I recently returned from a farm tour, something always enjoyable for the blend of technology, heritage and family dynamics. While looking around the operation, I was drawn to the farm shop. This is odd in my case, as I honestly don’t find farm equipment that interesting. I don’t even own any tools of my own, unless you count a garden rake.
I studied the gleaming shine of the Snap-On cabinets with their bright red drawers standing as orderly as sentinels. I appreciated how all the items looked with their demure labels from floor to ceiling. The tools were grouped together by function and task.
The owner and his head mechanic were proud, and it was clear everything worked in tandem whenever needed. It was August—the shop floors were swept cleaner than a hospital surgery center—and the farm patiently awaited the fall season.
Operational Order. I realized what I loved about the shop was the process of things. Each tool had its own special place and there was a process for accessing the tool, using it and returning it for the next user. The system clearly met the operation’s needs and ensured they solved the problem or got to their destination as quickly as possible. With executive coaching, we are attempting to do the same thing. A process approach makes perfect sense for farm leaders who are navigating both their family members and their team of employees.
Create Your Own. Now that you know the process, you’re ready to interview your own executive coach or to implement a coaching program to develop young leaders in your own organization. You wouldn’t leave your shop a mess because you might end up searching fruitlessly for just the right tool when you are in a hurry. Nope, you would organize the best resources and keep them handy. The same goes for professional development. Before you start to put this kind of a program in place, develop a process, test it and find a way that works.
In my next column, we’ll meet some of your peers, farmers that are using the process of coaching and taking time out to focus on their operations.
Steps to Coaching Success
- Discover whether a coach will work for you. Ask for referrals and consider what you want out of the process. Approach the relationship as you would with other professional service providers. Realize the coach might also be interviewing you to determine if you’re a fit for their specific skills.
- Determine an engagement length. Coaching should be a finite process for a set amount of time. Consider the type of work you want to do. Are you looking to develop an employee, solve a short-term problem or work on long-term planning?
- Decide how to engage. Coaching requires, at minimum, voice-to-voice communication. Video conversations work even better. You could also certainly meet face to face. Factor in the location of the coach and the time you’ll spend together.
- Do some prework. When you hire a coach, you’ll be doing most of the work. Coaching is about moving through barriers to change and developing as a professional.
- Set goals. Coaching should be performance-based, which is why setting goals and milestones is critical for success. You’ll want to set specific goals that are achievable yet still a stretch.
- Complete ongoing assignments and internalize feedback. This is the meat on the plate when working with an executive coach. Expect weekly or at least biweekly assignments and feedback.
- Develop a plan for implementation and the future. When your coaching engagement formally ends, you should have an action plan moving forward. This could include something as simple as recommendations for further resources or even a business plan, if you made that part of the process.