This question catches me off guard most of the time. In doing this work, it seems so straightforward and transparent. Yet to the uninitiated, it really is a great question. I coach executives to be more successful in the workplace and in one’s personal life. More successful in what one might ask? Another great question! Whatever the executive wishes to focus on! Now that’s really vague and I know that, however that is truly the answer. I don’t mean to be cagey but in my experience each person is unique and shows up to work with unique life perspectives, set of issues, and cornucopia of talent and blind spots. So a careful assessment with a handful of tests, interviews, and 360 feedback will define a customized plan for each client.
Executive coaching is a process that flourishes in a relationship between a client and a coach.
A mentor? A friend? A therapist? Although it seems that the coaching process embodies aspects of all of these yet it is distinctly different when it’s coupled with scientific-based assessments, methods, and strategies designed to promote behavior change. How can you do less of the negative, unresourceful behaviors and increase the more effective ones? To do this, the truism, “Know Thy Self” is never more applicable. Do you know who you are? What exactly do you stand for? What are your passions, and are you living them?What do you value? Is your career compatible with these values? If not, why not? Can you truly live a life worth living if you are in a position mainly for a comfortable paycheck rather than proactively pursuing your mission? This is the difference between living a life of dissatisfying doldrums and living a life of focused fulfillment. This part of the coaching process is best embodied by personal growth.
Another aspect of executive coaching is skill based as it focuses on helping you understand your unique talents and strengths, and how best to use them. I’m amazed at how many very successful people stammer when I ask them what is their skill set? There is a distinct aura of unawareness or gross modesty. Can you imagine negotiating a raise and promotion if you can’t articulate your value added? Other skills can include improving interpersonal interactions, emotional intelligence skills, leadership, managing a team, managing stress, and making better decisions under stress.
Executive coaching is ideal to address any “fatal flaws” that can limit, detour, plateau or end a career.
Fatal flaws essentially are interpersonal behaviors, in communication or actions, which have a negative impact on the quality of one’s relationships: team, peers, boss, or upper management. Typical flaws include arrogance, quickness to temper, aggressive communication, inability to maintain composure under stress, submissive communication, and inability to make independent decisions. The list could go on but I think you get the point. A strong leader leads people. Successful leaders really shine in how they manage diverse people and how they manage people in stressful situations.
Can’t someone learn any or all of this stuff by taking a seminar or reading a book? Unique to executive coaching, or any coaching process is the idea of “accountability.” In more passive forms of learning such as reading or attending a seminar, a transfer of knowledge may take place. However, very little actual behavior change will occur unless there is regular practice. Regular practice requires focused goals, discipline, commitment, and someone to hold you accountable for regular practice of your goals. Accountability keeps you focused, keeps you on track, and keeps you challenged with progressively more difficult goals. Research shows time and time again the ineffectiveness of training seminars alone. Yet, when seminars are coupled with ongoing coaching the results are dramatic! It’s really hard to change on your own without support, guidance, encouragement, or valuable new information. My clients truly value the privacy that coaching offers when learning a new skill, rather than feeling exposed and vulnerable in the workplace.
When do clients typically seek out hiring an executive coach? There are many scenarios, yet here are some examples.