"Kristi brings a positive, contagious energy to any room she enters. Her event on effective public speaking really connected, with her purposeful message and relevant examples. The presentation was interactive and engaging; every person left with a tangible takeaway. She made a point to understand her audience, and she challenged each of us to improve our public speaking. We could easily look to Kristi to provide a regular professional development series for our group!"

Jordan McCarthy, Corie Edwards, Co-Chair, Urban Land Institute, SF

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Exceptional Leaders: Are You Coachable?

(posted: February 16th, 2023)

The best athletes have coaches. Actors, singers, and other elite performers have coaches, whether they are working long-term on general skills, or are focusing on specific situations (think: dialect coaches) they know the value of having someone they can trust by their side.

Executive coaching for leaders and leaders-to-be is similar, helping a talented executive grow their skills and abilities so that they can be the best possible version of themselves in their jobs.

However, coaching is a collaborative process. As the leader being coached, you will derive the most benefit if you actively participate in the goals and are open to experimenting with new ideas.

Coaching vs Therapy

I'm often asked if coaching isn't just a form of therapy, talking about problems and things that need fixing.


To put it succinctly, therapy is about recovery, coaching is about discovery.

And if you are willing to go all in and participate in the discovery process, then you are coachable!

Working with a coach is an active process. Having a coach is like getting a bonus set of eyes and ears. They offer a different perspective, help evaluate our actions, and offer the opportunity to consider new possibilities. What I see again and again is that the coach acts as a catalyst, accelerating our learning and increasing the connection with our inner wisdom.

Because executive coaching is such an active, and interactive, process, it helps to understand what you can do to get the most from it.

How to be a Good Coaching Client

First, take the time to find someone you trust. This person is going to be your sounding board, your advisor, your champion, and your mentor. You definitely want to make sure that you are comfortable with them, and that you trust them. This may require talking to several different coaches before you find "yours". That's okay! This is important work.

Once you've found your coach, make sure to tell your coach everything - the more they know about you the better they can support you. Yes, you’ll want to talk about the big things, like where you are now and where you want to be, but talk about the smaller, more personal things too. This especially includes the "shame gremlins" - those nasty little voices in your head. You know, the ones that tell you things like "you're not smart enough" "you don't know what you're doing" etc.

You'll need to be willing to let go of preconceived notions and make a conscious choice that you will be coachable.

To be coachable you need to be:

  • action oriented
  • willing to accept guidance
  • able to accept different ways of doing things
  • willing to consider different perspectives
  • patient - this is not an overnight process! Getting the results you want will take time, effort, and sometimes, experimentation.

Create a roadmap that you can refer back to over the course of your coaching engagement. This will help guide you and your coach along the way.

Be vulnerable. I can’t emphasize this enough! This process will only work if you can be humble and vulnerable. Admit mistakes, recognize that things will only change if you are willing to accept that you are not always right.

Notice what you are avoiding. What is the last thing you feel like talking about? This is often going to be the area that needs the most attention!

What is the one thing? Before each coaching session, ask yourself, "If I could only work on one thing, what would it be?"

As your coach, my version of that is often, "What is the highest value dream or challenge we can work on today?"

Getting the Most from Executive Coaching

One of the big questions I ask my coaching clients is, "Can you make coaching the top priority in your life?"

It’s important to note that it's not just the coaching that you are prioritizing, you are prioritizing positive change and powerful personal transformation in YOU.

When you commit to the process you are sure to benefit greatly from it!

More ways to ensure you benefit from your coaching include:

  • Action Steps: You want to end every coaching session talking about and documenting what specific things you will do before the next session.
  • Integration Hour: Immediately after your session, take time to review your notes, your to-do list and/or action items. You may feel inspired and full of new ideas, so write them down.
  • Evaluate Periodically: Take the time to look at where you were and how far you've come over the course of your coaching. Do you see positive changes and growth? Then you are on the right track.

Executive Coaching for the Win

Keep the momentum going. Like an athlete, you will eventually level up your skills with help from your coach. But don't stop there. There are always new challenges and new skills to master. Every small change creates a ripple effect and you end up in a totally different space than when you started with your coach. Look at where you were, and compare it to where you are now. If you have a good relationship with your coach and you are progressing, that's your ROI. Maintain that relationship and that trajectory and continue to build your "A-game"!

Challenge Yourself
  • Have you worked with an executive coach? If so, what was your experience like?
  • What would you do differently with a coach now?
  • What other best practices have you found to be helpful in working with a coach?
  • Please share your thoughts and additions in the comments below.

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