Part I: Tools To Help You Get The Most Benefit From Your Career Coach

Originally Published Feb. 20, 2018

Like with any relationship, finding the right partner can be a process. And, the same can be said when looking for the right career coach. Furthermore, fostering and managing the relationship with them is extremely important. For part two of the Women of Power series, “Yes, You Need a Career Coach”, Marsha Haygood, founder of StepWise Associates L.L.C., shares how women can nurture relationships with career coaches for success.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship

Getting to know someone can be nerve-wracking, especially when the person is supposed to help you solve problems. And, that is why establishing a trusting relationship with a coach is key.

“It really is a close relationship built on trust. No. 1, it’s the confidentiality part. And secondly, I have to feel comfortable enough as a coach to give you honest feedback. And, you have to be comfortable enough to accept it. And, that takes time.”

When putting yourself in the position to be coached, it is important to be open to the process of trusting your coach. They can only go as far you let them. And, you want to make sure that success is the end goal.

Be open to feedback

Oftentimes, women have negative experiences in the workplace that can make them more resistant to receiving feedback and being open but Haygood suggests that remaining eager to grow despite the experience of being “beat up” will help you along the way.

“Sometimes we don’t want to hear about the blind spots, know, or believe, the blind spots, we’ve never heard about those blind spots…,” says Haygood. Simply put, “If you don’t have a trusting relationship, then you don’t want to hear feedback. And that can be an issue.”

As a coach, she says that you have to be open enough to hear whatever the feedback is, then evaluate what you’ve heard. One way to practice this is to share feedback you have received with people you are close to who will be honest with you.

Haygood remembers the first time she received surprising feedback at work and now she uses that moment to teach women how to not to be offended by critical feedback.

“When I was working in the corporate arena, I had a year-end evaluation and it was a 360 feedback forum (when a lot of managers and co-workers are giving feedback anonymously). One of the things that kept coming up in my evaluation was that I could sometimes be sarcastic. I said, ‘I don’t understand.’” She still remembers how shocked and in disbelief she was. “And, it happened to be over the holiday weekend and my family was there so I shared it with them. I told the story and I shared the feedback and said, ‘I don’t think that I’m sarcastic’ and everybody’s head went down! And, I said, ‘Really?’ and they said, ‘Hmm, sometimes you can lay it on pretty thick.’” Haygood said that she had never heard that before but if she wasn’t open to feedback it would have hindered her.

Learn to be strategic

What you need to ask yourself is, “What am I going to do with this information?” In Haygood’s book, The Little Black Book of Success, she encourages women to implement the 24-Hour Rule. That rule advises women not to respond to feedback right away.

“You don’t have to respond right away because you don’t want to respond in an emotional way but in a strategic way. You want to be strategic and not emotional and it will help you grow,” says Haygood.

In sharing your feedback with a coach, they can help you figure out ways to have a conversation with your employer if you don’t agree with what was said, think about ways that you can make it a routine to not be that way, or at least to recognize when you are being that way. It is also important to note that receiving professional feedback can help you measure your performance and excel.

“I’m optimistic about almost everything. No matter the situation I can see opportunity all over the place. You learn that and you get the wisdom from being strategic,” says Haygood.

There are different coaches for different phases of life

When building with a coach, it is important to remember that they are your strategic learning partner. And, of course, the aspects of your relationship with them can evolve. There are different coaches for different phases of your life. “I’ve had clients for 10 years at a time. That doesn’t mean that I’ve been coaching them for 10 years but they started off coaching with me, and then, they started living out that process and they check in with me from time to time,” says Haygood.

Although everyone’s journey is different, it goes without saying that building a solid relationship with a coach takes time. If you have identified a career coach since part one of this series, and want to learn how to ask for what you want with them, stay tuned!