Most of the business world has moved beyond the idea that executive coaching is only for top leaders who have somehow fallen short and must be given special assistance so as not to derail completely. In fact, executive coaching is, if anything, a sign that someone has arrived, and is someone in whom others place tremendous confidence. The CEO whose company suggests employing the services of an executive coach for them can safely assume that great things are expected of them, and that the company has faith in their ability to meet or exceed expectations.
Executive coaching isn’t about “fixing” problem leaders, but about maximizing outstanding leadership potential.
That said, executive coaching isn’t some sort of magical quest that seeks to impart secret knowledge that only C-level leaders are privy to, but is practical and based on goals that the leader and coach define together. Here are some of the top issues that today’s executive coaches work on with their clients.
Facilitating Maximum Team Performance
What leader doesn’t want to get maximum performance from their team? The issue is that simply wanting better performance doesn’t necessarily lead to getting better performance. With the assistance of the executive coach, a leader can learn how to establish a baseline, define what “better performance” means in measurable terms, and develop an actionable plan to go from here to there.
It’s going to be different with different leaders. Some executive coaching clients may need help with delegation skills, while others may need to make themselves more accessible and less intimidating to team members. By methodically examining client strengths and weaknesses, and enlisting in “360-degree feedback” from those the leader works with, client and coach can learn to identify specific needs and develop practical ways to meet them in order to improve team performance.
Managing Emotions Better
Excellent leaders are masters of their emotions. This is not to say that they don’t feel emotions, or that they’re experts at shutting down emotional responses within themselves. In fact, some leaders may need help with showing vulnerability so that their teams realize there is an actual human being inside that meticulously polished exterior.
Vulnerability isn’t a weakness in a leader. People need to know there’s a real person inside.
At the same time, there are leaders who must learn how to control unreasonable emotional outbursts. You simply can’t intimidate a team into excellence – at least not over the long term. Executive coaches have the tools and the insights that help leaders understand when their emotions (either suppressing them too effectively or not controlling them) get in the way of leading effectively.
Becoming Worthier of Respect
Sometimes it’s difficult for a younger person who is thrust into a position of leadership to feel as if they have the true respect of those they lead. The executive coach can be of tremendous help in these cases. With tools like 360-degree feedback from direct reports, peers, and superiors, the executive coach can help the new leader learn how they are really perceived by others. Good or bad, knowing this is the first step to understanding how to show team members that they are indeed worthy of their confidence and respect.
Executive coaches can then work on ingrained habits like being overly deferential, exhibiting conceited or “entitled” behaviors, or managing through passive-aggressive actions. The executive coach can help the client measure improvement in their relations with team members and identify which behaviors are effective and which are counterproductive.
My experience as an executive coach has taught me that there is no such thing as a “typical” client, because leaders are individuals with as much uniqueness as anyone else. The issues listed above are by no means exhaustive. I have worked with clients to reach a broad range of goals, and have helped clients develop plans that are tailored to them as individuals.