CXO

How to work with a personal coach to improve your leadership skills

Business leaders are often looked to for coaching and mentoring, but sometimes they're the ones who need it. That's where coaching can come in handy.

Often, individuals begin their management careers by being thrust into management roles after they demonstrate outstanding operational performance. Unfortunately, few companies prepare these new managers for management responsibilities. Worse yet, a crisis in leadership can become a personal trauma.

"I hate my job," said a manager-colleague last week as we were having coffee. "All I ever wanted to do was develop software, and now my company's asking me to manage it."

There are many individual like this in tech. Entrepreneurs innovate new products and then just as zealously set out to find a CEO or COO to run their companies. In other cases, individuals who are managing really do want to become the great managers that their companies expect them to be—but they are afraid of failing.

SEE: How to manage job stress: An IT leader's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

If you're operating in a management capacity, but find yourself needing coaching and mentoring, you may want to consider engaging a personal coach. Here are a few tips for doing so:

Know what you are looking for

One of the reasons managers pursue career and personal coaching is that they feel something is missing from their management styles and techniques, but they don't know what. A personal management coach can help you identify shortcomings in your management style and how to address them—but it's still good to have some idea of what your shortfalls might be before you engage an outside coach to help you. Having an idea of what you think the problems are is a great way to starting the conversation.

Seek measurable and results-oriented coaching

Manager coaching shouldn't be used just to make you feel better about your job — it should be intended to actually improve your performance and effectiveness. If your coach doesn't have a results-oriented methodology for coaching you, you will want look at other options.

One of the more established management coaching methods is goals-reality-options-will, or GROW.

GROW was first developed in the UK in the 1980s. In the process, the person being coached develops goals that they would like to attain, and identifies the obstacles that have prevented attainment. In step two, the person and coach look at the realities of the situation. In step three, the person works with a coach to discover options, such as what would happen if the obstacles didn't exist, or what else they could do, and in step four a specific goal attainment plan with timelines is developed.

Pursue your coaching in a trusted environment

I once worked alongside a vice president colleague who told me she asked the CEO for assertiveness training. She had many great ideas, was frequently drowned out in meetings, and it was beneficial for her and the company that she get the training. Unfortunately, she also ended up reinforcing her boss' opinions of her non-assertiveness by asking for the training.

If you are in a situation like this, it might be more advantageous for you to invest on your own in a career coach.

SEE: How to build a successful CIO career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Final remarks

Management consultant Peter Drucker once said, "Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing."

To get there, managers pursue coaching in areas that range from developing self-confidence in meetings and in interactions with others, to learning how to better balance their personal and professional lives.

By engaging with a personal coach, managers can attain better results—and that's good news for companies and employees, too.

Also see:

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About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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