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“His organization looks after him very well” said Thomas, speaking of his batch-mate from business school. ” They have given him an executive coach. They are spending a bomb on him”.

I reflected on what he said being an executive coach myself. The way Thomas  spoke, he made it sound almost like an executive perk. Was it yet another executive perk like Club membership and stock options? Was the executive coach the latest toy ? Did the executive understand how much it was costing his organization in terms of time, direct and indirect efforts and associated costs?

In my experience, there are two kinds of people. Those who have gained immensely from the coaching relationship and those who have not. Management psychologist Don Grayson and consultant Kerry Larson have summarised 6 common pitfalls that prevent the executive from making the best of the coaching investment.

  1. Failure to Commit
  2. Unrealistic expectations
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Playing a passive role
  5. Playing it safe
  6. Failing to involve others

To my mind, the most important is the need to commit. The person being coached has to understand that the initiative largely has to be driven by himself. He has to change, not the coach. Commitment brings about higher priority and greater involvement. Understand what the coaching will and will not do. Be realistic in your expectations. Some are defensive as they perceive the fact that they are being coached as being an affront to their capabilities. Be honest. There are reasons why you have been chosen to be coached. Question those reasons by all means but be committed once you are satisfied.

Coaching involves change and changed behaviours. You can’t get the benefits of change without taking initiative. Like wise take a few risks to gain confidence. Involve relevant others in your journey towards self-improvement. Your supervisor, trusted colleagues or family members can be of great value in putting things in the right perspective or sharing the joys and woes of self-development.

As we say: “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan”.

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