Coaching can take many different shapes and forms depending on the company and your needs. A good part of our work with organizations on human-resources issues includes coaching executives and other senior leaders on issues ranging from goal alignment to enhancing specific skills and developing succession plans. The Harvard Business Review says that the nature of executive coaching is evolving. “Ten years ago, most companies engaged a coach to help fix toxic behavior at the top. Today, most coaching is about developing the capability of (senior executives).”
Still, CEOs and other executives who grasp the value of working with a coach often ask two questions at the outset of an engagement: “Why do I need a coach” and “Why do I need one now?”
There are at least five reasons a coach can provide positive help for men and women in the C-suite:
1 – A way to more clearly see yourself and your role. Repeated studies by academics and psychologists reveal that few people see themselves as they really are. But this can have a direct impact on both the profitability and effectiveness of your company. So, we begin by conducting a 360-degree review of how you see yourself as well as how your peers and other people in the business see you. This allows us to help you develop themes around how and where your self-view may differ from what the people you rely on in the company.
More important, perhaps, is that we use this information coupled with our impressions of you to help you question your own assumptions of yourself and build a more-accurate view of the way you relate to the people you work with.
2 – A way to more clearly see others in the organization. An insightful coach will help an executive better see the capability of those who report to them as well as high-performance employees directly below the executive ranks. A coach will take a more neutral and nuanced view of people who are in the company whose work reflects on how your leadership is assessed by a board, partners or even those who provide funding for the business.
At the same time, your coach will enable you to apply the same mental disciplines you learned in judging yourself to more clearly assess the ability and contribution of subordinates.
3 – Develop new ways of responding. What worked when you were a rising mid-level employee is not likely to serve you well now that you are near or at the top. For instance, while working hard may have served you to gain promotions when you were a manager or director isn’t all that’s needed now that you are a manager, director, or sitting in the C-Suite. A coach will help you understand your role has expanded to include inspiring others, while still being dedicated to working.
The skills are very different and so is the mindset needed to be a true leader.
4 – Create wider and more productive relationships. Nearly everyone prefers associating with people like themselves. That’s alright, if limiting, when you’re looking for people to have a drink with on Friday night, but being a leader means reaching out to others, even those who might see the world differently than you. An executive coach will help you question your assumptions about people who aren’t like you, helping you to build stronger working relationships with them, whether they are inside the company or out.
At the same time, the coach will enable you to leverage your strengths to broaden your circle of relationships.
5 – Achieve what you want for yourself and the business. If you are working with the right coach, you will develop a much clearer view of what you want to achieve – and then enable you to get there. They will also be an important support as you change and grow. No matter how close you may be with a spouse or fellow executives in the company, the coach is a neutral third party offering the best advice and not saying what they think you want to hear or offer empty encouragement.
Maybe best of all, your coach will show you new ways of thinking so that you can create the success – and career – that you want.
Barbara Thompson is Managing Director of The Washington Firm and has over 20 years’ experience coaching senior executives and other management leaders. Reach her in Seattle at 206.284.4800.