Executive Coaching in Real Life
Knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it are two separate things. Even Peter Drucker has commented, “The problem in my life and in other people’s lives is not the absence of knowing what to do but the absence of doing it.” You get it. You’ve heard about executive coaching, considered it, and even had that feeling that confirms this is what you need at this point in your career.
Yet reaching out to an executive coach is still on your to-do list.
What’s holding you back? It could be as basic as fear of the unknown–what results can you expect, what does the relationship look like, how do you balance the public and private sides of your business life.
Let’s take a quick look at what you can expect.
Confidentiality: Secrets Remain Secret
First of all, the coaching relationship is confidential. What is said within the coaching environment stays there. One of the primary purposes of coaching is to provide you with a safe place to think, to reflect, and to share. The coaching relationship affords you the opportunity to drop the walls that surround you in other circumstances and honestly reflect on issues and concerns. It is a safe place to voice both hopes and worries, express deeply held reservations, and engage in open and honest discussion to help you move forward.
Each executive enters the coaching process with their own set of ambitions and challenges to be faced. The universal expectation is growth yet the path to accomplish that transformation is different for each person. A few examples drawn from executive coaching engagements will put the process in context.
The View from the Top: New CEO
CEOs are made, not born. The transition to CEO is not something to be underestimated. Even if you’re taking on the CEO role at the place where you’ve worked for years, everything changes once you assume the new title. When you’re promoted to the top role, the whole world shifts. Responsibilities, perspective, and behaviors all will be affected; you may sense an acute need for specific guidance as you redefine your role and working relationships.
Even more sobering is the point made by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, Vikram Malhotra and Kurt Strovink in “Starting strong: Making your CEO transition a catalyst for renewal,” that within 18 months of taking on the role, one-third to one-half of new CEOs are considered to be failing. Of this group, more than 90 percent acknowledge they would like to have handled the transition differently. This is a critical time period for the organization, as well as the new CEO, during which an executive coach can provide necessary perspective.
Your pattern of engagement within the organization changes as your view as CEO is unique; your perspective is no longer shared in the same way by colleagues. How you allocate your time and the demands placed on it are radically different because your priorities have changed; requests must be filtered through a different set of values and obligations before you respond or make time in your schedule.
A new CEO may need increased confidence to share ideas within a leadership group. Dynamics change, especially when your desk is the one where the buck stops. At the same time, training may help you gain needed buy-in from other stakeholders, expanding your range of communications tools and methods. This could include sharpened listening skills and a deeper understanding of human behavior and what elements go into influencing the actions of others.
And an executive coach can see that all these refinements take place in a way that helps you achieve balance in life–so that the organization’s life doesn’t consume your own.
A Business Owner: You Are Your Business
For the owner and founder of a business, the personal identification with the organization is strong and close. That identification keeps your focus tight, but it can become a challenge to keep up with the additional demands and necessary roles of a growing enterprise. Growth can explode–becoming almost too much of a good thing–leaving you struggling to manage it all.
You may need to take a step back to gain perspective and regroup; pause to create space, think, and plan your next move with deliberation. This is the point where a coaching relationship brings value. A coach can help you gain the proper distance to see the organization objectively and assess what is needed. You can freely give voice to your vision, even in the early stages, and lay the groundwork for the changes you want to see. Accountability, honest conversation, and targeted leadership training are all aspects of the coaching engagement that can move you forward.
In the past, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a business owner whose company was facing rapid growth. The owner had a goal for the organization: to create and nurture a meaningful work environment for all employees. Stating the goal isn’t enough to make it true–culture change takes planning and consistent effort. Working together, we were able to structure and implement beneficial programs for the organization, including work environment changes. Going a step further, the coaching program also led to helping the business owner develop and implement a succession plan, bringing stability to the business and peace of mind to the owner.
The View from the Corner Office: C-Suite Executive
Whether you’re new to the organization or promoted from within, getting up to speed efficiently is critical. This process looks different for those promoted from within and those new to the company. It’s a process you can’t rush, but neither do you have unlimited time to absorb the collective wisdom of the organization.
An executive coach can help you view the situation with fresh eyes and assess the specific skills that need to be reinforced, as naturally, needs and objectives vary. Coaching offers guidance and even role play for navigating power dynamics and developing strategies to gain the trust of peers. Coaching can help refine communications techniques and strategies, including methods to build rapport and increase influence with other executives and stakeholders.
The coaching experience can help you clarify work and personal priorities so you can stay in your lane and move forward with clearly defined purpose and energy.
Every executive is unique, as is every organization. The beauty of coaching relationships is that each one reflects that individuality. While expectations for enhanced performance, selfawareness, and communication skills may be similar, the path that the engagement relationship takes to achieve results is one-of-a-kind.
Will you learn to share in a new way as you engage with an executive coach? Yes. You’ll have accountability and space to learn and practice new key behaviors. Perhaps you will still have a sense that it’s lonely at the top, but you’ll have clear structures available for support.
My focus is on helping leaders better manage themselves and their teams. Is this you? Do you know anyone who could use this kind of help? I am currently interviewing for 1 or 2 client openings. Come discover what’s possible with me! Click here and let’s get the conversation started.
Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations.