In baseball, getting a base hit requires physical skill as well as a good eye for what the pitcher is serving up. But once on base, the batters that make the most of their ability are the ones who are supported by an observant and strategically-minded first base coach. This person reminds the runner how many outs there are, indicates when it’s a good idea to take an extra base, makes it clear when to round first, but hold up, and can provide valuable information on how far to go after hitting a pop fly.
The first base coach takes in game conditions and the strengths of the batter to maximize effectiveness.
The player is the one executing, but the coach knows how to make that player more effective. The same is true with executive coaching. The executive continues to carry out important tasks, but learns to overcome obstacles, build skills, and capitalize on talents with the help of an observant, engaged executive coach. It may not have always been called “coaching,” but the role has existed for a long time, because it gets positive results. Here’s why executive coaching works.
Excellence in executive coaching requires that the coach be observant and ready to assist when the situation calls for it. Like the first base coach telling a runner to take that extra base, the executive coach recognizes strengths and opportunities, helps the executive recognize them as well, and helps establish a pattern of recognizing scenarios and how to cope with them for maximum benefit. “Off the field,” the executive coach assists with skills development that makes the most sense for the client’s needs, whether that’s better public speaking, more effective delegation, or learning when it’s OK to share critical information with other executives.
It’s Individually Tailored
The executive coach is not trying to fill the world with cookie-cutter executives who all do the same things the same way. Like the sports coach who recognizes the individual talents of team members, the executive coach understands the uniqueness of each client and takes the time to individually tailor coaching activities to play to that person’s strengths, while helping him or her overcome weaknesses. An individual approach is essential for this to work, because every executive is unique, and every organization is unique. Executive coaching is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is an assembly line process.
It Starts with In-Depth Assessment
The exceptional executive coach doesn’t go into a coaching relationship with an executive with preconceived ideas. Rather, he or she knows that time must be spent up front assessing the client’s strengths, and where there is opportunity to improve. Observation and assessment are indispensable to the successful coaching relationship, because these activities allow coaching processes to be individualized. The assessment process should be transparent, and involves discussing results with the client so that a solid coaching plan can take shape.
The great executive coach takes the time to observe and assess before creating a strategy.
Reassessment and Refinement Are Part of the Process
The assessment phase of executive coaching isn’t something that’s done once and then left behind. Effective coaching always requires periodic reassessment and refinement. Is the client making progress towards his or her goals? Have new goals emerged? Have new strengths been discovered? These things happen, and the outstanding coach is prepared to recalibrate and readjust as necessary so that the client can make maximum progress. Goals and objectives after several weeks of executive coaching may be somewhat different from the goals and objectives developed at the beginning.
It Wasn’t Always Called “Coaching”
The most effective leaders have always relied on assistance from trusted advisors to avoid missteps and develop better decision-making capabilities. William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was at the side of Elizabeth I of England from her coronation until his death. He was called many different things, including “Principal Secretary to the Queen,” and “Chief Minister,” and it’s not too far a stretch to call him a world scale executive coach for his role in helping the Queen achieve astonishing successes during her long reign. Ultimately, executive coaching is about releasing and directing the enormous potential of the high-level executive, and it’s a role that people in high places have relied upon for centuries. Why? Because it gets great results.