Transitioning from CEO to Coach

It’s not easy making the switch from the C-suite to executive coaching. Joanne Brooks has been there and done it, but she admits that it wasn’t without its challenges. 

Despite having worked in leadership positions for over 20 years, she found that transitioning from an executive role to a coaching one was no mean feat. In this blog post, Joanne shares five of the biggest mistakes coaches can make when transitioning from the C-suite to executive coaching – as well as advice on how to avoid them.

You’re a Coach not a Consultant

Trust and authenticity are at the heart of any executive coaching engagement. This is much different from a transaction-based consulting relationship in which a client pays somebody to provide an answer to their pressing problem. As Joanne so aptly put it, ‘Consultants answer your questions. Coaches question your answers.’

The long-term relationship between a coach and mentee is built upon trust, sincerity, and active listening on the part of both parties; something that does not typically take place in the conventional consulting context.

Executives should be aware of the distinction between coaching and consulting, as engaging with the wrong person could impede the growth expected from such a relationship.

Drop the ego

Confidence is important in executive coaching but leaving the ego at the door is essential. Effective Coaches remember that they are not the hero in this journey – the client is.

Coaches must be able to bring confidence without letting their ego get in the way and it’s necessary for them to be able to admit when they are wrong, rather than taking it personally.  

Letting go of self-importance can coaches free to their own path to success.

Accept you DO NOT know it all

Curiosity and open-ended questioning are at the core of any coaching relationship. Coaching is not about having all the answers, it’s about listening carefully, being open to unexpected opinions, seeing things from different perspectives and learning together.

Joanne believes that a coach should approach every interaction with an attitude of humility. This allows for continuous growth in both parties by allowing them to share hard-earned wisdom born from experience and novel insights which may contradict what they already know.

True coaching is not finite; it is an ongoing and ever evolving relationship between two minds striving become their best.

Failing to be flexible

As a coach, balance is key. On one hand, structure provides a framework for both you and your mentees to stick to, but it is equally important to remain flexible. It’s all about growth; allowing your mentees to do the hard work and figure out their goals and solutions for themselves.

Showing too much rigidity in approach stops these conversations from blossoming into collaborative learning moments that could serve them better in the long run.

With a balance between structure and flexibility, coaches create an environment where mentees can self-reflect and grow – which is the goal!

Flexibility is essential for executive coaches to reach their highest potential. Show up mentally present and ready to offer a compassionate ear during hard times; go beyond your initial plan by extending meeting lengths when needed or adjusting plans as the situation dictates.

It may take extra effort on your part but with it brings an opportunity create meaningful connections that can last long into the future.

Holding the Silence

Honesty is the foundation of any successful coach-client relationship, which means that coaches should never shy away from difficult conversations.

Invite your mentees to find courage together and speak candidly without fear or ulterior motives. Embrace uncomfortable silences as a chance for poignant reflection; ask questions until you get what’s truly within.

You can’t sugar-coat anything, and If it’s going to be a difficult conversation, it’s always good to start with, ‘I think both of us is going to find this a bit difficult.

Quality coaching isn’t about telling clients what they want to hear, after all they are you to tell them what they need to hear.

Making the transition from a career in the C-suite to becoming an executive coach can be immensely rewarding, but it is not without potential pitfalls. To ensure their transition is as smooth as possible, coaches should take the time to consider how best to serve their clients’ needs authentically.

By taking into account their individual skills and experience, as well as the unique challenges of their professional transition, coaches can avoid any unnecessary mistakes that could prevent them from delivering real value to those they serve.

With careful planning and being mindful of navigating any transition effectively, executive coaches can reach new heights in this exciting profession.

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