The coach must understand from the initial inquiry why coaching is the selected development resource. Good questions include whether the individual has agreed and whether they're committed to their own growth. In addition, inquiries about the company culture and the potential client's reputation and image within that culture can help determine whether they really can be successful. Is other individual or team development going on, and if so why- and if not, what makes this individual special? Finally, what is the organization hoping will occur as a result of the coaching?
Fit, Contracting and Goal Setting
Coach/client fit or chemistry is critical to the success of an executive coaching relationship. Before committing to an engagement, the coach and client must meet and determine whether they feel they can work together- and assessing fit must be a two-way street such that either party has the opportunity to veto the arrangement if they perceive an issue. Once fit has been established, the coach and client must agree to ground rules and terms of engagement. Meeting frequency and duration, cancellation and no-show policies and agreements regarding confidentiality are typically part of this process.
Executive coaching occurs within an organizational context and so must include perspective from outside the individual client. This external perspective ensures that coaching goals and areas of focus are aligned with and relevant to organizational interests. An executive sponsor holds an accountability for the organization achieving a desired return on investment in coaching, however determined. The executive sponsor is ideally, but not necessarily, the client's direct reporting manager, and the coaching engagement is ideally begun with a three-way meeting to set goals and agree on areas of focus.
Follow a Predictable PatternA predictable pattern of meetings usually supports the client's needs best, particularly if behavior change is part of the mandate. Once the coaching meeting is understood as a standard part of the individual's routine, real momentum can be generated. Setting clear expectations as to the client's responsibilities for setting the session agenda and for completing assignments between sessions, and then holding the client accountable for upholding those commitments, will support accelerated progress towards goals.
Evaluate the Outcomes
If goals for the coaching work have been appropriately set at the outset of the engagement, it will be clear to the client when the coaching goals have been achieved. This may or may not be at the conclusion of the engagement period. An experienced executive coach can accurately assess the scope and scale of the expected deliverable of the engagement against the time frame and estimate what, if any, changes should be made to ensure the work is contracted for success and the goals are achievable within the desired period.
Agree to Next Steps
The final step in a successful engagement is a concluding meeting with the executive sponsor to confirm results and receive feedback on observable changes. This is an excellent opportunity for the client to request support to ensure success doing forward. Properly conducted, the final meeting is also an ideal venue for the coach to inquire as to further engagements within the organization, based on the success of the one just completed. The successful coach is not afraid to ask for more work based on having just demonstrated success, and if this step is done well you'll never have to make another cold call!