Coaching highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students: Common coaching topics

December 5, 2013 by Joshua
in Blog, Education, Leadership, Tips

[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

One of the challenges and joys of coaching is that each client is unique. Even similar issues show up in unique ways with each person. The job never gets boring.

Still, you see trends, especially among students taking similar courses at similar stages in their lives, often with similar goals.

So what do MBA candidates at a top business school tend to want to work on? First, I’ll mention that there is no overwhelming majority. Even the most common areas of focus don’t add up to the majority of people and I haven’t taken notes so I’m just going from memory. That said, many students tend to work on

  • Assertiveness
  • Listening
  • Teamwork
  • Influencing others
  • Time management
  • Decision making

Many students tend to see others, especially managers they report to, by their functions first, so they benefit from seeing others as people first and positions on organization charts second.

Despite the strong focus at the school to get hired, few people bring the job search into the coaching session. They see value in long-term personal development, even when they know recruiters won’t be able to see the change. They recognize it affects all their relationships, including with themselves, in every interaction, and that shortcomings will limit their potential.

Many students come in never having held a leadership position before so they have more experience being led, often meaning they never managed others or had to make key decisions. All of the areas of focus fit with the type of transition people need to make to go from functional worker to leader. School and coaching force you to face your shortcomings and work on them, giving you protection from the outside world to experiment and learn. I can see why people who don’t take time off either to force themselves to learn or take classes would have trouble transitioning to leadership. Introspection is hard on your own, as is seeing what potential you have in order to find direction and motivation to realize it.

Few leaders are known for doing low-level functional tasks well. Maybe they can do spreadsheets well, but that doesn’t make them leaders and can, in some circumstances, hold them back. Leadership comes from social skills and behaviors, which often come from emotional challenges, which workplaces don’t give like schools and coaches do.

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