An Introduction to Executive Coaching

Who is an Executive Coach?
Executive Coach is not a consultant, counselor, therapist or even a mentor. Clients usually bring on a " Consultant" and not a Coach when they need to solve a burning issue and needs solutions, advice or suggestions and is often a reactive engagement after the fact. In the contrary, an Executive Coach is engaged by a client proactively and more often in an ongoing basis for professional development with a focus on both short and long-term goals.

An Executive Coach need not be an expert in a specific subject, industry or business problem of a client as the role is to help them step back and think differently and enable them to walk a path with clarity towards their goals.

What does an Executive Coach do?
An Executive Coach works with his or her clients to unearth their full potential and supports them with tools and resources that will enable them to take actions that can potentially lead to the set goals. This also applies to an internal coach. If you are an internal coach for someone in your Organization, take off the consulting hat and don’t rush to offer solutions. Good coach is like a GPS that gives the direction but the coachee needs to drive or run on their own towards their destination. As Galileo said: “you cannot teach humans anything…you can only help them discover it within themselves “

Executive Coach gets paid for enabling their clients to solve their own problems. This would be called " Coaching good” vs " Coaching poorly" wherein a coach offers advice and solutions to the client's issues and spends more time talking than listening. The ability to ask powerful questions that can help the clients find their own paths is what differentiates an executive coach from others.

Focus on Client’s agenda
In Executive Coaching, it's always about client's agenda and mostly involves listening and the only talking is to ask the right open questions that will help clients to keep clearing their own path. A good analogy would be using a shovel to remove the snow and as you go thru the process, the path keeps opening. The ability to ask powerful questions that can help the clients find their own paths is what differentiates an executive coach from others.

Myth and Blind spots
There is a myth that if a coach has been recommended or assigned to someone by their company, it means that they have some serious derailing behaviors needing a fix. While that is a possibility, more often that’s not the real reason. From my own experience and talking to others in my network, the top reason for hiring a coach seems to be to further develop the high potential managers and enable them to get ready for their next role.

Also, in sports, there is a concept of reflective coaching wherein a coach and the player are able to sit together and watch the replay of a game to find the gaps and work on improving before the next game. In the corporate world, one does not get that opportunity and the managers that are supposed to offer feedback and coaching are not necessarily trained to do that effectively hence cannot help finding the blind spots or don’t have the time to spend on coaching their teams. In these situations, having an executive coach at all times helps to find and remove those blind spots and work towards achieving the long-term goals.

My Take
Now, my personal take on Executive Coaching is that it’s a marathon and not a sprint
. It starts with a process of getting to know the client, earn the right to advance, help the clients find their path and continue to work towards becoming a Trusted Partner for a long and continuous engagement. So, if you are considering engaging an executive coach, plan to engage for long term to see a measurable impact.

Posted on July10, 2019 by Param Venkat

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