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Learn a bit more about coaching, how to get started, and what you can expect.

What is coaching like?

Coaching is a series of conversations and guided exercises. It can be conducted over the phone, through video chat, or in person in the Bay Area. The most important thing is that the space makes you feel comfortable. It is typical to meet once a week, though that can vary based on the needs and schedule of clients.

In the initial conversation, we outline some goals and issues to focus on, and then build a coaching plan based on that. Subsequent coaching sessions last about an hour. Often, each coaching session will focus on a specific skill — such as communicating with empathy or turning conflicts into collaborations. However, that will just be a jumping off point for a larger conversation.

Because I incorporate a number of guided exercises in coaching, it is useful for us to be able to share a screen or notebook.

Note that coaching only works if you’re willing to put effort into it. You must be willing to engage deeply, ask yourself difficult questions, examine issues from new perspectives, and ultimately be open to change. When we have a coaching session, I’m investing time and energy into you and your future—and I need you to join me in that investment by being fully present, engaged, and as open as possible.

Coaching is not therapy.

Coaching isn’t therapy. It is not a way to fix deep psychological issues, deal with unresolved past trauma, or address addiction. Therapy—by a licensed professional—is a much more appropriate way to handle those major issues.

Management and leadership coaching is focused primarily on skills you will need in your career, though of course those skills may also be useful in your personal life. Coaching provides you with a sounding-board, a support system, and an outside perspective on complex career challenges. It will also give you specific skills and methodologies for considering problems, improving your communication techniques, and becoming a stronger manager. Having these skills and this support may well reduce your anxiety and stress, but coaching is not and cannot be a replacement for professional therapy.

The initial session

If you are curious about coaching, then it’s easy to get started. We just meet for 30-60 minutes for an initial consultation, either over the phone, over video call, or in person in the Bay Area.

During this initial session, we’ll complete an initial questionnaire designed to identify areas of stress or unease in your life, areas of challenge and opportunity, and places where we can focus our work. The questions are designed as starting points to begin a dialogue between us. I’ll also explain a bit more about how coaching works, my techniques, and my philosophy.

After the initial session, we’ll each decide if coaching is a good fit for us. You’ll decide whether you think I can be helpful to you and whether the coaching is something you’ll find beneficial, and I’ll also let you know if I think my coaching will be useful. There are some issues — such as deep psychological distress — which are beyond my abilities as a management coach. In such cases, I might refer you to a psychologist or therapist, or to a different type of coach. I only want to see clients when I feel confident that my services will make a positive impact in their lives and career. If I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that for your particular challenges, I’ll let you know and do my best to suggest a more productive route.

Who can benefit from leadership coaching?

Lots of people can benefits from leadership training. I build my coaching services around your needs and goals, and so the experience is customized to your particular challenges and opportunities.

Executive directors and C-level executives

Perhaps more than anyone in an organization, executive directors and top level managers need a sounding board and support as they navigate complicated choices daily. Coaching can help EDs and senior leadership develop a warm and strong management approach, think critically about the challenges they are facing, cultivate self-awareness, and take their organization to the next level.

Mid-level managers

Often struggling with issues like burn out and stress management, mid-level managers can benefit from the support and self-awareness that leadership coaching provides. This could include improving productivity on your team, creating a strategic vision for your career and your team, and addressing serious problems within your team or organization.

First time managers

Often balancing new responsibilities and old expectations, first time managers are far more likely to be successful if they are given a coach to assist them on the way. Management training can teach first time managers clear communication techniques, how to “manage out” problem employees, how to recruit effectively, time management and delegation, and how to cultivate a personal leadership style.

Individual contributors

I believe those who are not serving as direct supervisors can benefit a great deal from this type of training. In a modern work environment, individual contributors may utilize management best practices and strategies when dealing with coworkers, collaborators, or their own supervisors. Also, learning management techniques can help someone manage a project to successful completion now and lay the groundwork for taking on a supervisory role later. Even if you never become a manager, learning to communicate clearly and compassionately, inspiring collaboration instead of adversity, and developing self-honesty are tools that can help you in your career.

How does this fit with scrum?

Scrum is a structure for project management that works great for building software projects and has a range of uses in nontechnical work products. I think agile development is a wonderful technique that teams should experiment with and adopt if they find it useful.

While I’m a fan, I don’t teach scrum. Instead, I focus on developing personal value systems, improving communication techniques, analyzing management challenges, and supporting leaders in their growth. Leadership coaching is a great complement to an agile structured work environment.