Updated: Mar 15, 2022
I’ve noticed some patterns about which founders seem to be growing the most from their coaching experience, so I thought I’d share with some tips with you on how to use your coach effectively, if you’re working with one.
Come with an agenda.
You can either look backwards or forwards, but you’ll get the most out of your time if you come to each session with timely topics you want to discuss. You can deconstruct something that has already happened and figure out how to do it better in the future. For example: Did you have an uncomfortable meeting with a colleague and want to understand why it went sideways? Did you leave your last board meeting feeling like you didn’t crush it? You can work with your coach to proactively prepare for something that’s coming up, like a team retreat that's coming up. Any of these are great items to bring to your coaching session.
If you really want to learn and grow, you’re going to have to show your coach some vulnerability. This means you need to be willing to open up about makes you uncomfortable, what you wish you knew more about, and what keeps you up at night. So much about being a founder in an early stage biotech company is about de-risking yourself and your team - and often that means that you need to appear confident, calm, and in control. But you don’t have to be that way with your coach. Your coach is bound by confidentiality, so you can let your hair down and be honest during your time together. If you feel like you can’t do that, you may want to look for a different coach; you’ve got to trust your coach.
troubleshoot OR VENT?
One of my clients finally opened up to me the other day. He was really frustrated by one of his board members and was worried that telling me about it would sound like whining or complaining. I told him that it's totally okay to vent! CEOs typically don't have many safe people with whom they can share their frustrations and conflict; a coach is a great person with whom you can let out some steam. Sometimes you just need to empty your bucket. When you decide you want to take action about something that bothers you, however, that changes the situation from complaining to troubleshooting, which is a great way to use your coach. Together, we can better understand the situation, explore different ways to manage it, and make improvements. We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves. It's often really helpful to check in with yourself to see if you want your coach to solely listen - or if you want to get in there and use the experience as a learning opportunity.
Track AGENDA ITEMS between sessions.
It may help to keep a log of topics you want to discuss with your coach in between sessions. If you’re still thinking about that meeting or that conversation, it’s helpful to talk about it. You can also take a look ahead at what’s coming and jot down a few notes of things you want to learn about - like tips on hiring diverse candidates or communicating a big change coming up for your team. It's also really helpful to share if you tried something new, it's incredibly helpful feedback for us coaches to know what you tried out - and how it went. The more proactive you are about thinking about what you want to learn, the more value you’ll get from your coach.