The key players are the senior executive and the coach. However, executive coaching does not occur in a vacuum. There are a number of stakeholders involved in the executive coaching process — the executive’s leader, peers, reports, Human Resources — but the real focus is on the relationship between the coach and the individual executive.
Recommending Executive Coaching
If we are to be in a position to recommend executive coaching as an option for senior leadership development, it’s important to remember that there are two people involved in the relationship, the senior executive and the coach. We need to consider both the needs of the individual and their expectations of the coach if the coaching is to be effective.
Which senior executives can be a key player?
One size doesn’t fit all when thinking about who might benefit from executive coaching. Both new and experienced senior executives can benefit from executive coaching including those who are:
- Working in demanding environments and faced with organisational and individual challenges.
- Senior executives new to the organisation.
- Internal appointments to the senior team and new to working at this level.
- Making the transition from a specialist or functional role to an organisational role.
- Involved in leading change, shaping the future of the organisation and having to work through the transitions involved.
- Working together for the first time as the senior leadership team and needing to form effective relationships and make behavioural shifts.
Some individuals may fall into more than one of these categories. Just because someone has ‘experience’, we shouldn’t dismiss executive coaching as being a source of support for them.
There are real benefits to be gained from a coaching relationship, but it doesn’t work for everyone. For the individual to get the most from executive coaching, they need to participate with an open-mind and have a desire to learn and grow. So don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be a ‘fix’ for everyone.
Who can fulfil the key role of the coach?
The coaching results will only be as good as the match between the coach and the senior executive. The ‘chemistry’ must be right between the individual and the coach for executive coaching to be truly effective. What constitutes ‘chemistry’? For me it’s:
- Experience in work: having a real understanding of working in a large corporate environment in order to empathise.
- Experience as a coach: practical experience and qualifications are a must to ensure the coach can add value.
- Rapport: being comfortable with each other so both parties feel confident they can work together and there is mutual trust.
- Confidentiality: establishing boundaries so the individual feels confident they can confide in their coach.
- Challenge and support: providing an appropriate balance to ensure purpose, results and empathy.
When choosing an executive coach bear in mind these things. Also consider what would be appropriate for the particular senior person – it might be different things for different people. It isn’t always easy to find a coach who has the necessary expertise and who makes a connection with the individual so it might take time to find the right match. Whoever is being selected, the executive being coached should have the final say in the selection. Ideally give them at least 2 coaches to choose from.
Executive coaching — what to do?
Executive coaching may be something you have recommended but you’ve not considered it for all the suggested potential key players in senior roles or thought about the key requirements for a coach to have the right ‘chemistry’. It may be the executive coaching is a completely new venture for your organisation. The thoughts about the key players involved will help your thinking. Whatever your current position with executive coaching, I hope you’re encouraged to include it on your agenda for senior leadership development going forward.
Free 60-minute executive coaching taster session
It may be that you have some senior people who would benefit from experiencing a coaching session to better appreciate what working with an executive coach can offer them. In conjunction with International Coaching Week, I’m offering a free 60-minute coaching taster session, via Skype, ‘phone or face-to-face (depending on location), to the first six people who express an interest. Please get in touch if you’d like to take advantage of this offer or if you would like to explore in more detail how the team at Coach Mentoring Ltd can support your organisation with executive coaching.