who evaluates the coachee’s performance.
- Chemistry between the coachee and the designated coach. Since the relationship between the two people who make up this tandem is critical, their compatibility must be validated during the first meeting and then reconfirmed throughout the coaching process. The coachee must want to confide in his coach and trust his expertise and intentions.
- No burn-outs or serious mental health issues where the person is about to take a leave, given that he will not be able to meet his usual obligations such as taking care of himself or his personal affairs. But coaching can be used to re-integrate the client upon his return to work.
- No narcissists (not to be confused with people with big egos or high self-esteem): Self-absorbed people who don’t care about others’ needs or interests are generally not receptive to coaching, and a less experienced or less skilled coach who attempts to coach a narcissist is in for quite a ride! Since coaching this type of personality is riddled with pitfalls, we will cover this topic in a future article.