Professional relationships with coaches and mentors have the potential to set your career onto a new trajectory—a better path for growth. That’s one of the primary reasons we created the Catalyst Coaching Corner. We want to connect people who are early in their customer success careers with those who have already been busy paving paths of their own.
As we get ready to make our first connections between the coaches and players (someone called them that and it stuck), we thought we’d take some time to talk about how to get the most out of a coaching or mentorship relationship.
There are a number of things that are important to take into consideration when receiving professional coaching or mentorship of any kind. The kinds of people who volunteer their valuable time to coach other professionals are doing so not out of self-interest, but out of a genuine desire to lift people up and see them progress in their lives and careers.
If your coach sees you moving forward, heeding their advice, and getting closer to your goals, it will have made their time investment in you worth it. Likewise, if your coach sees you stagnating and making little or no progress, they will feel that they are having no impact and it is not worth their time to continue coaching you.
Bearing this in mind, there are some important things you can do to optimize your coaching session(s), to aim for the best possible outcome for you and your coach.
Your coach is not being paid for the time they are spending with you. They have considerable experience in their field, and they are taking time out of their schedule to help you develop and grow, so it’s always important to show respect and gratitude in your interactions.
You should also be aware of and eliminate time wasters that may occur during your meetings, so that you can make the most out of the time you have.
Your coach is there to offer you tools and guidance, so you must be ready to take charge of your learning by asking thoughtful questions and actively participating in the conversation. You should absorb all the knowledge you can to ensure that conversations are not repetitive.
Take extensive notes during the discussion or record the session for later reviewing. Your coach needs to know they aren’t just having a conversation with you, after which you’ll forget 90% of what they said.
Make sure to send a thank you/summary email with key takeaways after each session.
Simply because you’ve been paired with a coach does not mean that you are the right person for them or that they are the right person for you. Trust and rapport must be developed and nurtured, and sometimes you’ll hit it off right away, and other times it will take some time. Once you have trust and rapport though, that’s when your sessions will become especially valuable for both you and your coach.
Successful coaching happens when you set realistic goals and expectations that are achievable. It’s great to discuss long-term goals, but in order for coaching to be effective, you need to set thoughtful short-term goals as well. It’s also important to set expectations during your first session so that your coach knows exactly what you hope they will be able to help with.
Your coach wants to be helpful, but it’s your job to tell them exactly how they can help. Write down as many specific questions as possible so that there’s no “dead” time in the conversation. Write down ideas you can share about projects, jobs, or strategies you’ve been thinking about, and have specific requests ready so that when they ask “how can I help?” you have suggestions ready to go.
This ties in with respecting your coach’s time. If you have a prepared agenda for each meeting, you are much more likely to stay on task and optimize the time you have together. Your coach will also be able to review it in advance to see if there’s anything they feel is missing from it, or anything on it they feel shouldn’t be.
A coaching relationship cannot be productive if you aren’t honest with your coach about how you’re feeling and how things are going. If some advice they gave you didn’t pan out, let them know and discuss the reasons why. If you feel like you’ve been making progress, but you don’t feel happy about the direction, again, let them know and discuss. If you only tell a coach what you think they want to hear, progress won’t be made.
Also remember to always be honest about the positive things too! If they gave you some advice and it was very effective, let them know! They will be excited to know things are working.
Your coach may be an incredible human being, but everyone has a limit to their knowledge and abilities. Make sure to focus on subjects and areas that you know this specific coach can help you. If you need guidance beyond that which your coach can give you, ask for their recommendations to find out who else you should reach out to for some coaching.
Coaching gives you the opportunity to have someone else committed to your progress and success. They will help you remove barriers, and often they will try to pull you out of your comfort zone. Leaving your comfort zone is often where the real work happens, so be open to trying new things and allowing yourself to take some risks and make some mistakes.
Your coach’s candid feedback will help you become more self-aware regarding your strengths and weaknesses. It is also a great opportunity to practice asking for specific feedback and being able to receive it without becoming defensive. This can be difficult in a workplace, but is much easier in a coaching relationship.
While we’ve received quite a lot of applications for the Catalyst Coaching Corner, you can still apply to join the waitlist. As we grow out our network of coaches, more opportunities to connect with a CS leader will come available. Apply here.