Who needs an executive coach? Here is a useful framework for thinking about the role of executive coaching.
Scores of major companies have made coaching a core part of executive development. The belief is that, under the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party can provide a focus that other forms of organisational support simply cannot.
Unfortunately, coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, but today it is becoming more widely used to support top producers.
Coaching has evolved at an incredible rate because there is a great demand in the workplace for immediate results, and coaching can help provide that. How? By providing feedback and guidance in real time.
The road to coaching runs two ways: For coaching to be successful, both the organisation and the executive must be committed to coaching. The initiative to engage a coach can originate from either human resources or from executives themselves.
More executives are choosing coaching as a proactive component of their professional life. But some executives can be quite challenging to coach, and that’s putting it mildly. Even if they agree that coaching is necessary, they often don’t want an outsider to get involved in their career.
In short, they don’t want to be told anything. All of them have this tendency in varying degrees. Some of them don’t mind telling the coach directly—and others hide it to the point that the coach may come to believe they are open to any sort
of direction or assessment from the coach. Executives have to be open to constructive feedback and be willing to create positive change. If not, coaching may not be the answer.
There are certain times when executives will benefit from coaching and it will be effective. This is when they can say, “I want to get over there, but I’m not sure how to do it,” and when they feel that a change in behaviour—either for themselves or team members—can make a significant difference in the long-term success of the organisation.
More specifically, the experts say, coaching can be particularly effective in times of change for an executive. That includes promotions, stretch assignments and other new challenges. While executives may be confident in their abilities to take on new tasks, they may feel that an independent sounding board would be beneficial in helping them achieve a new level of performance, especially if close confidants are now reporting to them. More so, they may recognise that succeeding in a new role requires skills that they have not needed to rely on in the past; a coach may help sharpen those skills, particularly when they need to do so on the fly.
Coaching can provide benefits not available elsewhere. The benefits of a coach are:
1) They are not tied to the organisation;
2) Supportive of the executive in what the executive wants and where the executive wants to go;
3) Unbiased and totally objective. A coach is not impacted by the executive’s decisions, the wins or losses.
Executive coach, Linda Finkle noted that this doesn’t mean that company goals aren’t supported by coaching—indeed, the coach will most likely be hired by the company to support the executive’s efforts to achieve goals. Even so, the role of the coach is not to represent specific company needs or interests
“The perspectives they provide, the alternatives discussed, and everything else has no agenda except to support the coache,” she says.
In a nutshell, executive coaching is the part of the engagement where a coach works one-on-one with executives to encourage them to make difficult decisions, step out of their comfort zone, stop destructive behaviour, embrace change, and shift performance.
Published Sunday Guardian: Sunday, November 18, 2012