As an executive coach, most of what I have been writing about recently has been based around my own experiences as well as of those of my fellow coaches. This week I put myself in the shoes of the client. What would the client/executive/leader find helpful in coaching? When would a coach be of value?
It can get confusing and overwhelming for someone who has never experienced coaching before to know when it’s the right time to take up a coach. Having been on both sides of the table for a considerable amount of time now, I wanted to put down a few pointers to help executives and organisations decide whether it would be the right time for them to hire a coach.
When performance can be even better
An executive feels that her performance is not up to her expectations and cannot find the reason why. Hiring a coach may help. It doesn’t necessarily need to be about performance, though – even if an executive feels that there is a general lack of clarity on why they’re not able to deliver, or there are ups and downs in the business (such as a loss of market share, not making enough profits, etc.) and they have been trying everything they know to help solve the issues, but to no avail.
In such circumstances hiring a coach can be just the solution that’s needed because a coach is equipped to act as the executive’s sounding board to assist them in getting a better understanding of their thought process and finding practical solutions to their professional problems.
When there are significant changes in the organisation
An organisation may be embarking on a sizeable transformational program or there may be a considerable ramp-up in the business (like setting up a new factory, getting into more unknown territory for sales, or putting together a large team). An executive who has never worked on such a scale & scope may not have any references to achieve those goals. A coach can become super valuable to ensure that they have all their bases covered and are prepared for a changed scenario.
When an executive has received feedback
As a result of any standard HR process such as the annual appraisal process, 360 feedback, or even a regular feedback session, a need may arise to hire a coach for an executive. When the executive is not entirely sure how to solve the issue, getting a coach to get the right kind of guidance can be a game-changer.
Additionally, precise input from any stakeholders – the team, manager, or super boss – can act as a trigger to hire a coach. For instance, the executive could get feedback that they are not spending enough time with their team or are not delegating effectively.
When the executive is undergoing a significant life change
We often try to compartmentalise our professional and personal lives. But what happens in the personal domain can very quickly impact the professional domain, and vice-versa. If an executive is going through a significant life change, a difficult transition in a relationship or a consequential loss in investment for instance, the behaviours can seep into their professional setup in the way they show up for work, behave with their co-workers, and more.
Getting a coach during this transitional phase may be needed to help them manage those two aspects better, prevent the challenges in one domain from creeping into the other, and also to cope better with those difficulties.
To prepare for the future
A successful executive with a good track record and for whom things are going swimmingly well in current times would want to continue on the same trajectory and continue to perform at the same level (or even higher) in the future. Working with a coach can ensure that the executive is not surprised when facing new challenges (the ‘unknown unknowns’).
These could be like hidden rocks under the water that are not visible from the ship but can derail it off the path and even cause loss. Using the guidance of a coach, one can unearth (with the help of necessary data) these ‘unknown unknowns’ and prepare for that. A coach helps individuals and organisations work through precisely those kinds of aspects.
Examples of executive coaching success
- The founder of Srijan Technologies Rahul Dewan is known to work with several coaches simultaneously to get multiple perspectives for his business. He shares anecdotes in his posts and credits coaches for his learnings. I would highly recommend you go through them here.
- Allan Mulally (former CEO of Ford Motor Company and former President & CEO of Boeing Commercial Airlines) has attributed his success to working with Marshall Goldsmith – the world’s number one executive coach. He said, “We were a very successful team who took our performance to the next level. With Marshall’s help we identified our two areas and went to work. We used everyone’s help and support, exceeded our improvement expectations and had fun! A team’s dedication to continuous improvement combined with Marshall’s proven process ROCKS!”
- Shawna, a company leader, found that coaching transformed the way she led. Not having a vision for how people worked together had increased her leadership challenges. Through coaching she learned new skills to create a vision and reinvent her team’s structure. Through her partnership with an ICF-credentialed coach, Shawna learned new skills and resources, which she used with her new leadership team. That leadership team then brought newly acquired skills to their subgroups. The result was a trickle-down “coach approach” throughout the organisation, helping Shawna move her leadership team forward while creating space for her to stay engaged and committed as a leader. You can read more on this here.
Essentially, I believe every single executive could benefit from hiring a coach. Working with a coach could be a long-term, to a year (or more), or could be more of an episodic affair directly related to a specific change or event taking part in an executive’s work (and sometimes even personal) environment.