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Executive coaching: building the road map

By Staff

This is the first post in a series on executive coaching with Toronto lawyer and executive coach Michael Bury. In this instalment he provides an introduction to executive coaching and an overview of what happens in the first two of six sessions.

Just like all-star athletes, legal professionals achieve their greatest success when they have an experienced coach to push them to beyond their limits, says Toronto lawyer and executive coach Michael Bury.

“Coaching is a very safe, private place to explore ways of meeting and exceeding the goals you want to achieve,” says Bury, who founded Blue Pond Coaching two years ago. “We live in stressful times, demands are getting higher — and in the shark waters of Bay Street the last thing you want to do is admit to senior partners in your firm, or competing colleagues, that you may have a significant need for improvement in some areas.”

When you hire an executive coach you get a non-threatening environment in which to figure out what’s holding you back, Bury tells “At the same time, I won’t downplay any obvious weaknesses — we have to take a hard look at what’s preventing you from getting there.”

The typical coaching client undertakes a six-session program. Here’s what to expect in the first two sessions:

Session 1: The road map

“I use the analogy of Google Maps,” Bury says. “The client selects the destination and then I try and find different ways to get there. We talk about which route is best suited to your personal style.”

Not much time is spent looking backward, but a review of previous successes helps the client see how to leverage skills that have worked in the past and identify any personal challenges that need to be minimized.

“I try to maximize strengths and make any past weaknesses irrelevant,” Bury says.

The next step is to look for the roadblocks and “construction delays” that are preventing the client from moving forward, then setting some goals and specific deadlines.

One of Bury’s clients, a visually impaired legal professional, had spent over a year working with a job recruiter to find employment.

“He experienced subtle discrimination, and he just could not get a job. The recruiter was working hard, but at the wrong thing," Bury says.

After assessing what had worked for him in the past and creating a new road map, the client decided to set up his own paralegal practice and accessibility consultancy. Now he’s swamped with work involving workplace access issues, Bury adds.

Another client, a young lawyer who was determined to launch his own practice, was blocked by a preconceived notion of what a professional law practice should look like. He thought he had to rent expensive space, buy an expensive library and hire staff, but didn’t have the resources.

“He was frustrated. We looked at different ways he could achieve the same thing. It ended up with a virtual office arrangement — more automation, a tight budget, and it worked out," Bury says. "He got what he wanted, which was setting up his own practice, just in a different way that he hadn’t previously considered.”

Session 2: Accountability

In the second session, the client reports to the coach the progress they have made on the goals set in Session 1.

“Having a coach makes you accountable for the goals you create — that’s one of the biggest values of coaching,” Bury says. “Left to oneself, it’s very easy for personal development to take a back seat to day-to-day demands.”

A coach also acts like a mirror, he adds.

“When they come back for the second session, that’s where we do our reality check. We do our cheerleading in the first session, but Session 2 is the cold hard reality check. Have you achieved any goals? Have you met your timelines? What’s worked? What hasn’t?” Bury says.

Different coaches have different styles, and Bury’s is challenging.

“There’s no sugar-coating with me. We’ll spend time in second session looking closely at why they haven’t met goals and then do a hard reset. I guess I’m a tough coach, but anything less and I’m wasting your time and money,” he says.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series where
Bury will explore what happens in the third and fourth sessions of an executive coaching engagement to unlock what's holding you back from reaching your potential.

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