Imagine being like an elite athlete and turning up to work every day knowing that your job is to make the most of having a coach working with you. That coach is there, every day focused mainly on helping you improve everything to do with your performance.

Those who excel are ready to get the most from their coach’s expertise and know they need to be an active participant in the design and execution of the training programme and process.

We’ve seen many times in sport where the relationship between coach and player or coach and team actually becomes a critical part of the performance recipe. Knowing the quality of the working relationship actually adds value in the heat of competition. It creates an extra layer of confidence that can make a critical difference when it matters most.

Given many organisations are now making business coaching programmes available, it’s worth being like the best athletes and know how to make the most of this key support.

So, having coached a lot of people in the business world, and the sporting world over the last 20 years, here’s the three most important things to make the most of any coaching you get:

1. Coaching is a collaboration

As the introduction suggests, your mindset about the role you play when working with a coach is key.

Creative director Marc Dolce coaches a group of adidas designers.

There are four recognised mindsets when it comes to coaching:

Mindset 1 – The Passenger

Imagine a sales person who has a coaching session and goes into the session simply expecting the coach to transport them to a destination of brilliant results. This sales person isn’t ready to contribute to the conversation. They’re seeing the coaching session as a vehicle and they’re simply a passive passenger wanting a nice easy ride to the kind of performance that the coach has in store for them.

Mindset 2 – The Navigator

A slight improvement here. Going into the coaching session, this kind of person tells the coach where they want to end up as a result of the coaching relationship or sessions. They then expect the coach to do the majority of the work in plotting the route and showing them ‘the way’.

Mindset 3 – The Driver

In this case, the performer is really clear where they’re going, how they’re going to get there and they’re crystal clear on telling the coach what they need from them. A driven performer, who’s not focused on engaging the expertise and experience of the coach. They’re more interested in demonstrating to the coach that they’re already a really good performer.

Mindset 4 – The Co-Driver

In this case, the performer is going into the coaching session or relationship with a desire to work collaboratively to determine a great place to end up. They focus on always working with their coach to understand existing foundations and share expertise, support and challenge to take the best possible next step. This is a partnership, where there’s a real sense of collaboration for the journey and the end destination. Knowing you’re going to need to drive, as well as be driven, is a vital mindset to set off with.

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You should aim to become the Co-Driver as it really sets you up to make the most of coaching.

2. Feedforward rules!

In sport, coaches and athletes usually have really important milestones to work towards. Whether that’s Olympic qualification or a key tournament in the future, the shared approach at any point in time along the way is focused on; a. The standard that will be needed in order to be ultimately successful, b. How the current standard compares to the standard being aimed for, c. What the right next step is for getting closer to the required standard.

Coaching for the best possible outcome.

The conversations are mainly focused on ‘this is where we are compared to where we need to be, so let’s focus this week on making x and y better’.

Feedforward is all about systematically growing your ability in the most relevant way possible, and you get regular confidence building reminders of what you’ve achieved so far. To make the most of coaching, be ready to get better at improving future performance in the most relevant way.

3. Coaching as if the scoreboard doesn’t matter

If you’re a Co-Driver and focused on using the power of ‘feedforward’, then the last recommendation is easy.

Imagine a situation where a sales person has just delivered their biggest ever deal and they’re talking excitedly with their coach about how their performance could have been even better, even though the scoreboard is showing a great win, and the coach is excited to build on this success to capture important learning that will keep progress happening.

Coaching will help you get the very best from your people.

Great performers and coaches are always inspired by ‘how good can we be?’, so their coaching emphasis doesn’t change based upon the level of disappointment or delight with a specific result.

When you’re ready to work with your coach to always identify the next opportunity for growth, whatever the result, you’re ready to make the most of a key relationship in your world of business performance, where there is no finish line.

Do you have experience of business coaching and making the most of it? I’d love to hear about getting the most from this relationship in the comments below.


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by Tim Bassford 04.09.2019
Great article Chris! I've enjoyed various relationships within the creative industry where I received coaching (whether formal or informally along the way )and there is nothing like the insight and objective analysis of another professional to help take you to that next level.
I think there is also something incomparably motivating about having someone you respect see what you're contributing and want to help take you to the next level. We can all grow so much more through the passion, insight and encouragement of others. Let's all look for more of these opportunities - to both give and take this kind of career boost!
by Chris Shambrook Tim Bassford 26.11.2019
Hi TIm,

The motivation ingredient is really important and in sport I've seen the coach-athlete relationship as a critical influence on performance - the more tight knit the collaboration, the greater the confidence going into competition. So, even when they're not together, to drive to perform to the best level possible stays strong.

Thanks for the comment.

All the best

by Paul Shanley 25.11.2019
Hi Chris,

I think this is an excellent article particularly for the coachee. I also really like the links to the different related areas giving great breadth to the subject matter, great all round, many thanks, Paul
by Chris Shambrook Paul Shanley 26.11.2019
Hi Paul

So much that's written about Coaching is for the coach. Millions are spent developing coaching cultures, but I've not seen too many places that do a great job of preparing the people who get to work with the coach to make the most of the opportunity!

Glad you enjoyed.

All the best

by trollope natalie 23.05.2022
This is a decent site I have arrived on. I'm dealing with turning into a executive coach and backing organizations to adaptability and productivity. Much obliged to you for sharing your experiences.