What is Executive Coaching?
Executive coaching is a sector of the coaching industry that focuses on working with usually but not necessarily, quite senior, managers and leaders, within an organisation. The executive (client) and the coach will usually work together face-to-face or by telephone, on issues of performance defined either by you (the sponsor), the business, or the client. Typically the relationship will last 4-6 sessions, at 4-6 weekly intervals.
Once thought of as a remedial intervention i.e. businesses only engaged coaches when things were not going well, more typically, executive coaches are engaged at various stages of a client’s development journey, including from the sample list below:
i. When an executive is new to a role or business
ii. When an executive is managing a radically changed team
iii. When an executive is in the process of a career change
iv. In order to help a group of executives successfully achieve a change programme
v. In order to help an executive develop certain behaviours deemed essential to the business.
There is a good overview of this at the Harvard Business Review.
What will the executive coach do?
What a coach will do depends on the reason for engaging the coach in the first place. Furthermore, the approach that a coach will use with an executive (client) will depend to some extent on the preferred style of the coach that you have engaged. Some coaches come from a background in management training and development, others from psychology, yet others from a technical background. Some will be approach specific in their stye e.g. A Gestalt coach. All of these variables, coupled with personality, will create a unique style in your coach.
One thing to be aware of when engaging coaching through a larger organisation, is that the person you meet may only be one of many coaches that the coaching company have available. Make sure you get to meet all of the coaches if possible, or insist that the coaches you have met, are those that then undertake your project.
According to a study by Leedham (2005) most coaches have been selected for their coaching experience. I think that with the greater number of coaches in existence, the importance of qualifications will rise, in order to assure businesses that they have engaged someone with a pedigree of training and to act to some extent as a degree of quality assurance.
Selecting an Executive Coach
This usually comes down to a number of factors, the mix of which will be very individual to the situation and the client involved. The process usually involves:
i. you, (the project sponsor) getting to know the coach and their work
A good coach will help guide you, if you need it, about what they can achieve and the role that they can take. They should also confide in you if they feel they are not best placed to help.
ii. an introductory meeting between the coach and the client(s)
This sometimes includes you too. The client will need to know in advance that they have the right of negative preference and can select another coach if they do not think the interpersonal element will be a success.
iii. agreements about the purpose and goals of the coaching sessions
This is vitally important in order to be able to show the effectiveness of the coaching programme. Agree how results will be recorded and reported. Rules around confidentiality will also usually be explicitly agreed here too.
I have not included a section on fees here as this varies so much around the world, but good practise would suggest you are fully aware of these before commencing meetings between coaches and clients etc.
Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.