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Coaching helps lawyers identify roadblocks to success

By Staff

In the final post of a three-part series, Toronto lawyer and executive coach Michael Bury reviews what to expect in the fifth and sixth sessions of a coaching engagement and how clients can use what’s been revealed to help propel them into action.

An important component of a coaching program is learning to trust, and lawyers typically achieve a “good rapport and high level of trust” by the final sessions, says Toronto lawyer and executive coach Michael Bury.

“As my clients move through our coaching engagement, they get an opportunity to demonstrate the skills they have acquired through the individual coaching plan we developed during their initial sessions. This customized plan has very concrete goals and milestones,” says Bury, principal of Blue Pond Coaching.

Coaching is very similar to learning how to drive, he says, where student drivers are taught how to “navigate” different road conditions, and by the end of their instruction, they should be able to pass their exam and drive alone.

“I’m there to watch, observe, provide input, but by the end of our coaching engagement, I want them to have a set of tools they can implement by themselves.”

If trust isn’t established between the coach and client in the early sessions, Bury tells, it’s possible the client isn’t ready for a coaching program and the two will have to part ways.

“Sometimes they don’t need a coach; what they need is a therapist. I don’t say that to put them down, but they have deeper problems that are getting in the way of them reaching a coaching frame of mind. So they may need to do some work elsewhere first before they’re ready. And that’s OK,” he says.

Bury says, in some ways, he is a therapist but notes there’s a big difference between the two. Therapy, he explains, is a “backward-looking process, reflecting on the negative things in your life that may explain how you are today,” while coaching is all about forward-looking, positive solutions.

“From my perspective, it’s all about positive change. As the coaching sessions progress, I look closely to see what changes the client has made both at and in between our meetings. There’s a great deal of work to be done in between our coaching sessions.

"Then, when they come back, I get a chance to see how the homework’s gone. And again, the client needs to be honest, both with themselves and the coach. If they’re not, then it’s a waste of time.”

What’s rewarding is seeing a client successfully implement something that was talked about in the sessions, Bury says, such as putting together a marketing plan or setting up a website.

One young lawyer, he says, was extremely anxious during periods when his practice was slow.

“He wasn’t getting new clients, he was panicked, he beat himself up for not being able to generate enough business and, of course, he was worried about his finances. So we took a step back, reset his goals and he learned to make better use of his downtime to focus on business development, instead of staring at the phone waiting for the next client.

"He was able to see the slow time as an opportunity to build his practice instead of something negative to be afraid of,” Bury says, adding that the lawyer spent some time writing articles and networking.

A client may come up against roadblocks when working on goals between sessions, and return with little accomplished, he says, adding that at that point, the coach needs to assess the situation.

“Sometimes the most important question is: ‘What got in your way that led to it not being done?’ We can try to turn that into a positive discussion to try to figure out what the roadblock was and how we can readjust so it’s not getting in the way.”

The executive coaching sessions focus on three key areas: heightened self-awareness, personal accountability and emotional flexibility, which is “one of the most important skills,” Bury says.

“Lawyers, by virtue of their training, can be very positional. And one of the goals of coaching is to unlearn set ways of thinking so you’re not getting in your own way,” he says.

Often you don’t get that opportunity if you’re a sole practitioner or if you’re in a huge firm. No one wants to share the kind of difficulties you’re experiencing. The coaching experience is perfect because it’s a safe place to reflect and reassess how you approach your personal and work-related challenges.

Click here to read Part 1, an introduction to executive coaching and an overview of what happens in the first two of six sessions.

Click here to read Part 2, what to expect in the third and fourth sessions of an executive coaching engagement to unlock what's holding you back from reaching your potential.

To Read More Blue Pond Coaching Posts Click Here