By Gayle Lantz,
“Coaching” used to be a popular
approach for derailing executives or professionals whose
performance needed a lot of work. Got a problem? Get a
coach. However, increasingly, coaching is being sought by
some of the most successful executives in their field--those
who want to get even better at their business game. So the
new thinking is…Got a goal? Get a coach.
Executive coaching has evolved quickly
over the years. Some consider it a field in itself; others
consider it a form of consulting. There are many
interpretations for “executive coaching.” No matter how you
define it, coaching can be a useful tool for executives who
want to develop as leaders.
Rather than debate the definition of
coaching, it’s more important to consider the type of coach
and approach that’s most appropriate for you--given the
results you want to achieve. Some executives have difficulty
articulating concrete desired results, but a skilled coach
can help. Often executives simply haven’t taken the time to
slow down and think things through.
Coaches come in the form of business
professionals, psychologists, trainers, consultants,
authors, etc. They come from all walks of life. Some are
tough, challenging, and direct. Some are sensitive,
encouraging, and indirect. Some impose a particular
process. Some are more flexible.
A consultant with expertise in
communication may focus on executive coaching that
emphasizes presentation skills. A fashion consultant may
offer executive coaching with an emphasis on professional
appearance. Other executive coaches focus on leadership
skills or business strategy. The approaches are as varied as
the professionals who deliver coaching services.
Selecting a Coach
Ultimately, the most important factor
in selecting a coach is the coach’s track record and his/her
ability to establish the kind of relationship with you that
helps you achieve results.
Senior leaders who have few peers seek
out coaches to discuss business and professional goals.
It’s a decision that should not be made lightly.
Coaching relationships can be
structured a variety of ways. Consider whether you want to
work with a coach in person, by phone or both. Know what’s
most important to you in selecting a good coach.
Finding the right fit is everything.
You’ll know you have the wrong fit if you feel you’re
wasting your time, dread your coaching conversations, or
focus on issues that aren’t directly relevant to your
goals. Listen to your instincts and find the best fit.
With the complexity of issues that
challenge executives, there is never a loss for discussion
topics between a coach and client. Below are a few of the
issues that many of today’s top-performing leaders discuss
with their executive coaches:
- Staying focused on top priorities
- Increasing accountability for
- Building skills in particular
areas (such as communication or decision making)
- Dealing with organizational
- Thinking strategically
- Handling stress & avoiding burnout
- Managing teams & dealing with
sensitive personnel situations
- Influencing others
- Brainstorming new ideas/creative
- Personal career planning
- Life-work balance issues
- Establishing clear goals and
In addition to finding the right coach,
here are a few success factors to keep in mind for those who
engage in a coaching process.
- Establish clear guidelines for the
relationship and coaching process on the front end.
Don’t make assumptions.
- Share feedback. If something is
not working, discuss it.
- Acknowledge progress and successes
along the way. This helps build momentum.
- Involve other stakeholders if
necessary. In some cases, others in the organization can
participate in the process to share input and feedback.
Executive coaching is not for
everyone. It’s only for those executives who are highly
motivated, who are committed to leadership development, and
who want to engage in the process. Expect a minimum
commitment of six months to a year.
Company Sponsored Coaching Programs
Many more companies now recognize the
importance of promoting coaching within their organizations.
Many have formal coaching programs that include internal and
external coaches. Organizations that sponsor coaching
programs need to be diligent about connecting the benefits
of coaching with business results in their
organizations. Without a results focus, organizations run
the risk of promoting coaching for its own sake –
“campaign for coaches,” instead of solutions for
executives. Coaching is simply a means, not an end in
Corporate initiatives that mandate or
roll out a coaching program too broadly jeopardize the
effectiveness of the program. Often those who need coaching
most are least likely to be open to the process, but top
performers are always looking for a leading edge.
Finding the right coach can be the
leading edge you need to succeed professionally.
http://gaylelantz.com /, Founder of WorkMatters®, is an
organizational development consultant and executive coach
who works with organizations that want to develop their
people, and with individuals who want to achieve important
business and personal goals. For more tips on how to make
the most of your work, sign up for “WorkMatters Tips” at