Why the Popularity of Executive Coaching Continues to Grow
The popularity of executive coaching continues to grow, in part as a result of heightened expectations placed on executives with leaner staffs. Companies recognize the benefits a coach can bring to beleaguered leaders. Some companies use coaching as a development strategy for potential leaders. Some include it as a promotion benefit. In all cases, the intent of coaching is to assist executives in developing stronger skills to be more effective on the job.
For a coaching assignment to be successful, specific goals and expectations must be delineated on the part of the coach, the executive, and the organization. “Make him stronger” is too fuzzy. “Make her a better communicator” is insufficient as well.
Too many coaching partnerships begin with nebulous expectations and end in vague disappointment. A good coach will not accept the challenge to turn a bad performer into a budding star without specific outcomes defined.
However, with definite goals outlined, a coach will help create an action plan for learning and practice, keep the executive focused on the goals, provide specific objective feedback, and encourage the executive’s efforts. In addition, a coach will provide resources for the executive’s continued learning in the form of articles, introductions, or suggested alternative behaviors.
A summary of this work and evidence of progress should be reported to the organization on a periodic basis. Details of coaching conversations or specific incidences are not included in such reporting.
A coach is a partner in growth. He or she is not a stand-in for the executive, nor should the coach be expected to work harder on success than the executive. As anyone who is familiar with Oprah Winfrey’s life-long struggle with weight has seen, even a superlative coach cannot do the work for you.
Coaching, then, is not a means of shifting responsibility from an executive to an external expert. It is not company-sponsored therapy. It is not remedial parenting.
While there may be—and today often are—personal or emotional issues intertwined with an executive’s sub-par performance, an executive coach is not qualified, nor should he or she be expected, to do the work of a professional therapist. It is imperative that organizations and individuals understand this.
Finally, a word about “presence.” Presence is another word for confidence. It comes from a strong sense of self, an understanding of one’s role within the organization, and a belief that one’s talents make a difference. An aspect of presence has to do with maturity, which often comes with experience.
A coaching partnership can facilitate the building of confidence by providing evidence of growth in specific skill areas. Presence, however, grows over time with exposure to different situations, people, and ideas. For this reason, participation in workshops, networking groups, reading clubs, facilitated discussions, and service on non-profit boards are all excellent ways to expand one’s thinking and develop one’s presence.
When you, as an organization or individual, are ready to accelerate professional growth in particular skill areas and willing to engage in a developmental partnership, it may be time to seek out an executive coach. A focused and purposeful pairing can yield exceptional results.