Executive Coaching: Setting Up for Success


The establishment of executive coaching is growing. Research is building upon the benefits of coaches for companies. In these studies, productivity is measured, interest in being coached is measured, and the return on investment is measured. In all cases there is a significant positive response to the experience of executive coaching.

It is important to note that simply putting someone through the executive coaching process does not set them up for success. In many ways it is beneficial. However, it is important to establish the groundwork in order to see the greatest return on investment.

Know What You Want to Get Out of Coaching

Understand what an executive coach does and how you want to see that skill set empower your staff. So that when the executive coach is working with your staff, you are not blindsided by their techniques and theories. If you are to know what to expect from the coach, it will be easier for you as an executive to grow than if you hired the executive coach, hoped for the best, and ultimately found that you now have to adapt in a way in which you are not comfortable.

An executive coach identifies strengths and works with the executive to build mastery around those strengths. Focused work on weaknesses may be minimal to nonexistent. This is because it has been found that empowering the talents of individuals has a longer lasting and more fulfilling effect on their output. This trains the executive to think and work out of their passions, rather than focusing on how to avoid their weaknesses to seem more well-rounded.

The Individual Needs to Be Ready

When a prospective executive is identified for grooming, the first step is to determine if they are ready to receive coaching. Does their personality match with the process of having someone give them advice and ideas? IF that individual is not ready for this type of growth and change, then they will not receive the greatest benefit when working with an executive coach. How is their readiness determined?

In many instances, their readiness will be very evident. However, when it is not obvious, time must be taken to recognize their level of readiness. This comes from your relationship with the individual. The more you get to know them and their strengths, the easier it will be to make the determination if they are ready for the coaching process.

How will you know that they are not ready for coaching? How do they respond when feedback is given? Do they respond by explaining away their behavior and defending their actions? Do they act dismissive of the advice? Do they agree with the advice given, but have body language that is closed and resistant?

If you leave a conversation with a prospective executive, in which you attempted to impart wisdom to the individual, and feel that your words fell on deaf ears, then that individual may not be ready for an executive coach. The way they responded to you will likely be the way in they respond to the coach.

How do you take an individual who is not ready and bring them to a place where they are ready? The real but difficult answer is that you can’t. Until an individual has brought themselves to a place of humility and eagerness for growth, there is no way in which they can be talked into it. They will go through the motions, and do exactly as they are told rather than utilizing the executive coach to improve in their unique talents. It is better to wait for the individual to be ready, than to force the process upon them. Time and money will be wasted that otherwise could have been used for someone who was ready for growth.

Management Needs to Know How to Support Them

The next step for success is getting the management on board by providing the most supportive and empowering environment for the executive.

Not only does the individual need to be ready and willing to hear the input of the coach, but so does the management. The executive coach is well trained and hyper focused to identify the executive’s strengths and how to utilize those strengths in an executive setting.

Even if the executive coach is able to foster the unique strengths of the executive, unless that executive is working in an environment that is supportive of their talents, that executive will not be able to perform to their greatest potential. Furthermore, if the management is unwilling to adapt or incorporate these unique talents of their executives, then there is nothing holding that executive back from being drawn to another company which empowers them to work out of their strengths. Due to this, it is in the best interest of a company to develop an empowering culture in which these coached executives may thrive. Otherwise the money spent to coach these executives will be to the benefit of another company, wherever that executive may go.

Lorna Hegarty, an Internationally Certified Master Coach, is the author of “The Seven Essential Practices of Great Leaders”. She is the President of LCH Resources Limited, a Human Resources Coaching and Consulting Organization.


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