What Exactly Do You Do During Coaching?

I do not solicit testimonials from coaching clients but recently received a copy of one client’s voluntary summary of her experience with the coaching program sponsors. I think it is a useful reflection on the coaching experience from someone who did not know what to expect from coaching. Therefore, it may be of use to others considering coaching. We worked together for about 20 one-hour sessions spread over 18 months. The coaching was entirely by phone. During this time the coachee applied for and was promoted to a position at the national level of the agency and used coaching to successfully make the transition. To further add value to her new group she volunteered as a member of a three person employee engagement council and used coaching to help her design activities the council used with its national workforce:

Good morning Audrey –

I was given your name as the contact for the Agency’s Executive Coaching program and wanted to pass along a few comments, now that my coaching sessions have concluded.  I didn’t think it would be right to let my experience come to a close without sharing the impact it had for me!

  1. This is an excellent program for Agency staff, and I hope it will be continued.  I had a great experience, and a wonderful coach (Ira Chaleff).
  2. I appreciated the opportunity to have open conversations with someone outside the Agency, who could be an impartial observer and resource and whose sole focus during our conversations was my professional development.
  3. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we started, and when someone recently asked me ‘what exactly do you do during these sessions?’, my first response was ‘well, he asks a lot of questions!’.  And that’s been a great thing.  He was always prepared with thoughtful and insightful questions, that caused me think about things differently than I might have otherwise.
  4. Along with good questions, Ira was also prepared to share meaningful insight that was relevant to my situation, or in response to questions I’d asked him.  This practical insight and willingness to share his wisdom and experience were greatly appreciated, because he could share from experiences and knowledge obtained outside a career with our Agency and that perspective only helped to expand my own understanding of things.
  5. The individualized attention was invaluable.  Even for those of us with good Agency managers (I’ve been with two supervisors during my coaching experience, and both have been supportive of this process), the inherent nature of the coaching relationship makes it very individualized and focused on development for the sake of development.  Good supervisors can and should be invested in employee development as well, but in fairness to them (as a former supervisor myself), it’s difficult to always separate needs as a supervisor (e.g. – needing the employee to perform well, meeting goals and expectations set my upper management, etc), from the best interests of the employee.   Hopefully the supervisor’s needs and the employees best interests converge of course, but a coaching relationship removes that buffer if you will, and allows the coach to focus solely on the employee.  Not many of us can get that kind of individualized attention in our professional careers, but it’s beneficial when it can happen.

I’m grateful to the Agency for providing this opportunity, to my supervisors who have been supportive, and to my coach who was fantastic.  Great program, well worth the Agency’s investment in my opinion!