Even the most competent CEO coach cannot (and doesn’t want to) change who their client is deep down. An executive coach won’t turn the boisterous, demonstrative executive into a more demure, deferential person, and won’t do the opposite either.
An executive coach should not want to change who a person is fundamentally.
What the CEO coach does is to help the executive understand strengths, address skills gaps, and learn how to take their vision to the entire team effectively. To do these things, executives need several key personal attributes, many of which the executive coach may help with. Here are 6 personal attributes CEO coaches often help their clients with.
1. Approach to Risk
Some people are naturally more comfortable with risk than others are, and this is good. There are some organizations where embracing risk is more of an asset than in others. What the CEO coach typically works on with their client, with respect to risk, is their ability to step back and see where taking a risk is the right thing to do, and where risks should not be taken. Different levels of risk are appropriate in different situations, and executive coaches help their clients match the risk to the context more effectively.
2. Organizational Competence
To operate as a high-level executive, a person has to be able to tend to many details while retaining a comprehensive view of where things are headed. Lack of plain organizational skill can be seriously detrimental. The CEO coach can help by offering assessments of an executive’s organizational skills, identifying specific shortcomings, and developing a plan (and acquiring the tools) to address them. No C-level executive can afford to waste time because of inability to organize projects, activities, or tasks.
3. Effective Communication
Just as everyone has their own personality style, everyone has their own communication style. The CEO coach can help the executive develop what’s good about their communication style, while building up other communication skills that add to their overall competence and effectiveness. For example, a reticent public speaker who is accomplished in written communication may spend time working on public speaking skills to complement their strong written skills.
A great coach helps their client make the most of their particular communication style.
4. Passion and Drive
It’s not so much about “making” an executive have passion and drive as it is about helping them channel and direct it. Half a dozen horses running loose in a paddock have tremendous aggregate power, but it doesn’t do a lot of good unless it is harnessed and directed at a goal (like pulling a wagon). Passion without direction generally adds up to a lot of enthusiasm that ultimately evaporates. But passion coupled with direction can accomplish amazing things.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Not every executive is a “warm and fuzzy” person, nor are they expected to be. However, complete inability to read a situation, a room, or a group of people can be a serious problem. Emotional intelligence is what lets the executive know that now would be a good time for a light-hearted joke, or that the team’s emotions are heightened, and they should be attuned to that so as not to come across as heartless or tone deaf. Executives with strong emotional intelligence bring far more to the table than those without it.
The most effective leader is multi-dimensional, but that doesn’t mean they’re disjointed or enigmatic. All the dimensions of an effective leader work together toward an integral and unique personality – one that makes sense yet adapts appropriately to the demands of a given situation. It’s OK to be surprised by an unexpected skill of a leader (“Who knew he could speak Italian?”), but it’s not OK to discover that an appearance of honesty is not backed up by the practice of honesty. Executive coaching helps the leader understand the importance of integrity and how to build it and practice it.
My work as an executive coach has demanded many different skills, because every one of my clients has been unique. It’s not my job, nor the job of any executive coach, to try to fundamentally change who a leader is. Presumably they gained their status as a leader because of their merit, and I respect that. My job, rather, is to help them develop the tools and techniques that will empower them to rise to the many challenges they will face, to behave with integrity, and to leave a lasting, positive legacy.