Learning to be a leader by doing was the message delivered by Kim Kimberly Kristenson-Lee of the Labyrinth Leadership Group and Greg Robbins, retired energy industry executive,  during a recent Career Central podcast. Greg who rose to be an executive in the Energy Industry and Kim who was his leadership coach shared their perspectives on the importance of coaching and the best way to utilize a coach.

Greg started seeking help developing leadership skills early in his career. He initiated his first 360 review. Poured over the data. He reviewed the evaluations then filed them in a safe place and went on working. He continued to seek input from superiors, subordinates, and colleagues and began to realize he needed help turning the data into an action plan. He began to seek out leadership coaching.

Kim became Greg’s coach at a point in his career when many executives go into autopilot, the years right before retirement. Greg decided to engage a leadership coach because he wanted to ensure a smooth transition of his team to a new executive.

Asked what advice Greg would give to those wanting to move into leadership roles was to start now, the earlier in your career the better. His other advice:

  • Decide where you want to be in five-ten years. As Steven Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.”
  • Create a detailed career development plan-if your company has a template use it. If not, create your own.
  • Once you have a career development plan implement it. Develop milestones for achieving your goal: training, mentoring, or asking for challenging assignments are a few options.
  • Seek and use feedback on your efforts to develop your leadership skills.

Kim reinforced the importance of getting feedback. The only way to know if you are becoming the leader you want to be is by getting feedback from those you lead and those who watch you lead and using that information. For the new leader or someone not prepared to handle a lot of feedback, she suggested starting with one person you trusted and then building up to a 360 review. She also strongly recommended that individuals wanting to build their leadership skills use assessment to determine their strengths. She felt everyone could become a successful leader once they identified the strengths they could use to build on.

Kim also shared insights into how to pick a leadership coach. Greg reinforced the importance of finding a coach that would listen, accept the goals you want to achieve, and then work with you to achieve them. Kim encouraged listeners to use the International Coaching Federation list of coaches as a starting point. Then, interview coaches to make sure they meet the standards Greg set; willing to listen, accept your goals, and work with you to achieve them.

To listen to all insights and advice Kim and Greg shared, check out their interview.

Lorraine Beaman is the CEO of Interview2work LLC and host of Career Central which is broadcast live every Monday at 11 AM Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Each week, she interviews professionals about real-world strategies listeners can use to develop and advance their careers.