CXO Bytes

How to Get the Most Out of a Coaching Engagement


Coaching “is the process of training somebody to play a sport, to do a job better or to improve a skill.” – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

In the business context, coaching is a strategic business tool, a planned intervention, and an intensive engagement typically implemented by an organisation to enhance performance. Today, coaching goes beyond influencing or improving behaviours. For instance, it can also be used as an aid to help senior executives or managers in their transition to a new or higher role.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the purpose of coaching. Imagine coaching as a strategic tool in tackling the challenges posed by an M&A where employees need to work in a new and complex environment due to the blending of two different organisational cultures. What if the culture change negatively impacts the performance levels? That’s where coaching can help, as an example.

In short, coaching is about bringing positive change to achieve the desired shift in behaviours or ensure optimum performance, ultimately adding value to the business. The coaches are the catalysts (not solution providers) who make the change possible by facilitating the coachee’s learning process. A great deal of the success of a coaching engagement “heavily” depends on the coachee’s mindset and the efforts they put into the learning process. Coaching works best when a coachee is clear about the goal. In plain words, a coachee picks the goal and the coach helps them get there.

If you are the coachee, the first and the foremost step in getting coached is to have the clarity of what you really want. Very often, getting clarity on what you want is the biggest challenge. First, think deeply about what you want and what you want your life to look like. Second, identify the gaps between how things are today and how you would desire them to be. Jot them down. Many people struggle with knowing what they really want.

Besides having clarity of the goal, there are several other ingredients required to make the coaching engagement effective and a successful one. Here are those few key ingredients:

  1. Be ready, be willing, and be motivated to be coached – This is the required mindset and the foremost pre-requisite for the coaching relationship to be successful. Of course, coaches do foster motivation by tapping into your willingness to get coached. That is the motivation you receive from the coach. But, the drive and energy you demonstrate while working towards your goal is the motivation you create within and is purely internal.


  1. Be receptive to change – You can harness the benefits of coaching by being receptive to change. As coaching is about bringing change, it requires you to refrain from demonstrating resistance to change. You can overcome this challenge by stepping out of your comfort zone. Typically, resistance to change comes when you think, “I have never done this” or “I don’t think I can do this.” Consciously removing these questions from your thinking is the first step towards change. This also requires a willingness to experiment, even if you believe that a specific action is a sure-shot failure. It is important to remember that the fear to fail may keep you from success. It is okay to fail. Learning from failure is what matters.


  1. Be receptive to feedback – Coaching is an opportunity to learn, develop, and grow. The essence of coaching is to unlock and help you realise your potential to optimise your performance and help you build self-awareness about your behaviours. To enable these outcomes to emerge, coaches provide specific and descriptive feedback and messages related to your goals and opportunities for development. Be open to this feedback and resist the urge to get defensive as the ideas, opinions, suggestions, or advice may differ from your own. The key is to remember that the coach is trying to help you become your best self.


  1. Stay on track with the action items – Your coach may set realistic, mutually acceptable, actionable, and time-phased performance parameters to facilitate the learning process and meet the coaching objectives. Also, every coaching session may bring up a new learning, a new perspective, or a new opportunity, all culminating in implicit action items. Make a note of these explicit and implicit action items diligently and implement them on priority to maximise benefits.


  1. Be open – If the coaching relationship is not working out or you do not see value in it, call it quits right away. This helps save both time and the organisation’s resources (assuming your coaching is sponsored by your organisation.) For the organisation, a coaching program is a financial investment. For the coach and the coachee, it is an investment of time and effort. Having this open-mindedness also applies to being open to new ideas and perspectives.


  1. Don’t depend on the coach to solve your problems – The key word in any coaching relationship is “help.” The coach will not tell you what to do even though they may have been a former CEO or have years of consulting experience in your domain. Coaches are not there to offer solutions; they assist and help you to achieve predetermined goals or aspirations. For instance, the predetermined goal may be behavioural. For example, the goal could be to help you behave with others differently i.e. to help you develop an inspiring leadership style shedding your transactional style.


  1. Capture learning moments for reflections – Write down what you learnt. Make a list of all the learning moments you spot during the coaching sessions. This can potentially promote more focused, in-depth, and meaningful reflections later. You can either capture these learning moments in the usual ways using a pen and paper or memorising it. However, to enhance the effectiveness, you can consider using technology to capture the learning moments as a text note, an audio or video recording, or a picture for real-time reflections. This can help you reflect more often and in real-time, facilitating a more effective learning process.


  1. Stay curious – Coaching sessions provide ample opportunities for brainstorming, discussions, and exploratory conversations. Use these opportunities to stay curious, listen attentively, and ask meaningful questions that generate sound advice or a better conclusion. Having a curious mindset can:
    1. increase your self-awareness,
    2. help you discover the areas in which you can be even more effective,
    3. help you see things from a different perspective, and
    4. help you try new approaches and behaviours.

Ultimately, with coaching, you will increase your commitment to perform at a higher level as you become more aware of your own actions. You will also coach others in your organisation by incorporating a coaching-based management style.

Following this 8-point strategy and being true to yourself will make the coaching engagement worth your time and effort.

About the Author

Murali Santhanam, Head – Consulting Practice, AscentHR Consulting

Murali is a seasoned HR professional with over 26 years of experience in HR consulting and has been in leadership roles in various organisations across the technology, manufacturing, and consulting sectors. He has significant experience in the areas of Talent Management, Competency and Performance Management frameworks, succession planning, talent reviews, leadership building, and behavioural coaching. He has a graduate degree in Economics and Statistics and a post-graduate degree in MSW – Human Resources from Loyola College, Chennai, and the views expressed in this article are his own.

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