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Pattern of accountability key to successful coaching

By Staff

This is the second post in a three-part series on executive coaching with Toronto lawyer and executive coach Michael Bury. In this instalment he reviews 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.

Lawyers striving to boost their performance and profile through a program of executive coaching will find that the third and fourth sessions are where the heavy lifting takes place, says Toronto lawyer and executive coach Michael Bury.

“These sessions are about tough conversations, careful observations, and practice solutions,” Bury, principal of Blue Pond Coaching, tells

“By this time, we’ve identified the obstacles getting in the way of success. That in and of itself can be a challenge: in many cases, clients aren’t aware of what is preventing them from achieving their goals.”

Sometimes the hindrances are real, such as an impossible work schedule, he points out. But other times they are nothing more than self-limiting thoughts.

Bury describes the situation of one client who felt like he was on a hamster wheel, with no time for himself.

“Working through the client’s schedule together, we discovered there were actually periods of time that he could set aside for himself and his goal of marketing himself,” he says.

The client was squandering a couple of hours every Friday afternoon hanging around the office and chatting with colleagues about the week. Bury had him designate that time for closing his office door and tackling a marketing plan.

“It was all about eliminating his preconceived thoughts about having no time. He needed to do a hard reset to recognize the time was actually there. He learned to regain control over it through the coaching process.”

The job of a coach is to help create alternate routes to move past roadblocks, Bury says.

“I will ask the difficult questions, and then listen very carefully. A huge part of coaching involves active listening and looking behind the answers for clues to what’s holding someone back. All of this leads to feedback to help a client increase their self-awareness.”

Another client wanted to set up her own office.

“She had her checklist with all the basics ticked off — office space, business cards, website — but she always seemed anxious when pressed about when the plan would move forward. I ultimately determined that a key factor was finances, something she either didn’t want to face or didn’t know how to deal with.

"We quickly focused on a business plan to help secure financing. She was relieved, and felt much more confident now that we had generated some possible solutions to fund her new venture.”

A third client voiced the intention to write an article for self-promotion and have it published in a local paper, but had no idea how to start, Bury says.

“Staring at a blank page or computer screen can be very daunting,” Bury says. But after the two of them brainstormed ideas and worked through drafts, the client finished the article and submitted it to several publications.

This example illustrates the importance of the work that’s done between coaching sessions, Bury says. “The dog ate my homework is not an excuse for me.”

Coaching isn’t easy; it requires a commitment from the client, he acknowledges.

”Lawyers always have fires to put out, and court appearances to rush to. But for coaching to work, time has to be carved out for the sessions and the assignments,” he says.

One reason the process involves multiple sessions is so clients can establish a pattern of accountability, both to themselves and to the coach, who is in their corner but also there to push them, Bury explains.

“There’s a great deal of self-reflection and working on goals in between sessions. And accountability to your coach is key," he says. "I keep the expectation levels very high — otherwise you are wasting your time and money. Once you buy into this concept, success will follow.”

Stay tuned for Part 3 in the series where Bury will explore what to expect in the final two sessions of an executive coaching engagement, and how clients can use what's been revealed to help propel them into action.

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