“As often as needed.”
Ah, there’s the rub. Once we become competent at something, we seldom recognize when we have a need related to that something. We may have an inkling that an objective outsider might help broaden our perspective or deepen our understanding… but things seem to be going well enough, and then there’s the time it takes to meet and to follow up. Whew, later.
The Learning Cycle Model
This Learning Cycle Model is a helpful lens for determining what type of executive coaching is needed and at what frequency (While the concept has been around for decades, this particular graphic representation of it from SideSalad helps make it more digestible.):
Most people assume executive coaching is needed when they find themselves in quadrants 1 or 2; the word ”incompetence” almost cries out for a relevant coach to come alongside. An employee in one of these quadrants would benefit from a executive coach (or a mentor) on an almost weekly basis. However, every two weeks is usually more manageable. A biweekly rhythm allows more time for applying and testing the insights from a previous session. The frequency can be adjusted as experience is gained and competence becomes more conscious.
Interestingly, a humble, competent person will usually recognize that a regular coaching rhythm is helpful even after a new skill-set is learned. This is because humans are dynamic beings and when many of them are brought together within a team, department, or organization, those dynamics multiply exponentially.
When an individual finds themselves in quadrant 3 or 4, it is often easy to assume coaching is no longer needed. The job is getting done well, the outcomes are on target or exceeding expectations, relationships seem healthy and mutually edifying… and the sun is shining! This is when the most benefit is gained from meeting with a truly objective, fully present, and courageously compassionate executive coach. Top-performing athletes, musicians, and other professionals seek input and insights from objective observers who are undaunted by the expertise or celebrity of the person seeking their input.
They know there is always something to improve. Sometimes those improvements are effectively pointed out through direct feedback. Sometimes it requires a thought-provoking or profound question. If you find yourself in quadrant 3 or 4, direct feedback is helpful… and a profound question can be invaluable. A profound question can lead to immediately deepened insight, raised awareness, and strengthened resolve. It can also continue to do its work well after the actual coaching conversation has ended.
And that is the point. The frequency and framing of executive coaching depends on ones’ degree of competency relative to a given scenario… but the cycle of learning is exactly that, a cycle. Keep it going as long as you have any signs of life.