How to get the most out of executive coaching

Coaching can benefit any leader who wants to take their career to the next level. But it's priceless for somebody already performing at a high level.

At that level, it becomes challenging to get even incremental gains. Breaking through to the next level requires transforming into a different person.

Coaching exceptional leaders goes beyond acquiring knowledge or skills. You might still want to sharpen your executive presence, learn how to take space in any room or regulate your emotions in challenging situations. But often, what's holding you back is hiding deeper under the surface. Uncovering it involves re-examining your most precious beliefs.

This level of personal transformation is hard to achieve without professional support.

Choose the right coach

So, you decided that coaching is right for you. How do you get the most out of it? It starts with finding the right coach.

Imagine you're in a coaching session, and something doesn't quite feel right. You start questioning whether you can truly trust your coach. You wonder, "Is my coach really competent?" and "Are they being honest with me?". Moreover, you're not convinced that your coach genuinely cares about you.

Would you feel comfortable opening up and discussing your deepest dreams, goals, and desires with this coach? Or would you hesitate?

The relationship you can develop with your coach is the most important factor in your success with coaching (Schiemann, 2019). Their qualifications and approach matter too, but the relationship matters much more.

It might take a few sessions to assess whether it's going to work out. Be intentional when you go to those first sessions.

Do you feel safe sharing your challenges, and being open and vulnerable with them? Do you feel understood by your coach? Do they speak your language? Do you feel their presence and their undivided attention? Did they ask you something that made you think in a new way? Do you trust them to push you out of your comfort zone and guide you through the darker corners of your mind and toward your goals?

Create space for exploration

So, you've picked a coach, they have accepted you into their program, you started attending sessions, and even had a good couple of conversations about your goals and expectations.

Now, once your coach understands your goals, it's important to let go of any rigid agenda and allow the coaching process to unfold naturally. While it's natural to have specific outcomes in mind, being too fixated on a predetermined agenda can limit the potential for deeper exploration of underlying patterns and beliefs that shape your behaviors and decisions.

Embracing a more open and flexible mindset during coaching sessions allows for a dynamic and organic process to unfold. Your coach will skillfully navigate the sessions, asking thought-provoking questions, offering alternative perspectives, and encouraging self-reflection.

By giving up the need to control the direction of each session, you create a collaborative partnership with your coach, where both of you can engage in a co-creative process that leads to profound personal growth and development.

Be willing to feel discomfort

This deep transformational work is often uncomfortable, even painful. It's normal to resist accepting new information about yourself, it's normal to resist changing your habits and your routines.

I want you to know you’re not deficient or broken when you're feeling stuck or running in circles. What you're experiencing in those moments is the defense mechanism your brain puts up to protect you from what it perceives to be a threat.

But your brain is misfiring. It's running a program that's no longer helpful to you. And your growth and transformation lie on the other side of the discomfort.

Be willing to feel the discomfort and trust the coaching process.

Engage in the coaching process

Active participation and commitment are essential to truly maximize the outcomes of your coaching.

Reflection is your secret weapon for transformative growth. After each session, take the time to review your notes and session transcript, if available. What were your biggest takeaways? How do they align with your goals?

Next, take ownership of your personal development. Growth doesn't stop with insights, it starts there. Apply the insights, strategies, and new perspectives to your everyday life. Experiment, take risks, and learn from both successes and setbacks.

In conclusion, to get the most out of coaching:
  1. Choose the right coach for you. Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all solution but a personalized journey tailored to your unique needs and aspirations. Talk to a coach to determine if they'll be a good fit for you.

  2. Create the space for exploration. Let go of any rigid agenda and allow the coaching process to unfold naturally.

  3. Be willing to feel the discomfort. Deep transformational work is often uncomfortable. Give it time and trust the coaching process.

  4. Actively engage in the coaching process. Take the insights and put them into practice. Coaching is a partnership, but the real transformation happens when you take ownership of your growth.

So, embrace the coaching journey, be open, and take an active part. Together with your coach, you'll unlock your full potential and achieve the results you desire.

You've got this!


  • Sandra J. Schiemann, Christina Mühlberger, F. David Schoorman & Eva Jonas (2019) Trust me, I am a caring coach: The benefits of establishing trustworthiness during coaching by communicating benevolence, Journal of Trust Research, 9:2, 164-184, DOI: 10.1080/21515581.2019.1650751