Does Executive Coaching deliver on the promised results? The answer to that question lies in setting the appropriate expectations at both the organizational and the individual level. The best coaches in the world cannot affect change with an unwilling participant and/or in an unsupportive environment. But what about a willing participant in a supportive environment? What is needed in the process to not only affect immediate change, but sustain long lasting change, the kind that can make or breaks careers?
Most executive coaches are, in fact, behavioral coaches. If an executive is displaying behaviors that are in conflict with the organizational values or are simply not in their own best interests as a leader, then a coach versed in behavioral theory may well be an effective solution. Coaching works best with high potential people who are willing to make a concerted effort to change. This effort requires hard and sustained work on the leader’s part. Most executive coaches will not take assignments that are less than 6 months and many run for up to 18 months with longer check in times. That’s because change takes awhile before it becomes a habit that is repeatable without having to think about it. The leader has to truly want to change. There is no magic bullet an executive coach brings that will allow the leader to succeed without putting in the effort.
The organizational environment has to be supportive as well. Organizations are made up of people, all with their own agendas, some noble and others not so much. It sounds simple enough, but everyone involved in the coaching exercise has to want to person being coached to succeed. If a senior member of the management team secretly hopes the coach returns after the initial assessment to say that the leader is not coachable, unwilling to participate or that it is some innate character flaw that cannot be addressed through behavioral change, then the likelihood of success is low. For this reason, it is important for the coach to take the time needed to ask the hard questions and to continue to probe until he/she is satisfied that the coaching exercise is being pursued for the right reasons.
The Benefits of Executive Coaching
An effective coach can assist the leader in prioritizing multiple initiatives ensuring that the focus remains on those most critical to driving the business forward. The coach can also serve as another person to hold the leader accountable for deliverables and can push back when excuses are given.
Empowered Decision Making
Executive coaching focuses on what is important and can support the leader in making empowered decisions that they may hesitate to make otherwise. Executive coaching assists in gaining clarity and helps to develop plans to minimize distractions and focus on actions that align with the business mission, vision, value, and goals.
Effective Feedback and Communication
The key to evaluating performance and driving change is truthful feedback, and there can be no better way for you to get quality feedback than by using a coach. Effective communication and collaboration in a business setting are key areas that drive the business outcomes. Good coaches will solicit feedback from 4-6 constituents across the organization to gain a well rounded view of the leaders communication style.
Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
Emotional intelligence is the “the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively.” In other words, your own emotional self-awareness serves as an aid to understanding other people’s emotions; furthermore, you respond with empathy to their needs. You can see why emotional intelligence is so crucial to leadership positions. A coach can point out areas where they think leaders are misreading or ignoring situations calling out for EQ.
In closing, executive coaching can be extremely useful in situations where the leader and the organization are willing, honest and hopeful participants in the process.