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Tips for New Coaches

The following outline is a summary of discussion points in the “open space” sessions at the October 2008 SIOP Leading Edge Consortium on Executive Coaching in Cincinnati.
Theses notes were compiled by Dave Weston (dave@crestingwavesolutions.com), a participant fairly new in executive coaching and Mike Frisch mike@icoachnewyork.com), a seasoned executive coach who shared his insights during the discussions. In the spirit of establishing a continuing dialogue, several comments have been inserted by Dave Weston.
Define yourself and scope as a coach
  • Relevant professional experience as a helper/facilitator and as an organizational player
  • Theories of adult change and growth that you favor
  • Qualifications, if any
  • Education and training
  • Unique knowledge and industry experience
  • Identify and target types of coaching, coaching tools/processes & clients
 
Dave: Once I sifted through the various experiences I had played as an internal and external coach, I was pleased to find out that I had much more experience as a coach than I had previously believed. In my roles as an internal and external consultant, I had worked with many senior leaders as they struggled through issues of mergers, reorganizations, downsizing, etc. Often the focus was on the executives’ skill level and approach strategies rather than the technical human resources issues. In addition, my years of conducting leadership assessments and feedback contribute to my skills as a coach. After reviewing my other credentials, I felt much more confident that I had many of the skills and experiences necessary for coaching.  
Conduct a realistic assessment of self as coach
  • Self assessment and with peers or mentor (360’ish)
  • Fill in gaps
  • More training: approaches, tools, theories of change
 
Dave: As I have always done in preparing to do assessment work, I personally take all instruments that I intend to use with clients. Receiving the feedback on yourself brings new life to the content of the material. Trust me, when the data is about yourself, you really pay attention to the implications and subtleties of the report!
 
Getting Started
  • Design a simple coaching interventions: relationship building and needs assessment, development planning, implementation (6-10 sessions)
  • Be able to describe your approach to coaching (your intro speech when first meeting HR and your client)
  • Engage a more experienced coach as a case supervisor
  • Consider pro-bono coaching with non-profits, academic institutions, community organizations
Dave: After attending a SIOP workshop on coaching conducted by Mike Frisch and Bob Lee, on the return flight I sat with the new owner of a local kitchen and bath business. After describing the workshop to him, he agreed to be a guinea pig for my first official coaching engagement (pro-bono, of course). To make a long story short our relationship provided me a great opportunity to practice new assessment tools and coaching techniques. The feedback we gave to each other was both candid and insightful. Even though that initial meeting was over four years ago, we continue to meet every few months to share lunch as friends. 
Establish operational framework for your coaching practice (both for self & client)
  • Confidentiality
  • Length of engagement
  • Fees (project fee for engagement vs. hourly)
  • Follow-up schedules
  • Documentation & reporting
Dave: For me, this is where I really need to gather my diverse skills into a formal coaching package. Having gained many of the individual coaching skills in the past is not sufficient without the context or discipline of a formal structure. This is where the rubber meets the road on truly entering the world of Executive Coaching.
General tips
  • Get management involved by scheduling check in and follow-up meetings
  • Probe for underlying beliefs about change and for motivation when change is not occurring
  • Treat skill learning like weight training: it takes repetition and time

Network & participate in a peer support group with other coach