Most of you would answer this question with a resounding no, and understandably so. You either believe coaching is only for “problem people” who need to be “fixed,” or you have never given it much thought because you already consider yourself an effective leader. If you fall into either of these categories, that’s OK. I’m writing this short article especially for you. So let’s explore who retains an executive coach and why, and look at three dynamics of the executive coaching experience you may find surprising.
Who Hires An Executive Coach?
Most executives who retain coaches are not flawed leaders. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The vast majority of people who seek out executive coaches are effective, successful people who want to raise their game. Many of these executives are accomplished CEOs who as leaders of their organizations often find it difficult to get counsel that can help them improve their overall effectiveness. Sometimes they want to continue to achieve successful results, but without having to work 70 or 80 hours per week! Jim Collins might characterize these CEOs as leaders who want to make the transition from “good to great.”
How Can An Executive Coach Help?
Executive coaches assist leaders in many ways, but if I had to identify three broad categories, they would be:
1. To identify and fine-tune their personal leadership and organizational goals.
2. To prioritize and develop action plans to achieve their goals.
3. To help implement their action plans successfully.
It can be invaluable to receive an outside perspective not only with regard to setting goals, but also for creating a mechanism of accountability for achieving them. Some leaders are terrific goal setters, but require assistance with planning. Others are skilled planners, but need help implementing their action plans.
Effective implementation is a common area of focus both from a personal and an organizational perspective. On a personal level, consider the New Year’s resolution: Starting January 1st, you pledge to lose weight, quit smoking, etc. But without a disciplined plan, an unwavering commitment to the goal, and help from others to keep you on track, your well intentioned resolution will, more often than not, give way to your habits of the prior year.
Organizationally, how often have we all witnessed the launch of a bold new company initiative, only to have it dissipate within six months? A great plan can quickly become a failed endeavor because, as David Maister says, “You can’t get the benefits of a strategy that you don’t implement, and half measures are unlikely to work.”
Strengths versus Weaknesses
Many people eschew the notion of retaining an executive coach because they loathe the prospect of being placed under a microscope. They have a perception of spending countless hours engaging in excruciating self improvement exercises. Working on “weaknesses only” is what Tom Rath describes as “taking the path of ‘most’ resistance.” While I don’t recommend ignoring your weaknesses entirely, it’s much more productive and enjoyable to improve upon your strengths. When Larry Bird played for the Boston Celtics, he was among the best three-point shooters to ever play in the NBA. Can you imagine his coach KC Jones asking Bird to spend most of his time in practice working on his slam dunking skills? Sounds ridiculous when you think of it in those terms, doesn’t it? It’s no different in business; good coaches help you develop your strengths. It’s not only more effective, but exponentially more fun.
Questions or Answers?
Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” By asking thoughtful questions and listening to what you really have to say, your coach will become more thoroughly acquainted with who you are and what you want. Coaching isn’t prescriptive. It’s a process of “assisted self discovery” that asks you to really think about your challenges and aspirations as you may have never done before. It’s an invaluable process that yields lifelong dividends, both personally and professionally.
One-to-One and Group Experience
As a Vistage Chair, I provide one-to-one coaching to our members, but I see the value of that coaching rise significantly when transferred to our peer group setting. Imagine for a moment that you could gain the perspective of others (beyond just your coach); have a trusted circle of people who care about you and who will hold you accountable for what you want to achieve in your life; and who provide a safe environment for you to “test drive” new ways of thinking and working. It inspires an all new level of trust – trust in ourselves, trust in others, and trust in adopting new beliefs.
Think About Retaining An Executive Coach.
Not because you’re broken, but because you’re not. Consider it because you want to raise your game, amplify your strengths, find a better balance, ask better questions of yourself and others, and invite those who care about you, personally and professionally, to join you on your journey from good to great.
Declan Maguire is a Vistage Chair, and a Certified Professional Facilitator and Coach.
In his work Declan is a catalyst for positive change, challenging his members and clients to reach for the higher level of success they want in their business and life.