Over the past decade, the idea of hiring an external coach to develop leaders, improve team alignment, and impact organizational culture and thereby contribute to business results, has taken a lot of importance. Some of the most successful and established organizations and budding start-ups are eager to hire a coach. I think an important factor is the awareness that has been created through the experiences of world renowned global CEOs/CXOs who have shared their coaching experiences with a wider set of people. The best example of this phenomenon is the book Trillion Dollar Coach written by Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. It has also led to a boom in the coaching industry, evidenced by the many LinkedIn posts from professionals posting their coaching certificates on a fairly regular basis.
This demand and supply scenario creates a win-win situation and as a large number of senior leaders show their eagerness to be coached, as a coach one must be prepared to play one’s role in a way designed to bring maximum value. In this article, I would like to share some tips that have helped me coach senior executives in different geographies and industries around the world.
Understand and clarify purpose, process and roles
It is essential for a coach to ask and assess the primary goal of coaching articulated or indicated by the primary stakeholder(s) – is it development, engagement, retention, etc. ? and to clarify the coaching process as well as the roles that must be played by the critical actors, i.e. the coach, the coachee, HR, the manager of the coachee, the board of directors, etc. The role of an executive coach is different from that of an advisor, expert, mentor etc. Also, it is imperative to make the coachee understand that they did not just sign up for good heart-to-heart conversations. Coaching is an endeavor that requires discipline, time, energy and effort, as well as challenging beliefs and acknowledging and confronting self-doubts/fears.
Understand the main stakeholders
A coach should strive to understand the nature of the key stakeholders who will play a major role in the success of the coaching process, for example, the manager of the coachee is a dominant individual with a low tolerance for failure and is always on a rolling roller coaster ride or is he supportive and a patient listener who has experienced the benefits of coaching himself at some stage in his career. This addition in contextual understanding allows the coach to ask powerful questions based on practicality.
Detect the culture and stage of the organization
There are things that can be concretely obtained such as the commercial strategy, the organizational structure, the role of the coachee, etc. However, for a coach it is important to try to understand what some of the underlying/unstated and governing beliefs of an organization are. For example, we get the best result when we constantly compete and challenge each other, your value is as good as your last quarter EBITA. Having an idea or semblance of the actual core beliefs of a system in which the coachee is operating is very valuable. The organizational stage also plays a crucial role, for example, we are at a stage where the management of the organization feels that almost every idea is worth pursuing/investing.
Management of a cocktail of coaching and advice
There may be times when one acts as a coach for a few organizational leaders and also acts as a consultant as part of a larger engagement with the same organization and therefore engages with the same set of leaders in two different capacities that of a coach and a consultant. You have to be extremely careful that the two roles do not create an intoxicating cocktail in the minds of leaders who see the same individual playing two different roles.
Exit gracefully if and when necessary
There may be times when a coach realizes that the process is not worth pursuing for different reasons, for example, the coachee does not have time due to personal or professional development suddenly or the coachee has lost motivation or you realize that coaching is a facade that is deployed to hide a hideous agenda, etc. As a coach, you have to learn the art and science of coming out gracefully while giving the reason for taking such a call without appearing to excuse or accuse.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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