Everyone knows that coaches are important for athletic success. Even the most talented professional athletes at the top of their game require coaching. In fact, it can be argued that when an athlete has reached the highest levels of his or her sport, a coach becomes even more critical to their success. Getting to the top is hard. Staying there is even harder.

And just as coaches help professional athletes increase their abilities and achieve positive results, executive coaches help organizational leaders increase their abilities, build strong relationships, and achieve positive results.

What is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching is a process of personal and professional learning that is facilitated by a qualified advisor.  The purpose of coaching is to support the coachee as he or she closes the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.

There are several reasons that organizations engage the services of an executive coach. Coaching can be used to help develop skills in future leaders, strengthen and reinforce skills in current leaders, or help struggling leaders stay on track – all of which are a critical step in the talent development process. The sustainability of an organization is its leadership talent pool, and the growth of leaders is essential for a strong future.

Engagement, Accountability, and Action

Coaching is a two-way street. Both the coach and the coachee must be invested in the relationship or it cannot result in success. Accountability and action are required in order for leaders to reach their goals. Without follow through, their efforts will lead nowhere.

The coach must get to know the coachee through personal interactions and the use of recognized and respected tools like the Myers-Briggs or Business DNA assessment.  The coachee’s personal communications preferences and their feelings and attitudes about the coaching engagement should be considered before creating an action plan. Once the plan is in place, it is up to the coachee to take the necessary, outlined steps to reach each goal. Just as athletic coaches can’t take to the field for their athletes, executive coaches can’t make change happen on their own. The coach is there to listen, guide, help, and monitor progress, but the action must come from the coachee.

Though each coaching engagement is highly personalized, a typical interaction might look something like this:

  • Ensure buy-in from both the coachee and the sponsor.
  • Determine specific, measurable goals for the coaching relationship.
  • Understand who will provide feedback and measurement for each goal. Identify those feedback partners and get their commitment upfront.
  • Set a specific timeline for each goal.
  • Identify techniques and actionable steps to help the coachee develop new behaviors and reach each goal.
  • Check in regularly to measure progress.
  • Readjust the plan as needed. Some techniques may not be a good fit for the coachee, so flexibility and patience throughout the entire process is a must.

It is important to remember that developing new behaviors takes time and change does not happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small increments. Individuals are unique and no two coaching relationships are the same. Therefore, coachees and sponsors must be prepared to work with a coach for anywhere from six months to a year, depending on individual circumstances.

Coaching Should Be Part of a Larger Plan

Modern organizations are constantly dealing with change. Changes in technology.  Changes in government regulations. Staffing changes. Expansions. Cutbacks.  Realignments. New product launches. Expansions into new markets. It seems change is never-ending. Executive coaches can help organizations cultivate strong leaders who can keep the organizational leadership moving forward, even in the most uncertain environments. 

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But coaching is not a cure-all for struggling organizations or leaders, nor is it a guaranteed fast-track to the C Suite. At its most effective, coaching is part of a systemic initiative to develop talent. By using an independent, 360-degree assessment, organizations can identify areas in which leaders might benefit from a coaching engagement.  When coaching is used to further broader business goals, it can produce the following results:

  • Focused leaders increase productivity among their team members.
  • Engaged leaders understand how their work benefits the organization.
  • Improved internal relationships.
  • More meaningful client interactions.

Coaching can help unlock a leader’s potential by helping them focus and clarifying their leadership values. When leaders work with coaches, they are able to break down tasks into manageable, actionable steps that not only help them achieve their personal and professional goals, but make them a valuable asset to their organizations.