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The Importance of Understanding Executive Coaching
Winds of change are blowing all through today’s business world, including through the executive suite. In other words, there’s no choice but to face change – not that there ever really was. The difference is that today’s business changes are likelier to be felt at the executive level, which means that leaders must be prepared to be strong right out of the starting gate and maintain strength and agility. It’s not easy. Moreover, teams have to work better, and they have to do so under greater pressure. Emerging leaders must be identified and worked with earlier on to prepare them for the challenges that come with leadership positions today. At the same time, leaders themselves want not only job satisfaction, but also work-life balance. Keeping all the plates spinning is demanding, and effective executive coaching is the key to making it all work.
Executive coaching is the sturdy bridge that connects individual leadership effectiveness with outstanding organizational performance. It can help organizations attract and retain exceptional leaders and help executive teams to improve their performance. Executive coaching often provides critical support to senior leaders who are responsible for making the right decisions and achieving the right outcomes. When the road of organizational change is bumpy, executive coaching provides the shock absorbers that make a safer, more enjoyable ride with fewer breakdowns.
Coaching has come to be seen for what it is: a powerful advantage in the leadership development process, especially when performance goals are on the line. Unfortunately, a gap still exists between what’s expected of senior executives and the resources that help them acquire the inner-core attributes and outer-core skills necessary to reach goals. Executive coaching is designed to close that gap. Still, however, only 21.6% of organizations surveyed in a 2016 Pearson’s Trends in Executive Development study actually used executive coaching to maximize leadership potential of up-and-coming leaders. The numbers are a bit more encouraging at 33.8% when it comes to executive coaching for those at vice president level and 33.2 for those in the c-suite.
A full 61% of organizations we surveyed didn’t cite executive coaching as an important developmental strategy for emerging and high-potential talent. That’s short-sighted for two main reasons:
- Inner-core attributes like character, values, self-image, emotional control, references, and behavior are enduring, and difficult to change in the leader or the emerging leader. But these are the exact characteristics that predict how much success a leader experiences in executing his or her outer-core competencies. Executive coaching is a powerful method (and perhaps the only method) for emerging leaders to strengthen these vital inner-core attributes.
- Different generations have different expectations from their employers. Generation X and Generation Y now make up close to 100% of any organization’s future leadership pool, but their expectations in the workplace are different. Emerging leaders in Generation X want a casual, flexible, independent environment and a place to learn. Those in Generation Y want interaction, support, and structure. Both of these demographic groups want continuous connectedness and growth. Executive coaching is a potent strategy for meeting the needs of an organization’s future leaders.
Executive coaches may be phenomenally effective, or disappointingly ineffective. Therefore, it’s essential to hire external executive coaches who have the experience and the skills to coach “inside-out.” These are the coaches who address an emerging leader’s inner core first, before moving to strengthen their outer core. It’s also important not to underestimate the importance of engaging coaches with a proven operations mindset and who have experience on the front lines. They have to build trust and empathy with high-potential coachees, and operations experience is what has helped me to build the rapport, trust, and credibility my coachees and their organizations demand.
Equally important is understanding the philosophy of any coach you consider working with. Can they verbalize their philosophy clearly and without hesitation? They should be able to. And finally, their philosophy must be aligned with the leadership development philosophy of your organization in order to be maximally effective. I encourage you to learn more about leadership coaching and please get in touch if I can be of assistance to you.