Is Executive Coaching Right for You?
You may be a technical genius, a financial wizard, or a brilliant negotiator, but do you have the interpersonal and communication skills required to effectively manage other high-level employees?
Being an executive or the owner of a small business requires a wide array of abilities. Fortunately, infallibility is not one of them. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult for business leaders to locate a trusted advisor who has the knowledge, experience, and insight necessary to offer a fresh and ultimately valuable perspective on how the leader and the company can utilize best practices to continue to move confidently towards their goals.
The lack of trusted advisors who can help business leaders and executives stay on track has given rise to what was not so long ago an infant industry: business, executive, and leadership coaching.
To be fair, performing artists and professional athletes have taken advantage of leadership and performance coaches for quite some time. But these groups are no longer the only ones who regularly seek professional coaching.
Companies large and small — including household names such as IBM, Genentech, Deloitte and Touche, NASA, and the BBC — have taken it upon themselves to use these challenging economic times as an opportunity to find fresh, innovative approaches to optimize their individual and team performance and improve their business management strategies.
And these corporations have all found professional coaching to be an invaluable tool to help develop their full potential, successfully manage change, and achieve their visions of success.
Likewise, top executives such as Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, eBay’s Meg Whitman, and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill have all discovered that no matter how good you get, you can always get better, and each has turned to executive coaching to help them achieve their best.
Can Executive Coaching Help You?
Executive coaching can be described as a professional partnership between you — the client — and a qualified performance-improvement expert for the express purpose of creating a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires you to maximize your personal and professional potential and produce extraordinary results in your business, organization, and career.
Also known as business coaching and leadership coaching, executive coaching takes a practical, results-oriented approach to improving your job performance, career advancement, and generally making you better faster.
While there are a seemingly countless number of benefits to working with an executive coach, executive coaching is likely to be helpful if you’ve been:
* Promoted and find yourself in need of more sophisticated interpersonal and political skills than you currently possess
* Passed over for a promotion and are confused about your options and the next steps you should take in your career
* Placed in charge of a department or group of employees that have exhibited relational difficulties and you lack experience managing dysfunctional groups of employees
* Wanting to create a plan that will allow you to take your professional and personal life to the next level.
Again, these are just a few of the instances in which hiring an executive coach can be extremely beneficial. Companies often hire business and executive coaches to develop internal leaders, retain talent, and facilitate succession planning.
But, regardless of the reasons for your interest in hiring an executive coach, it must be said that the best time to hire a business or leadership coach is before you or your organization is facing a major transition or crisis. In order for coaching to be effective, you should establish and develop the coaching relationship before putting it to the proverbial fire.
Finding the Right Coach for You
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need to find a coach with specialized experience in your industry. While, finding such a coach may be helpful and even recommended in some circumstances, in general one of the reasons to hire an executive coach is to bring in a fresh, outside perspective.
Additionally, the underlying processes and principles employed by executive and leadership coaches are applicable irrespective of industries, therefore coaches that bring a breadth of experience may be qualified to provide unique and valuable insight you need to succeed.
If you think you may be able to benefit from executive coaching, you should:
* Interview at least a few prospective coaches and be on the lookout for “A-Ha!” moments during the interview that make you think the coach can work with you to help you achieve goals you wouldn’t be able to achieve without their help.
* Make sure the prospective coach is an active listener and that he or she actively explores your situation and needs. Because coaching is a very individual process, you want to avoid coaches whose recommendations and advice sound formula-driven.
* Feel comfortable asking a prospective coach any questions you have, and you should feel comfortable with their answers or any reasons they provide for declining to answer.
What you shouldn’t do is tell prospective coaches what you want fixed. Explain to your coach the context of the situation you’re in and let them perform an assessment. Most of us know what we want but have trouble getting there. You coach should not only provide feedback about what you are and aren’t doing, but also ideas about what you should or could be doing to achieve the results you desire.
While it is not uncommon for positive changes to occur shortly after starting to work with an executive coach, the coaching process does take time and most coaching relationships last for at least several months, if not several years or longer.
As you and your business grow and encounter new challenges on an ongoing basis, you’re likely to find that working with the right executive and leadership coach is at least as critical to your success as a good accountant or lawyer, and you may even come to believe that executive coaching is one of the best investments you’ve ever made in your own future and the future of your business.
Lori Ciano, MBA, is a Professional Certified Coach and leadership coach in San Jose, CA, who specializes in providing leadership coaching. For more information, visit Lori’s website at http://www.cianoassociates.com.