If you have been enjoying the benefits of business or executive coaching for a while, you’ve probably discovered some smart ways to get the most out of your investment in personal and professional development. However, if you thinking about hiring a coach, you may be wondering what you can do to maximise the ROI from coaching…
Before we get started though, you may be curious about the use of the word ‘accessories’ in the title of this blog post.
By accessory, I simply mean a thing which can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive. Accessories help us imagine and discover new ways to get additional utility from a core product or service we purchase by unlocking additional value.
For example, let’s imagine that you decided to buy an Apple iPad Pro and visited one of the Apple retail outlets. Accessories you may be offered at the point of sale include:
- A case
- A satchel
- A screen protector
- An Apple keyboard
- An Apple pencil
- A juice pack
- A 4G internet connection / plan
- An extended warranty plan
- Even an iWatch or another core product
We surveyed ten of our long-term clients (people who have worked with nLIVEn and or other coaches for three or more years) and asked them two questions:
- What accessories help you get the most from coaching?
- What accessories did you buy that you thought would help you get more from coaching but turned out to be a waste of money?
Some of their answers were what we expected. Yet, some of their suggestions pleasantly surprised us. In no particular order, read on to find what clients told us…
The Essentials – Coaching Accessories You Need
1. Personal / Executive Assistant
Any executive performing at the top of their game needs a great support team. However, in recent times characterised by flatter organisations, having your own dedicated PA or EA has become a politically charged subject within many enterprises. A common topic in coaching conversations is delegation. Having a great assistant – either by your side or working virtually with you – helps you use professional coaching to take a more strategic approach to leading growth by freeing up time and energy to invest into “wow” projects that drive innovation.
To get the most out of coaching, you need to help your coach prepare for your sessions together. Email is great for sending across your agenda, a preparation form, documents that you are working on that you’d like to discuss, etc. Consider using a personal (or dedicated) email address for corresponding with your coach to protect sensitive information.
Coaching is not just about the time you spend in dedicated coaching sessions. Some of the best coaching gets done “on the fly” between sessions. You need a phone to speak to your coach to troubleshoot implementation issues and obstacles you encounter along the way. There are times when you may need to step out of the office to speak confidentially with your coach using your own personal mobile phone. If you normally work face to face with your coach, you can use Skype or Viber to inexpensively conduct coaching sessions remotely when you are travelling, to keep up the momentum of your program. Likewise, some clients prefer to do all of their coaching sessions by phone, saving on travelling time and parking fees in the process.
4. Recording Software
Coaching conversations can be intense and fast moving – in a good way. Clients often find themselves co-processing a range of thoughts, feelings and gut reactions as they grapple with systemic issues and respond to provocative, direct questions. Some clients find it really helpful to record their coaching sessions so they can literally replay the session later, drawing additional insights. Applications like Call Recorder (for Skype) and iTalk (for Apple phones and tablets) are versatile.
5. Folder / Folio
Having a home for the work you do in a coaching program helps you stay organised. Setting up a ring binder, plastic folder or leather folio with a set of dividers can help you efficiently store the work you do over the course of your programs, on your vision, goals and objectives, notes from sessions, project plans, etc. Alternatively, if you are pursuing a less-paper approach, consider using a cloud based storage platform like Dropbox with a dedicated folder and sub-folder architecture, that you share with your coach.
To get the most out of coaching, you need to be highly organised. Coaching can help you take a more strategic approach as long as you can free up time to work on strategic projects. David Allen’s book Getting Things Done introduces a philosophy, methodology and practical approach that can help you reduce the time it takes to ‘manage’ your business to four days, freeing up one day a week for ‘making’. If you do one thing between registering for your coaching program and session one, read (or re-read) David’s book.
Leaders are learners. Learners are leaders. There is a high probability that you will be consuming a greater amount of content during your coaching program than you may be used to. Your coach may recommend and share articles, blog posts, books, podcasts, videos and presentations to help catalyse your thinking. Breakfasts, lunches, plane flights, train or bus rides, walks, work out sessions and waiting rooms provide opportunities to learn if you have portable study materials and note taking capabilities. An iPad or other tablet can be an invaluable accessory to compliment coaching and help you retrieve important notes whilst on the move.
8. Visioning Book / Retreat
Coaching can be a great vehicle for helping you get from A to B, provided you can clearly articulate where you would like to end up. Helping your coach understand your long-term vision will enable both of you to use that as lens through which to assess both the macro and the micro decisions that you’ll need to make along the way towards fulfilling your vision. You can read a book on Visioning. You can plan a Vision Retreat with your coach. Help your coach ‘see’ your future through your eyes.
9. Checklists and Templates
Your coach should be a great resource for helping you do more with less. For example if you need to:
- write a brief for rebranding your business
- lead a merger or acquisition
- document your business plan
- design your ideal week
Then pause, check with your coach what resources he or she would recommend. Rather than give you volumes of these kinds of resources upfront, your coach will share them with you as you go, providing a ‘just-in-time’ approach to your management and leadership development.
10. inSIGHT Vision for success (physical and downloadable audio CD)
Would you like to interview experienced users of coaching to see what advice they could give you about how to get the most out of coaching? Well, the next best thing already exists. Brad Smart interviewed five graduates of nLIVEn’s Professional Partnership Program about how to get the most out of working with a coach.
The Non-Essentials (But Helpful)
Our research for this article turned up more than 10 great suggestions for coaching accessories you need. However, we wanted to include some additional ideas that didn’t necessarily make The Top 10 List but are worthy of consideration. Here are some bonus tips and tricks.
1. Cloud Based Accounting Software
Do you want your coach to be able to see, analyse, understand and help you interpret your financial information – either personal or business? That may depend on the goals and objectives you frame for your coaching program. If you do, providing your coach ongoing viewing access to your live information could help fast-track progress.
From simple in ear buds to the sophisticated noise cancelling over-ear variety, coaching clients use headphones in a myriad of creative way. As a companion to a smart phone or table, headphones can help with reviewing session recordings (see #4 above) or immersing yourself in new ideas (see #7 above). Likewise, headphones can help put you into a cone of silence at will, in a nearby noisy café, helping you concentrate on drafting an important memo for example. They can also be used for meditation and other practices designed to calm and center your mind to improve clarity.
3. Packaging Upgrade
Coaching is often used to support successful career and business transitions. Have you been promoted to the role of CEO or MD? Are you in the middle of a merger or acquisition? You may need to consider changing the way you dress and present yourself. Should you upgrade your car? If it looks like a horse, sounds like a horse and smells like a horse, people are more likely to believe that it is a horse. Conversely, consider investing in professional help to review and upgrade your resume, LinkedIn profile and professional photo.
4. Task / Project Management Software
Kicking your performance into the next gear may fall down if your systems are not strong enough to keep up with you. Dedicated task / project management software like Nozbe and Asana can help you filter your view of what you could work on, based on your current context or desired horizon of focus. This kind of software can help you manage ‘promises’ – both those you make and receive – through to completion by helping avoid things falling through the cracks.
5. A Tickler File
A long-time standby in the productivity realm, a tickler file is a reminder system intended to act as an adjunct to your regular calendaring and scheduling system. Although there are several different kinds of tickler file, the most well-known (thanks largely to David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders) is the 43-folders system, with 31 numbered “day” folders and 12 labelled with the months of the year.
See http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/back-to-basics-the-tickler-file.html for more information.
You used to be able to buy one from http://gettingthingsdone.com
See http://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/tickler-file.html for DIY tips on how to make one yourself.
6. Appointment Scheduling Software
“Say goodbye to email tag for scheduling appointments, interviews, calls, demos and much more” promises Calendly, a leading online platform for helping people book a time to see or speak with you. You can find a list of 12 of the popular easy-to-use scheduling tool options at:
The Time & Money Wasters – Coaching Accessories You Don’t Necessarily Need
The great thing about coaching is that it works just as well remotely as it does face to face. In the ideal world it is great to meet your coach face to face within the first 3-4 sessions. However, at an executive level – time is money. Don’t feel the need to spend money or time on plane fares, petrol, parking, etc to obtain great value from engaging the right coach for you.
2. Dedicated Recording Devices
If you like the idea of being able to record and review your coaching sessions, don’t feel the need to purchase a dedicated recording device to do so. Modern smartphones work as well or better than traditional dictaphones for recording sessions.
In the ideal world, you might like to read The Economist and the Harvard Business Review – they help you cultivate and maintain a global perspective, appreciation of history and an open mind to new ideas. However, if you find yourself paying for subscriptions that you are not using, it doesn’t make sense. Reallocating that time and budget to your coaching sessions and homework could pay greater dividends.
4. An Underperforming Partner
One of the reasons people take on a business partner, Chief Operations Officer or General Manager is the loneliness of being the person with whom the ‘buck stops’. A coach can act as your professional partner and sounding board, without you having to carry them as a full-time employee or shareholder earning dividends. There are generally no recruitment fees or severances packages involved in working with a coach.
5. Unread Non-Fiction Books
I am a big fan of books, reading and learning. Yet research suggests that only about one third of books purchased actually get opened and read. See http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2015/if-you-sell-the-book-will-they-read-it/
Training + Coaching = Success
However, when people attend training (including reading a book) and then discuss how to implement their insights with a coach (who has ideally also read that book), engaging ideas get translated into more effective implementation.
Whilst this article was written with existing users of professional coaching in mind, it may also be helpful for those considering investing in paid coaching and mentoring programs.
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