As a coach, it’s important to me that my clients leave our coaching sessions feeling like they’ve gained a high level of benefit and value. One coaching session can be so different from the next and the exact source of where they draw value is completely unique.
There’s no magic formula to ensure high value from coaching. But by listening intently to the client and having full awareness of their non-verbal cues, your questioning and feedback supports valuable thinking time. You help your client to steer themselves towards their ‘value’.
Clients often start their coaching with similar goals and outcomes in mind. They may be looking to improve their communication skills, progress their career or improve their influence within a business. Specific goals like these are great for providing focus during early coaching conversations. They offer a helpful starting point. But they don’t signpost the exact location of where that person will find true value from the coaching.
During my early coaching career, I remember one particular session with Mike, a stressed and frustrated senior leader. He was having tough challenges supporting a large organisation as it moved through some dramatic, strategic changes. It was a testing and uncertain time for him.
We began by exploring his future career plans. The conversation soon drifted to focus on how he felt about the people around him moving into new roles and exiting the business. As he continued to talk, I felt myself become more and more anxious that the session was not helping him. There were no obvious insights and no decisive action plans.
Where was that ‘light-bulb’ moment we so often hear about in coaching?
Rather than hold on to my niggling concerns, I decided to ‘check-in’ with Mike, by asking:
“How is this coaching session going for you”?
He took a deep breath and I braced myself for disappointment. But his response was surprising.
“This is so helpful. It’s just great to talk because I feel very lonely in my job right now. There’s no-one I can really open up to”.
Solutions and insights were not what Mike needed at that point in time. What he really valued was being able to talk freely in this safe space. Expressing those very real feelings of frustration and vulnerability with someone outside of the business was what mattered most.
Coaching is not therapy and an ethical coach must quickly pick up on any signs that a referral might be helpful. But the value coaching provides, particularly to business leaders and executives, can be as simple as having someone to ‘vent’ to without judgement or consequence. The listening ear from someone truly independent, is something that many people can’t easily get from within their organisation.
Jonathan Schwartz (President and CEO of CareZone, previously Sun Microsystems) once summed up what value coaching held for him:
“If you have a new perspective, if you feel better with your team, the board and the marketplace, then you have received real value.”
‘Feeling better’ isn’t an outcome of coaching that you can easily measure. Providing tangible evidence of coaching benefit remains a challenging area for all coaches operating in the business world.
But organisations providing quality coaching to their leaders must trust them to find their own true value from coaching. If they continue to gain high personal value from coaching, the deeper and more lasting impact on the business overall will quickly shine through.
Where do you currently get most value from coaching?
How can your coach support you to gain further value?
How do you measure the value you gain from your coach?