3 - Executive Coaching
this issue on Executive Coaching, you will find:
introduction to the topic of Executive Coaching.
review of "Four Essential Ways that Coaching Can Help Executives"
by Witherspoon and White.
to additional information on this topic.
is not new. Athletes have always had coaches. They are common
among musicians, and students who want to excel in a particular
subject have tutors. More recently, people have been using personal
trainers to help them stay focused, improve discipline, and become
more fit. And at work, where we are increasingly expected to do
more with less only faster, many businesspeople--executives, managers,
and individual contributors--have discovered the value of having
Coaching is an ongoing, one-on-one relationship that helps you:
your performance and productivity
your unique value to your organization
a more effective leader
your understanding of organizational power and politics
our experience, people are motivated to seek coaching when they
their own or the organization's standards
the same problem over and over and want a new approach
troubling feedback from others, directly or indirectly
difficulty understanding or dealing with political situations
or others that require excellent influence skills
getting the cooperation or results from others that they need
to increase their current job satisfaction
to prepare for their next career step
a good coach uses a process with several steps:
an initial conversation, the client and coach gain a shared understanding
of the client's needs, opportunities, goals, and outcomes; agree
on what the client can expect from the coach and vice versa; create
an explicit agreement about confidentiality and how data will
be used; and determine logistics such as frequency of meetings,
location, and other terms of engagement.
is important to have independent and comprehensive information
about how stakeholders view the client. This information is usually
gathered in a combination of ways including an instrumented 360
profile, interviews of stakeholders by the coach, and real-time
observation. It is frequently helpful for the coach to observe
key meetings which enable him/her better to understand the organization
culture and environment in which the client works.
meeting together several times and reviewing the assessment data,
specific goals and desired outcomes are developed along with a
plan for how the work will proceed.
work--Coaching is most effective when meetings occur
regularly and last long enough for in-depth exploration. The focus
is on the client's stated goals and real-life situations. The
client is drawn far enough outside his/her comfort zone to investigate
fully those situations in which he/she must be successful and
to develop new behavioral and strategic alternatives. In subsequent
meetings, the results of experiments with new options are evaluated
and refined. The coaching process aims for the client to develop
skills in identifying desired outcomes, assessing influence targets,
and creating behavioral strategies.
the progress and results of the coaching process are reviewed,
celebrated, and if necessary, the plan is modified.
have found that those who benefit the most from working with a coach
chosen to engage in the process, or are at least willing participants
understand the reasons and desired outcomes even if someone else
suggested the coaching
been actively involved in the selection of the coach
specific, articulated goals for participating
a commitment to regular meetings, and protect this time do their
is important to select your coach carefully. Good coaching relationships
are based on mutual trust, a willingness on the part of both client
and coach to be honest and straightforward and to lean into difficult
issues, the desire of the client to engage in a development process,
and the competence of the coach. We encourage you to seek referrals
from colleagues who have had successful coaching relationships and/or
your HR or OD professionals. Ask for and check the references of
prospective coaches, paying attention to their backgrounds, experience,
and credentials. The person with whom you work on your professional
development and career should qualified to work with individual,
organization, and systems dynamics.
help you get a first-hand view of what coaching is like, we invited
a couple of our coaching clients to talk about their experiences
in their own words.
is one person's view:
have moved quickly through my career based on my technical merits...and
four years ago joined a fast growing public firm. As the Company
grew, the requirements of my job focused more on the managerial
and interpersonal aspects and less on the technical. I attended
a few management development courses, but they were too general
and not very effective. I paid no attention to the interpersonal
aspects of my job, and over time found myself increasingly in
conflict situations with Executive Staff over small details."
after Tracy and I started working together, I took charge of a
global ERP implementation project, a role that is 90% relationship
driven and only 10% technical. By showing me how to study patterns
of behavior and strategize different approaches that work best
with different people, Tracy has helped me make the necessary
changes in my approach to working with people. I have become more
outcome-focused and less concerned with being right."
the five months I have been managing the ERP implementation, I
have actively used learned skills to keep the project on track."
here is another's:
sought a management coach when I began to realize that my leadership,
while seemingly effective, could be much more so. This was causing
a great deal of frustration on my part, especially since I tend
to be a perfectionist!
"I soon discovered that some of my barriers to being a more
effective leader had less to do with my day-to-day professional
activities than with my assumptions about and views toward others,
both personally and professionally. My coach helped me to refocus
in ways that vastly increased my level of self-awareness. She
has also enabled me to be more clear about and better able to
articulate the results and outcomes I want--from both myself and
others. One benefit of this has been that those with whom I work
are less likely to be surprised or feel blindsided after-the-fact."
though I knew when I started that there would probably be some
work involved, I secretly hoped that I would find easy answers
and get confirmation for my view of things and approach to management
and leadership. I underestimated the degree of difficulty, but
with lots of support and gentle nudging, she has ensured that
I have maximized the return on this effort. The outcomes to date
have been dramatic for me."
2. "Four Essential Ways that Coaching can Help Executives"
by Robert Witherspoon and Randall P. White (Center for Creative
first use of the word "coach" in English occurred in the
1500s to refer to a kind of carriage. "Hence," say
Witherspoon and White, " the root meaning of the verb to coach
is to convey a valued person from where he or she was to where he
or she wants to be." Coaching is a process that helps executives
learn, grow, and change. Although what coaching involves depends
on the specific executive and situation, executive coaching falls
into four categories:
for the Executive's Agenda
is learning focused on a person's current task or project. This
coaching is usually needed for the short term and the coaching goals
tend to be clear and specific. Settings well-suited for this coaching
role are to support:
on the job (e.g., before or after a first board meeting presentation)
in job roles and/or responsibilities
FOR PERFORMANCE is learning focused on a person's current
job. Typically, the executive feels the need to function more effectively
at work, or to address performance issues. For executives having
difficulty, the challenge is to correct problem behaviors before
they jeopardize productivity or derail a career. This type of coaching
is usually seen as appropriate for the short or intermediate term
although there may be less consensus within the organization about
the need for performance coaching. And because this type of coaching
can feel more threatening to some executives than skills coaching,
it tends to involve more time. This coaching role is best used to:
and support newly appointed executives
confidence and commitment after a career setback
with blind spots that detract from otherwise outstanding performance
FOR DEVELOPMENT is learning focused on a person's future
job. Typically, the executive needs to prepare for a career move,
often as part of succession planning discussions. Coaching for development
tends to involve a deeper focus on executive development and personal
growth. The coaching sessions here typically focus on development
for a future job by helping an executive discover strengths and
weaknesses, and to determine where growth is needed.
an executive's agenda is often broad and evolving, COACHING
FOR THE EXECUTIVE'S AGENDA tends to involve learning
in the largest sense. Often the executive desires a confidant to
offer insight, perspective, and constructive feedback on ideas and
experiences. The format for this coaching is ongoing, and coaching
sessions evolve in response to the executive's agenda. Frequently,
this type of coaching is used to support change management by preparing
an executive to successfully implement a change initiative, or to
expand options when creative suggestions could improve the chances
for sound decisions. The coach often acts as a sounding board and
offers feedback and suggestions to enhance the executive's ideas.
Essential Ways That Coaching Can Help Executives" will
be especially valuable to executives considering entering a coaching
relationship and for HR professionals who are interested in bringing
a coaching capability into their organization.
Web-sites and Other Resources we've found about this topic include:
Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara http://www.hudsoninstitute.com
Hudson Institute offers a four-day program called Life Launch that
is a very effective planning-for-the-rest-of-your-life experience.
It could also be thought of as a jump-start for an ongoing coaching
relationship. They also offer a training and certification program
have published a companion book: Hudson, F.M. and McLean, P.D. (1995).
Life launch: A passionate guide to the rest of your life. Santa
Barbara, CA: The Hudson Institute Press.
audiotape about introducing executive coaching into organizations
is available from the American Society for Training and Development
D. (1986). Executive coaching: Cost-effective, one-on-one guided
development strategies [Audiotape]. Alexandria, VA: American Society
for Training and Development.
you're not getting better, you're falling behind. To elevate your
game, find the personal coach with the right strategy and style
C. (1996, October/November). Wanna be a player? Get a coach! Fast
Company, pp. 145-148. Available in the archive section @ www.fastcompany.com
article describes coaching as "the ultimate educational service
for managers," and also suggests that coaching is not a good
"try this at home, do it yourself" activity.
M.J. (1996, October). Are you ready for an executive coach? Harvard
Business Review. www.hbsp.harvard.edu/hbsp/prod_detail.asp? Product
a succinct article that enumerates the benefits and outcomes that
can be expected from effective coaching, see:
R. and White, R. (1996, March). Executive Coaching: What's in it
for you? Training and Development, pp. 14-15.
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