As in all parts of life everything has a natural life cycle – the greatest challenge is knowing when the time is right to make a change. We all get caught up in the world of convenience and comfort avoiding changing things for the sake of things because they don’t appear to be broken – you know the call – if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But is that the best advice?
Being in the world of coaching and masterminding for many years now I have seen this from both sides of the table, as the coach and the coachee. Here is my simple guide for testing how successful is your coaching relationship and what to do if you are not getting all that you hoped:
Pipe and slippers – has the relationship all gotten a bit comfortable, you’ve become more friends than anything else? You know that if you don’t do anything different as a result of the coaching sessions you won’t get into trouble or get hauled over the coals for it. If it’s all a bit too comfortable, it’s time to ask some better questions
It’s all a bit too soft – You know the answers you give will be taken as fact even though when you put your hand on your heart you know full well your answers are only giving the tip of the iceberg. If the coach dug deeper there is a massive can of worms that you just don’t feel like sharing. This is a shallow skin deep environment and the question has to be asked to what benefit is it continuing to run – just because the resource has been allocated to you doesn’t mean they are the right coach for you, certainly just bragging ‘I have a coach’ should have been left in the playground many decades ago.
Forgettable – After a session you’ve already forgotten what was discussed and worse still you haven’t actually remembered what it was you said you were going to take action on. This clearly isn’t and won’t help anybody.
Trust and honesty – there is something missing, you don’t feel comfortable to be totally honest and vulnerable with your coach, no idea just why it is that you don’t want to share the whole truth so you give spin answers and skirt around the real facts. So many of us are trained and conditioned from a young age to be cynical and not trust others easily. In the work place sadly that becomes reinforced by manipulative co-workers and empire builders, let alone the occasional crook in business. However, we do have to be honest, open and vulnerable for a coaching relationship to be successful – that is why trust and chemistry are so important in the early days and throughout the length of the relationship, 6 months to 6 years plus.
Records and papertrail – different relationships will work with different ways of keeping on track and on top of all that is discussed. Is the tracking correct for you and keeping you on track towards your goals and successes? Some of my clients share weekly activity sheets with me, others make endless notes while we are discussing, some record the sessions on smart phones, others want short concise to do lists that build over time, whereas others just sit and take mental notes. No one way is correct, it’s whatever works for you. However the question has to be asked, who’s responsible to create these reports and trackers? Clearly it’s down to the coachee, but is that what was agreed and expected.
Bored – they keep on asking the same old question ‘How does that make you feel’ and it’s really irritating – what style of questioning do you want, how brutal or soft does the coaching need to be in order to be effective with you? We all have differing attention spans, some need everything to be quick sharp and to the point whereas others want to contemplate, consider and analyse every angle and permutation that can be created – where are you on this spectrum as this will have a massive bearing on your boredom threshold?
Somewhere else – your time is becoming more and more precious and the coaching just appears to be getting in the way of something else that may or may not be more important but it’s probably better than here. Most of you know the story of the woodman who slipped away to sharpen his axe while at work making him massively more efficient than those who plugged away regardless. Natural breaks can be very effective during a coaching relationship, it can keep both parties fresh and develop a very strong long term support network. Realistically the time can be found, if it’s of value to you personally or professionally then you’ll make time for it.
My coach has always installed the premise that every coaching relationship is built on a foundation of better questions, asking the right questions and most importantly listening to the answers – if you find several of the symptoms described above reflect your current coaching relationship then you need to be asking some better questions of both yourself and your coach. It doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is over it’s just time to reconstruct, set the next set of objectives and ground rules.
There is nothing wrong with friendships spanning from coaching relationships and vice versa, however a clear demarcation is required to switch between mates’ chat and coaching conversation. Just make sure you take action as a result of the coaching, at the end of the day only you are responsible for your progress, your inaction is not the coach’s fault.
Of course as stated at the beginning there is a life cycle on most coaching relationships where different skills and backgrounds are necessary to take you to the next level. Is now the time to find a new coach for the next level in your journey? If so I am always available to have a no-obligation chat, I love it when I get asked this question – “Mike I’m looking at changing coaches or I am in need of a new coach can we have a conversation about how you work and whether that might suit me?” You just have to take action and ask!