A coach is not just for the ‘good times’

One thing I’ve noticed over the years about coaching in summer is my diary becoming less frantic with many clients away on holiday, while those I do meet seem to be more relaxed and have more time. The result is often a better quality of conversation than we might otherwise have had if the client’s diary was packed full with competing priorities.

It’s no surprise perhaps that an executive will prioritise the most urgent items on their schedule over the coaching conversation but – while I welcome the opportunity to coach when time is less pressured – it’s often at these busy times, and moments of crisis when coaching can add the most value. The problem is, with an executive under pressure to make decisions, coaching can seem to many like a personal indulgence; leaders often expect themselves to be self-reliant on their own experience making them reluctant to take external counsel and more likely to de-prioritise a coaching session in favour of dealing with the urgent and immediate.

Removing the experience blindfold

I’ve talked before about the ‘experience blindfold’ or allowing previous experiences to keep us in the tried and trusted instinctive response mode and therefore make us blind to the insights and opportunities of a different way, to watch, listen and learn from others. It’s at a time of crisis when we need to reflect, learn and challenge our own thinking.

Many leaders – particularly those new to the role – also experience impostor syndrome and self-esteem issues and, consequently, feel that talking to a coach is simply a tacit admission of a weakness or a failing. In reality it’s the opposite of showing weakness; the more a leader is open to expressing their fears and doubts, the more chance they have of making the right decisions.

Some leaders understand that and will prioritise speaking to their coach at difficult times to challenge their thinking on issues and to hone their decision making; believing that this investment of time will pay dividends both in the short term in the midst of a crisis, but in the longer term too.

Take the time

Having conversations with a coach can happen at any time, but they should not fall victim to a busy diary or a moment of crisis. So, while I’ll continue to enjoy those relaxed conversations in the summer, I believe that leaders investing time in having quality coaching conversations is vital whatever the time of year, or the busyness of the diary.