Coaching Through Transitions

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Alison Laichter is a meditation teacher, urban planner, community organizer, and the founder of the Jewish Meditation Center. She's a former Brooklynite now happily living in sunny, southern California.

I applied for a Micro Grant to enable me to work with an executive coach as I worked through career transitions. About a year and a half ago, I decided to step down as executive director of the Jewish Meditation Center (JMC), leave NYC, and move to San Diego to pursue other professional opportunities in the Jewish nonprofit world. Once I was in my new position, it became clear that the job wasn't a good fit.

My ROI Micro Grant helped me to work with an incredible coach to learn how to manage a difficult situation, learn as much as possible in the challenging situation, and eventually transition to a better fitting next job. It's difficult to go from executive director to working within a large, established institution. My coach gave me homework assignments that ranged from a sort of personal asset mapping (who are your mentors/friends/teachers and what do you gain and give in those relationships?) to more personal and in-depth worksheets about triggers and how to best respond in difficult situations. We also tracked personal and professional goals.

The goal making and tracking was especially helpful and impactful to me. Creating goals that were short-term and long-term and checking in with a coach regularly about my progress (and challenges) was an incredible learning experience. Hard work is always necessary in learning new skills and deepening a skillset, but the accountability and personal (and individualized) support allowed me to move quickly on the path and feel supported and cheered on along the way.

What do you now know about working with a coach that you wish you'd known beforehand? Can you provide a tip or two to fellow ROIers who are considering using Micro Grants for similar projects?

After having such a positive coaching experience, I have three tips for anyone considering working with a coach:

1) Know what you want and what you don't want.
Do you want someone to hold your hand and tell you that you're doing great? Do you want someone to assign you homework and then hold you accountable and not let you get away with not doing what you committed to work on? Good to know and important to clearly ask for and structure into your coaching agreement!  

2) Get recommendations. Talk to people who have worked with coaches and get personal recommendations. Coaching relationships are a relationship and you have to work with someone you trust, respect, and who vibes with your style and personality. Shop around.

3) Make all roles and responsibilities clear as can be.
I was lucky enough to work with someone who is an expert at this, so I mostly learned this tip through watching how my coach navigated the relationship. Don't make any assumptions about who is calling who, who's taking notes, what follow up looks like, or even what your coaching engagement entails- include timing, benchmarks, goals, and fees in the contract.