Three Ways to Get the Most Out of Coaching

Guest post by Lauren Engel


When I found Lisa, I was lost myself.

Some major changes in my life over the span of a couple of years — moving permanently to a different country, navigating a new language and culture, getting married and becoming a stepmother of two young children, facing an uncertain professional future, and losing two grandparents — had broken me into a version of myself I didn’t recognize.

I lived in a state of numbness punctuated by unwarranted flashes of blinding fury and lung-collapsing anxiety. Bouts of inconsolable sadness would stretch on for days, making any hint of happiness feel like a betrayal to the all-powerful pessimist inside me.

Where was the leader I once thought I was?

I desperately wanted things to get better — to find a level of contentment with my life. To move forward. And I knew that I could neither continue burdening my husband with problems he was unable to solve, nor could I do it alone.

I wanted progress and accountability. Someone who would help me make a plan and give me the support I needed to find my way again. That’s when I met Lisa.

There are three significant lessons I’ve learned during coaching that have helped me get the most out the experience. If you’re considering coaching, I hope you’ll take these to heart as you begin your journey.


1. Open yourself up to going down unexpected roads.

Convinced that solving the challenges in my professional life would improve everything else, I centered my coaching goals around my career. But Lisa saw a different path.

Trusting her, we went down it, navigating the dark corners of my person to get at the root of what was holding me back. Though it was sometimes emotional and often downright hard, I’m certain that I couldn’t have made the progress I did without letting go of my initial assumptions about what coaching would have in store.


2. Do the work to earn the reward.

Change takes getting uncomfortable and digging deep. It takes honesty — with your coach and with yourself. And sometimes, it takes good old-fashioned homework.

A coach cannot change your life for you. What they can do is help you create a plan to change your own life.

Together, Lisa and I developed a plan, but it was up to me to do the doing. After every coaching session, I had a mission for the next week: something to think about; an action to take. Outside of coaching, I put in the time and did the soul-searching required to continue to grow.

You’ll get out of coaching at least as much as what you put in, so give as much as you’re able.


3. Remember that progress happens little by little.

While I’ve had big, breakthrough moments in working with Lisa, more often than not, the growth hasn’t been so apparent until I’ve stepped back and compared the past to the present. It’s in those reflective moments that I can see just how far I’ve come, and the realization is exhilarating.

My personal journey is an ongoing one. Today I take one step, tomorrow I take another, and one day I’ll find that I’ve traveled miles without even knowing it.

Without Lisa, I might still be wandering in the dark. But thanks to her, I’ve rediscovered the leader within me, who’s guiding me as I continue to move forward.


Lauren Engel is a manager of communications at a U.S.-based social justice nonprofit. She lives on a goat farm in the mountains of Alsace, France, with her husband and two stepdaughters.

Learn more about Lauren on LinkedIn.