The question of “when to use an executive coach” can seem tricky at first glance. It is also one that attracts numerous confusing explanations. Today, I offer three considerations: stuckness, willingness and importance, which provide a simple framework for answering this question.

Stuckness

The subjects that can be covered through executive and life coaching are vast —  ranging from practical topics such as improving professional relationships and career change, to more existential questions of fulfilment and spirituality. Whatever the surface manifestation of the problem, the underlying theme that binds coaching topics is usually some sort of “stuckness”. Stuckness that is being experienced by the person, either in their personal or professional life, or both.

stucknessStuckness often results in a feeling of not being able to move forward. Not being able to engage wholeheartedly in what you are doing and where you want to be. And, the precise cause of the stuckness will depend on the specific circumstances of the person.

For example, self-confidence is a common topic in coaching. In my work I have seen low confidence arising from such things as having had strict parents, the weight of self-expectations, and even confusion around what confidence actually means. The cause of the stuckness is different in each case, but the effect on the person is similar.

The purpose of coaching is almost always to support the person to understand what might be causing their stuckness, and how they might be able to release themselves and move forward. Often, simply having more clarity around what keeps them stuck allows people to find new and yet unseen paths forward.

Willingness

The basic premise of coaching is that the answer to the question lies within you. It is the coach’s job to help you uncover that, but you have to be willing. You have to be willing to engage in a process of introspection that requires you to ask yourself the tough questions. You have to dare to look beneath the surface. Coaching is not something that can be passively received. Coaching is a partnership built on openness and trust that requires active engagement from the coachee.

A coach may use numerous ideas and techniques during this process. For example, I like to use ‘creative’ ways of looking at a problem that go beyond simply sitting and talking. Others will have their own style. Whatever the approach, without a fully invested and engaged client, the coaching is unlikely to be effective. This brings us to the next consideration.

Importance

stucknessIf you have identified a particular stuckness, ask yourself how important its resolution is to you. I believe that if the topic doesn’t score at least 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, it is probably not suitable for coaching. Ideally, it scores a 9 or 10.

Without a strong motivation, you are less likely to, consciously or subconsciously, fully engage in the process.

Final Thoughts

Deciding when to work with a coach can feel tricky. Ultimately, it is a subjective assessment that you must make based on your knowledge of your circumstances. Remember the three considerations and ask yourself:

Is their a stuckness that I am experiencing in my personal or professional life?
Am I willing to ask myself the difficult questions?

How important is the resolution of that stuckness to me?

If the answers are “yes”, “yes” and “at least 7 or 8”, coaching could be right for you.

Find out more about Harsha’s work