Executive Coaching is not a run-of-the-mill lecture or role-play based program. Standard training programs have limited effectiveness in developing leaders because they are one-time, one-size-fits-all occurrences. Such training programs lack customization which limits learning as well as takes the leader away from work, while custom built one-on-one coaching works with what’s happening on the job in real time. Executive coaching is a practical application tool for development that provides just-in-time learning experiences for the person being coached. It encourages learning and deep questioning during and well after the coaching engagement, where coaches connect with their participants at a level where no topic if off-grounds. Here’s how it happens:
- Real live work situations are discussed.
- The client takes this learning and immediately applies the new knowledge to the specific situation.
- This hands-on-approach provides opportunities to discuss ongoing critical issues, challenges, opportunities, concerns and obstacles.
- The Executive Coach provides immediate feedback and support.
- The client feels empowered knowing practical and customized information will be provided to improve the immediate situation.
- The coaching relationship occurs in real time.
The value and bottom line impact of executive coaching services can be clearly seen in an extremely quick time frame. But be prepared for dangerous conversations: The coaching conversation is a powerful dialogue that challenges assumptions, highlights passions, surfaces obstructions, explores possibilities and charts exciting new pathways forward.
The true coaching relationship is a unique peer-to-peer connection built on mutual trust. This relationship is the medium through which the transformational process of coaching occurs, and the coach has the primary responsibility for creating this special relationship, characterized by purposefulness, personal accountability and direction. Bringing an external coach into an organization provides a high level of objectivity to the situations, issues and challenges that an employee faces. Conflict of interest becomes a non-issue because of this external relationship. The external coach provides unbiased opinions, thoughts and guidance from a different perspective. Having confidential conversations about the culture, environment, situations and people is supportive to the employee. The coach brings knowledge, experience and specific expertise in areas that aren’t available inside the organization. Additional factors include flexibility in the timing of delivery, an objective perspective and complete confidentiality and privacy for the executive.
In this short video, Angela Sabin, Principal Coach at Executive Life Coaching (South Yorkshire) desribes what happens at a typical Executive Coaching session.
In order to ensure the success of a coach engagement the following issues need be considered:
1 The executive should be briefed before starting the coaching process. An executive engaging in a coaching program needs to be committed and motivated. The coaching partnership provides a solid context to make changes and implement development goals. Trust and confidentiality is paramount. Gain executive (Board) buy-in for coaching. Clear guidelines will be reviewed and put in writing.
2 Link company business objectives to the performance goals of the coaching participant. Coaching doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The company needs to see bottom line results in order for coaching to succeed. Coaching provides the greatest impact when the company’s overall strategy, department needs and individual goals are considered. This alignment will provide the maximum business impact to the company’s bottom line.
3 There should be support for the coaching engagement. Without top management (CE/Board) support coaching will become an exercise in futility. The number one reason coaching fails is a lack of internal sponsorship by top management, key stakeholders, human resources and the executive’s immediate boss. Such support needs be actively demonstrated throughout the process. In addition, senior management (board directors) need to actively advocate for the program and its importance. All players need to notice and express the progress, successes and continued improvement directly to the coaching participant.
4 The coaching program should be positively positioned within the organization. Without organizational acceptance, the executive is set up to be unsuccessful. Position the coaching program in the organization so that people have respect for the coaching concept, stand solidly behind it and actively support it. People need to see coaching as positive and developmental rather than remedial. The company should prioritize the development of the C-Suite and High Potentials instead of targeting poor performers. Educate others about the bottom line impact of executive coaching. Top leadership needs to see how coaching directly impacts the company’s success. Coaching High Potentials facilitates succession planning, leads to greater job satisfaction and attracts top talent to the organization.
5 Provide constant coaching updates, progress and success. If management doesn’t see clear progress, they may assume there is none. Throughout the coaching engagement, the executive should regularly share selected e-mail progress updates with the sponsor, human resources, immediate supervisor (CE/Board Chair), key stakeholders and other influential executives. Once a month the coach will sit down with the immediate supervisor to review progress, outline areas for improvement and suggest solutions to meet the coaching objectives. During this meeting the immediate supervisor, sponsor and human resource professional should provide feedback on what they notice has changed, new data to focus on and the overall progress of the coaching program.
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