istock-woman-shoutingFor the past 12 months or so I have added coaching services to my business, and have been helping successful executives become more effective.

There is a lot of mystique surrounding coaching, but it is a relatively simple, common sense process. I have set out 8 steps below for you to improve your own performance.

You do not necessarily need anyone else to make these things happen, but, for most of us, an external partner helps. The two areas where I have been able to add most value are:

  • Improving self-awareness. Before setting priorities you should first understand what you would like to achieve with your life or career, and where you currently are in relation to these top level goals. An external perspective or questioning that a coach can bring can help you start to see the wood for the trees.
  • Holding people accountable. Steps 5 and 6 below are about working with someone else to keep your feet to the fire, as well as helping you understand when you’ve made progress.

Here are the 8 steps:

  1. Clarify your top 3 priorities. What are the areas that you can drive forward to help you achieve your wider goals? Don’t automatically focus on your perceived weaknesses. Take time to assess what will have the greatest impact. If you build on your strengths it is likely that you will make more progress. Why 3 priorities? The point is to focus, make big progress on a few points and then take on your next challenges. It could be two, it could be four, but five or six priorities are generally too many.
  2. Turn your priorities into specific, achievable objectives. “Learning the piano” may be one of your major ambitions, but to move forward you need to turn this goal into more prosaic objectives. A goal of having 10 piano lessons in the next 3 months makes this goal real and helps you create action.
  3. Set up a 60 or 90-day plan to deliver your goals. You can get a lot done in 2 or 3 months if you maintain focus and commitment. Break down each objective into weekly milestones and commit to them.
  4. Make delivery of these plans non-negotiable. Make sure that these milestones are your top priorities. Fit other activities around them, not vice versa. A good way to make this is happen is to…
  5. Find an accountability partner. Being accountable to a third party keeps your feet to the fire, and helps you to keep your promises. Your partner shouldn’t be a friend, or a shoulder to cry on, but someone whom you trust and who is willing to give you honest, objective feedback.
  6. Monitor your performance. If, for example, you wish to improve your ability to delegate, set yourself daily goals and write a brief journal each evening on what you did well and where you missed an opportunity. Compare your own views of your performance with feedback from others you trust. As you become more aware of your performance you will rapidly improve it.
  7. Reward yourself. As you achieve your goals and plans (and even as you complete difficult tasks) take the time to reward yourself. This need not involve a huge financial outlay, but could be leaving early from work one day to spend more time with your family, or enjoying a nice coffee.
  8. Rinse and repeat. Once you’ve achieved success repeat the process and, over time, you will transform your personal effectiveness.

© Stuart Cross 2010. All rights reserved.