You’re finishing six months of leadership coaching, and you, your manager, and your coach all declare that you’ve made significant progress on your goals. Congratulations, but…now what? How can you make sure coaching goals stick once the coach is gone? Here are some practical ways to ensure that all that hard work and those excellent outcomes don’t walk out the door with the coach:
1) Use tried-and-true goal-setting strategies (or maybe try some new ones. The SMART objectives acronym is a time-tested, successful way of concretizing your coaching goals. There are also a host of new technologies can help you stay true to your goals and make it fun in the process. Taking time to plan out your future strategy can make a huge difference in sticking to the same kind of rigorous plan you had during coaching.
2) Build internal coaches before the coaching ends. Ideally, your coaching hasn’t been in a vacuum; throughout, you’ve probably involved others in helping you understand your impact and gauge progress against your goals. Seek out one or two people that you trust and ask them to help you stay accountable to progress on those goals. Perhaps you set up a peer accountability program with a colleague or make it a part of your work with your mentor. Before coaching ends, talk your strategy through with your coach; you might invite your internal coach into some end-stage discussions with your current coach to create a seamless transition.
3) Make coaching progress part of your performance review. Scary? It shouldn’t be. The goals you set in coaching are undoubtedly tied to your performance efforts, explicitly or implicitly. For example, if coaching has focused on improving your delegation skills, any previous deficit in delegation skills has shown up in some form in your team’s performance, your leadership performance, or both. So, own the development and request that your manager helps you remain true to your commitments to improve. Doing so will create some self-induced pressure, which, as the Yerkes-Dodson Law tells us, can help with performance. It can also raise your leaders’ awareness of the leadership progress you’ve been making, enhancing your visibility.
4) Teach what you’ve learned to others. One of the best ways to retain learning is to teach that learning to others. Let’s say your coaching work has focused on finding your voice and articulating your point of view; who on your team or in your organization might benefit from your lessons learned there? Perhaps you could present what you’ve discovered at your next team meeting. Or maybe you act as a guest speaker in an affinity group or on your company’s podcast. Could you teach your learning to a teen girls’ entrepreneur group in your community? By preparing and giving voice to your experiences and the changes you’ve made, you are more likely to believe in them yourself and continue to seek mastery.
5) Make it a family affair. Hopefully, you’ve already been sharing with people in your personal life about your professional coaching goals. If not, now is the time to do so. We sometimes assume that our partners, friends, children, siblings, or parents couldn’t possibly understand how to support us in our work goals. But often, the qualities we are working on in coaching (e.g., being a better listener, doing less micromanaging, managing our reactions) are equally apparent in our personal life. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying, “You take yourself with you wherever you go.” Invite those closest to you to give you constructive feedback when they observe behavior that is counterproductive to your goals. They are sometimes all too happy to do so. Bruised ego aside, you can then transfer that learning back into the workplace.
While coaching may stop, your growth doesn’t have to. It might take a little creativity, some outside help, and much discipline, but you can extend your goal success far beyond the coaching dyad. Keep building that success story.