Of course, coaching is not magic, and it won't turn you into a CPO overnight. As with any learning experience, coaching can be challenging and, at times, frustrating. Here are a few things to remember to ensure you get value from your coaching engagement.
Coaching starts with a desire to change something, so knowing what you want is an essential first step. The entire coaching engagement will revolve around your goals, and the coach's job will be to help you attain them. As noted before, these goals do not have to be ambitious by some abstract corporate standards, but they have to have meaning to you. Also, it is okay if your goals are not fully fleshed out — the coach will help you crystallize them. Still, having an idea about what you want to change is what makes coaching more than a casual conversation.
Coaching sessions need to happen at least twice a month; otherwise, you may lose momentum between them. Therefore, it is important to plan your coaching engagement when you can fulfill this time commitment for at least three months (standard duration of a coaching "sprint"). Some work will also happen in between sessions (more on that below), and it is critical to make time for that too. Try not to turn coaching into another regular call with no agenda, no conclusions, and no consequences — there are enough of those already.
Get ready to explore
Coaching works through reflection: reflection on your goals, reflection on strategies to achieve them, reflection on learning from recent events, etc. This process requires concentration and active thinking, and while the coach will facilitate the process, they cannot do the work for you. Thus, you should be ready for intellectually demanding sessions with no ready-to-use answers.
Prepare to be frustrated with your coach.
You should pick a coach that you like and respect. A trusting and respectful relationship is critical to being able to collaborate, explore, share doubts and celebrate wins. Yet, there will come a time when your coach pisses you off. They will ask a question that is uncomfortable to answer, challenge you to do something outside of your comfort zone, or blurt out an intuition you disagree with. As annoying as they might be, these moments are the most conducive to growth: not only do they make you stretch yourself, but they also invite you to explore your reactions to these situations. So, prepare to be frustrated with your coach from time to time.
Prepare to work in between sessions.
As interesting as coaching conversations may be, real change happens offline. Coaching is action-oriented: at the end of every session, you and your coach will decide on the next step toward your goals. That next step can be practical (like having a conversation with your manager or setting up a research initiative) or reflective (thinking through an inquiry). These small steps taken every week bring results in coaching, and it is critical to dedicate time to them. You and your coach can always negotiate to make them manageable, but you cannot negotiate your way out of action.
To conclude, although coaching cannot make you into an executive overnight, it can advance your career— if you prepare to make it work. To set yourself up for productive work, start by envisioning your goals. Next, clear a few hours a month in your calendar to meet with your coach. Be ready to think and explore during the sessions and to be pissed at your coach from time to time. Finally, prepare to work in between sessions because that is when real change happens.