Coaching helps aspiring leaders define their direction through a series of powerful and purposeful conversations.
It’s important to define the chosen direction in context of the leader’s personal values and their true unrealized potential. Both values and potential are unraveled further through use of powerful tools as part of the coaching process.
Executive coaching as a means to improve one’s skills and abilities is a fairly recent phenomenon within organizations as a favorable activity for up-and-comers or personnel in the C-Suite. In the 1970’s companies rarely talked about coaching for their executives, although it is suspected that the practice occurred, but behind a veil where it was not studied or discussed. In the 1990’s executive coaching started to receive more attention. Executive coaching was a tool used oftentimes as a last resort for executives who had behavioral issues or personalities which threatened the dynamics or culture of an organization. However, since the beginnings of the twenty-first century, executive coaching is being used as a developmental tool for high-potential employees and executives transitioning to new roles, taking on additional responsibilities, or in need of exercising additional influence within the organization. In the ever-changing business environment it is expected that executive coaching will be needed for many managers and executives as they navigate their road to the C-Suite and within the C-Suite. A study by Stanford Leadership Development & Research and the Miles Group found that "Nearly Two-Thirds of CEOs Do Not Receive Outside Leadership Advice – But Nearly All Want It".
Elements of a Successful Executive Coaching Relationship
The ultimate purpose of enlisting an executive coach is to assist in improving the personal and professional growth of managers and executives which will positively influence their leadership, co-workers and direct reports. It is important when entering into a executive coaching relationship that the manager or executive is prepared for the investment (both financially and emotionally) just as in a successful venture. Therefore, managers and executives should think of success in four major areas of the relationship:
The Executive Coach
The Manager or Executive
The Relationship between the Coach and the Manager or Executive
The Executive Coach
The Executive Coach should be selected based on their ability to identify an effect approach for coaching. A Harvard Business Report recommends that if a coach is unable to identify the methodology they will use, then organizations should continue looking for a coach that can articulate their approach for coaching. The methodology could be through 360 degree feedback or psychological assessment or other reputable methods. However, they should be able to easily respond to this question. Furthermore, it is important that the coach is trustworthy. The coach and the manager or executive will likely share intimate aspects of their professional life, and possibly their personal life, and the coach should be able to be seen as one that will keep the appropriate confidences. Equally important is the ability of the coach to demonstrate commitment to the employee being coached. This commitment will help to garner commitment from the employee being coached. Lastly, the coach needs to be someone that communicates effectively with the manager or executive being coached and should have a way to motivate others to perform their best while overcoming barriers to their success.
The Manager or Executive
It is important when entering a coaching relationship that manager or executive coach is also committed to the process of being coached. They should “have fierce desire to learn” as stated in the Harvard Business Review Research Report, in order to be open to the feedback given by the assessment methodology. Finally, the manager or executive needs to have an open-mind to solving problems. Given the goals of enlisting an executive coach is to prepare for the next position or role, or to be more effective within the organization, it is important that the coached manager or executive can demonstrate an ability to welcome new ideas to solve problems.
Benefits of Executive Coaching
It is said that the explosion of the executive coaching activity occurred because it simply works. Executive coaches use tools and methodologies such as 360-degree feedback or psychological assessments to guide the coaching relationship. In fact research shows that executive coaching results in improved productivity and increased leadership effectiveness. In addition, research found that executive coaching resulted in managers and executives who are more likely inclined to set specific goals, request areas of improvement from their leadership and receive higher ratings from those who reported to them and their direct leadership. These results come from studies who interviewed the manager or executive who was coached as well as the leaders, co-workers, and staff of the manager or executive who was coached.
The Coach and Manager or Executive Relationship
The crux of success for executive coaching comes through the relationship between the coach and the manager or executive. The relationship begins with ensuring that the selected coach (either by the client or the client’s organization) is a good match with the manager or executive to be coached. Based on a Harvard Business Review Research Report, it is not recommended that coaches are selected purely based on reputation or experience. Instead, the client and the coach need to ensure that an open, honest, and authentic relationship can develop, allowing the client to successfully learn and grow.
Finally, it is important that the organization of the manager or executive supports the executive coaching experience and relationship. In addition to financial support, companies may need to avail themselves to providing people within the organization that can respond to the assessment methodology, which usually serves as the basis of the relationship. Finally, the culture of the organization should support the recommendations of the coach allowing the manager or executive to prepare, learn, and grow.
TYPICAL COACHING PROCESS EXPLAINED
Ensure chemistry match between Coach and Coachee, identify broad coaching agenda, common understanding of coaching process, agreement of logistics etc.
A three-way meeting between Coach, Coachee and relevant stakeholder(s), to get additional inputs and organizations expectations from the engagement
Understanding the coachee's story, distinct phases, challenges faced, successes, choices made, etc
360 Assessment to generate additional inputs, review and debrief of any existing client organization standard tools/reports
Identification of 2-3 SMART goals by the coachee, chosen based on their need, aligning with organizational needs and data gathered
Working closely with coachee to arrive at strategies, actions plans, that will be most effective in achieving these goals, with precise measures of success. Progress review, constant course correction as required and action tracking
Identify and measure transformation achieved, a dipstick closure 360 survey explicitly focused on the coaching goals, closure meeting with stakeholder, HR review, assessment and feedback by coachee, coach and stakeholders.