Executive coaching has become a widely used practice in the world of leadership development. This blog looks at some of the crucial ingredients and 6 key elements that will help to distinguish what executive coaching should be and assess when it is a valuable intervention. With as many as 40% of newly appointed leaders failing in their roles within the first year, executive coaching also offers a solution to support transition through this crucial period.
What is executive coaching?
Firstly it is important to agree what executive coaching actually is. I would describe it as a tailored process of leadership development that should benefit both the individual and their organisation, delivered by a qualified and trusted professional.
What format should executive coaching take?
Below is a list of 6 elements that offer a flexible format and simple process for a typical executive coaching programme.
Element 1 - Set clearly defined goals
There should be agreed personal goals that align with organisational strategy and it is important that the ‘coachee’ has the support and buy-in from their relative stakeholders. Ultimately the process should result in some form of change that will need support. It is a good idea at this point to set out a partnership agreement between coach and coachee to establish trust, confidential boundaries and develop commitment.
Element 2 – Understand the ‘as is’
It is imperative to build a true picture of the starting point for the coaching which should be supported by as much fact as possible. It is often difficult to be objective about your own abilities and this is when benchmarking current leadership tendencies through psychometric assessment can offer an excellent solution. A review of key performance indicators and leadership strategy should also be investigated to understand the wider context. Without the relevant background at this stage, it becomes very hard to measure any development and understand what successes have been achieved.
Element 3 – Tailor the process
Coaching should never be a pre-determined solution, the greatest benefit of a one-to-one process is that it can fully embrace the preferred learning style of the coachee and support their working commitments. A good coach should be creative in approach with the coachees’ development at the core - a process should never limit learning.
Element 4 – Allow for reflection
It is very easy in a coaching relationship to push for immediate change and instant results, this may suit some situations however, most executives have very busy working lives so as well as these sessions being about development they should also offer a time for reflection. Ultimately the coach’s role is to help the coachee come up with their own development ideas, as long as each session results in positive actions the desire to immediately implement new ideas should be approached carefully.
Element 5 – Practical application
Following on from the last point, this process should indeed be about practical application, be that behavioural change or implementation of strategies. When the coachee has formulated suitable actions the coach can help put them into practice.
Element 6 – Measure and celebrate success
It is said success breeds success and indeed these need to be celebrated however most change is confronted by some resistance and this is where the original support network of stakeholders become important. Measuring ongoing successes and development generates the belief, enthusiasm and confidence needed to see the process through.
The pressure on C suite professionals is huge these days, executive coaching offers an excellent way to combat many tactical issues whilst building the skills and abilities needed to be a strategic thinker and transformational leader.