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How to get the most from coaching

Decide what you want to achieve

Decide why you want a coach and what you would like to achieve. The coaching process begins at this point, and just by asking the question you begin to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Do not worry if the answer is unclear, it is the coach's job to help to clarify this.

Work with your organisation

Try to be open and clear with your employer as to why you want a coach and build it into your personal development plan. This will help you define what your developmental gaps are and how a coach may help. Ask human resources to help you find a coach and involve them throughout, or if they are promoting the idea, make sure they include you!

Select your coach with care

Go to a reputable supplier: a university, renowned company or trusted colleague who recommends an individual. Check out the coaches' response to you; are they professional and focused? Do you feel heard, comfortable and trusting of this person? Are they helping you clarify your needs from the outset? Anxiety about seeking a coach is normal; but do not be put off by it.

Tips for contracting

a) With the coach

Be realistic about the time commitment. You cannot change behaviour patterns in a few hours. Shorter interventions may help with specific challenges.

Contract for four to six sessions then plan a review, and contract for longer periods if satisfied. Agree clear objectives, but be prepared to revise these as the coaching reveals other needs. Be clear about money, time and venue: Venue needs to be private (off-site is best)and without interruptions. Confidentiality is vital.

b) With the organisational sponsor

Be clear how any feedback from coaching sessions will be managed. Your coach should help with this.

Leadership coaching is a core element in the induction programme for principals and chief executives offered by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership. Coaching at the start of the programme helps assess development gaps and learning styles and maximise learning opportunities. Most importantly, it helps leaders focus on implementing learning and change in their organisations. The coach will focus on:

* Successful teamwork

* Clearer strategic goals

* Improved problem-solving

* Better decision-making

* More ideas and options

* Challenging existing patterns which stifle learning

* Leading with confidence

* Motivation

Most of all, the coach is there to remind leaders that "leadership is about people: inspiration, motivation and revelling in difference".

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