A very popular and growing management phenomenon is the practice of retaining an executive coach. There has been a veritable explosion of interest in coaching on the part of many managers.
Well, the pace of change, the increasingly complex environment for leadership, the need for more creativity and the need to balance work life and personal life are all drivers of this new approach to managing. In addition, the growing importance of managing relationships and producing results, coupled with a lack of traditional support from mentors within an organization is creating the need for advice and counsel from someone completely outside the workplace.
When is Coaching Used?
Sometimes managers and leaders experiencing difficulty in performing their role, are offered the assistance of a coach for a period of time to help them sort out what is working for them and where they could improve their effectiveness. Many organizations are finding that this approach is very cost effective, particularly if the person being coached, improves their performance. In a more positive vein, more and more, individuals are recognizing that, as they move from position to position, either within the organization or to another organization, having someone to help them through the transition is a very valuable resource. This is truly the reason behind third party consulting.
Either way, coaching is a phenomenon that has come of age in the last few years. Many very successful leaders employ coaches to help them navigate through the increasingly choppy waters of organizational life.
Definition of Coaching
What is coaching anyway? It is the process that is very similar to counselling with the emphasis on increasing performance and enhancing the leadership experience of the person being coached. It is an ongoing partnership between the coach and the person being coached. It is a confidential arrangement that can lead to deeper learning, increased self-awareness and personal effectiveness. It is not about the personal life of the individual. Coaching is clearly focused on the professional life of the client.
Principles of Coaching
Successful coaching starts with the principle that the client is a creative, resourceful person who is interested in improving his or her effectiveness in dealing with others in the workplace. The relationship between coach and client is a sanctuary, a safe place for conversations and planning around specific situations that need improvement. The objective of the whole process is to change behavior through expanded self awareness.
An executive coach’s responsibility is to discover, clarify, and align with what client wants to achieve in the way of leading and managing self and others. The coach encourages client self-discovery and helps the client to generate solutions and strategies for increasing their ability to have a positive impact in their job and on the organization as a whole. The coach also holds the client responsible for his or her own behavior and accountable for the actions they take. The coach’s role is to ask questions and provide options and alternatives for the client to consider. The client is free to accept or reject suggestions or in turn or counter-offer with suggestions or alternative ways of behaving. In a successful coaching situation, the coach and the client, working together, reach conclusions as to courses of action to take in a given set of circumstances. Once a course of action has been decided upon, the client takes specific steps to implement the action and then in subsequent discussions with the coach, review what worked, what didn’t work and what could be done differently in the future.
Deciding to Use a Coach
Individuals who have decided to make use of a coach to help them improve their performance do so because they:
• have chosen to make a change in their lives
• will stretch and raise the performance bar for themselves
• over time, will walk the talk on their commitments
• are ‘coachable’ and able to make space for the coaching process – take the challenge; challenge themselves
Choosing a Coach/Coaches’ Commitment
When choosing an executive coach it is best to look for someone who can
• create experiences for meaningful change
• act as sounding board for complex issues
• challenge & support
• use inquiry to create awareness & clarity
• champion & acknowledge the best in the client (cheerleader)
• help client discover what’s right for him/her
As for experience as a coach, it is best to find someone who has managed or has experience working in organizations similar to the client ones. Also, some background in counselling as well as managing in an organization helps the coach to understand the issues.
In the final analysis, there has to be a good ‘fit’ between the coach and the client so it is important to interview several prospective coaches and certainly ask questions about their experience, their approach and even get some references.