Not everyone is familiar with the term “executive coach.” A working definition of executive coaching is a collaborative relationship developed between a client with managerial authority and a consultant/coach. The coach, ideally, is an expert in individual and organizational behavior and uses a wide variety of behavioral interventions to bring about the development of leadership talent within the company for the purpose of meeting organizational goals.
Executive coaching (EC) is not therapy, counseling or training and the coach is not an “answer person,” a “friend” or a “Dear Abby.” The purpose of EC, according to one executive is “to listen to you. [They are] there to help you figure out new ways to solve your own problems.”
A good executive coach does not try to turn the client into a clone of the coach but facilitates the client coming to his or her own conclusions. It is leadership development for the purpose of making organizations better.
Some people have characterized coaching as remedial. On the contrary, coaching at its best is for an organization’s best performers. An example of someone who benefited from coaching is Jack Welch, the former CEO and chairman of the board of General Electric. By most accounts, the Jack Welch who started with GE was not the same person as the one who retired from GE. A recent study by The Hay Group, an international human resources consulting firm, revealed that 20 to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaching. Another study showed that companies predicted a 20 percent growth in EC over the next year.
Why has this phenomenon of coaching developed? It used to be that people stayed with organizations for decades and learned how to do things from more experienced leaders. Because people don’t stay with an organization for their entire careers anymore, relying on internal mentors can be risky.
In addition, as businesses have developed flatter, leaner organizations, the level of managerial mentoring that might have been available several decades ago is gone.
Finally, organizations are required to undergo change so quickly now that doing things the traditional way is no longer an option. The “go-to” people who have been through these new types of challenges aren’t there anymore. Problem-solving skills in managers need to be built in.
What can an individual gain through coaching? Executives experienced with EC report that coaching can:
· improve opportunities for promotion
· create a confidential sounding board, thereby improving decisions
· improve their understanding of organizational dynamics both internally and with customers
· increase emotional intelligence (ranked as more important than IQ as a predictor of success)
· improve communication skills with peers, direct reports and the boss
· manage stress
· improve work-life balance
· provide someone to challenge them when most co-workers are afraid to.
Most of us have grown in maturity, judgment and leadership ability since 10 or 15 years ago. Some of that has happened from experience, trial and error and watching others. Some of it has happened by chance. (And, unfortunately, we can all identify some people for whom growth in judgment and leadership never happens.)
Executive coaching speeds up the process of change by identifying what an individual needs to improve and developing a plan to implement that in a confidential, trusting relationship.