What is Executive Coaching?
I’ve always found this such an interesting question as defining coaching has seemed a bit ambiguous for me. I know what clients say about the value of coaching however defining the action or process of coaching seems challenging…but I will try!
Coaching is the best methodology for challenging people to higher levels of performance and when done well, is more effective than any other approach including management consulting and conventional training. Coaching is a highly effective way to support people to develop and grow.
A combination of powerful and focused conversations plus action is the key to growth and this is what the coaching process provides for people. Many clients share that their coaching space is the only opportunity they take to pause and focus on themselves.
Here’s what one of my clients recently shared about the coaching process, “Here is what value I see in having time to pause: Let things fall apart when they fall apart. Watch carefully and patiently. Beyond the fear and pain, you can find real transformation and growth.”
In essence coaching is:
- A series of highly focused and productive conversations
- A safe place to experiment, explore, gain awareness and new insights
- An accountability structure to progress on your goals
The Epiphany Coaches About Executive Coaching Guide shares this description, “We believe that coaching is the best platform to develop leaders because it helps them directly address the most pressing challenges they face. Coaching is customized and personal, is designed to leverage each client’s unique strengths, and supports them over time as they make lasting changes in their lives. Coaching is unique because it is 100% client-driven. Instead of giving leaders a one-size-fits-all solution, coaching supports leaders as they develop their own styles and approaches. When you work with a coach, you’re the one setting goals, choosing topics for discussion, and bringing information to the table.”
The Value and ROI of Executive Coaching
The most common challenge heard from executives is they don’t have time to step back and explore what is keeping them from having the level of impact they desire. They know there is a gap between where they are now and where they would like to be, they just don’t know how to create the most effective plan to close the gap.
That’s where an Executive Coach can play a key role.
Awareness + Action = Results
Your coach isn’t an advisor or mentor, your coach is an expert on the coaching process. Through that process you gain awareness and insights as to how your beliefs and behaviors impact the way you operate. You then create an action plan to reach your goals one step at a time.
Together you are going to collaborate to find new solutions that work for you based on your style and preferences. You choose your own goals, you make your own decisions and you choose the strategies and action items that are going to work for you.
It’s collaborative and it’s all about you!
You and your coach are going to explore things together however you are the one the drives the conversation and the actions taken. To really understand the value, I reached out to a few Epiphany coaches to see what their clients are saying about the value of coaching:
“I had the opportunity to have Gavin as a coach to support my transition to a new leadership role for Microsoft. He is very approachable, empathic and a very good active listener. His skills and experience helps in taking pause to reflect on learning’s and challenges of the role, how and what we can do to continue to improve. His encouragement to continue to embrace the discomfort and the ambiguity as a learning experience helps keeping the efforts even if it may feel frustrating at some time. All in all, Gavin is a great coach for leaders who are willing to change mindset.” ~ Gavin Shaskolsky
“I came to Janet at a crossroads in my career; I had a new role with some significant challenges that I hadn’t faced before. I was beginning to lose confidence in myself, when I decided to give coaching a try. With Janet’s help I was able to isolate the areas in which I was blocked, change how I thought about the challenges, and come up with a framework that has allowed me to break through my own barriers, and make a difference in the business.” ~ Janet Williams Hepler
“It would not be an exaggeration to say that working with Simon changed my perspective on life and led to me discovering what was really driving me both in my career and as an individual. He has exceptional listening skills and an uncanny ability to allow the coaching journey to take a flexible course yet always end up with a practical and clear outcome. He challenged me on many fronts and was not afraid to give or take direct feedback. When I looked back at the objectives I had set at the beginning of the process I found that each one had been dealt with and in fact a number of new focus areas had emerged.” ~ Simon Bold
“I have the highest confidence in Heather Clarke’s ability to help you become a more effective leader. I firmly believe that we’re all a work in progress and found myself struggling with a particular situation that required a level of contemplation and deeper reflection on my part. Heather helped me identify and navigate through the various complexities and emotional aspects of such situations and I was able to address the situation effectively and change the outcome. Heather was a great sounding board – something I truly appreciated and her communication style was a great balance of candor and professionalism. Her ability to ask probing questions, offer insights and be supportive motivated me to uncover how to implement a change in my approach and yield positive results.” ~ Heather Clarke
How to Pick the Perfect Coach for You
There are many amazing coaches out there and yet they will not all be a fit for you! Any great coach will tell you the same thing. There are many factors that will influence you based on what is important to you. I am going to focus on three factors you may want to consider:
#1. Connection & Chemistry – Your connection, rapport and chemistry with the coach is imperative to having a successful coaching relationship. Your ‘trust’ in your coach enables you to show up honestly and be open to being challenged on your perspectives and approaches, which is vital to growing as a person and a leader.
- Does your coach make you feel both comfortable and stretched at the same time?
- Do you feel safe and trusting enough to show up honestly and vulnerably with this person?
- Do you have shared values with this person?
- Is this a person you are willing to really commit to partnering with?
When one of my client’s shows up as raw and vulnerable as they can be, and has a breakthrough because of this, I feel humbled and honored to be able to create that space for them. This is where growth happens!
#2. Coaching Experience – Depending on where you are at in your journey, different coaches might be able to offer you different things. Many coaches who are just starting out in the ‘formal’ coaching space might have a great deal of industry and leadership experience behind them. Just because someone is new doesn’t mean they are inexperienced!
That being said, someone who has been coaching for many years may be more adept at diving into the coaching process quicker. They may be bolder and more courageous around challenging you thereby moving you along faster.
- What is their coaching experience? How many years have they been coaching, what kind of training do they have*, what kind of industries have they worked with and at what level in an organization have they coached are all great questions to ask.
- What is their coaching process or methodology? Some coaches follow a very structured process while others follow a methodology that is less structured. What is most important is that you feel the process or methodology is a good fit for you, so explore this.
*Organizations like the International Coach Federation provide standardization with a code of ethics, professional designations, and best practices. Professional coach training programs, many of which are accredited by the ICF, provide rigorous training that supports consistent quality of service.
#3. Business Industry Experience – This one is an interesting one because there are pros and cons of only seeking out coaches who have worked in or coached in your industry. In general, coaches that have strong business experience do add value to the process for executives.
- Pros of choosing a coach with similar industry experience – They may add value to your coaching due to familiarity with language & jargon, common leadership scenarios & dilemmas, mindsets, sticking points, and blind spots of senior leaders in your industry. This additional insight may allow your coach to “speak your language”, ask more provocative questions, go deeper, and understand you more fully. Depending on your needs, having a coach with role-specific or industry-specific experience may add a great deal of value.
- Pros of choosing a coach outside your industry – A coach with similar experience to you needs to be cautious that they do not default to advice-giving as part of the coaching process. It is easy to fall into this trap. Choosing a coach that has vastly different industry experience from you can lead to incredibly rich learning and growth. When you get the opportunity to step outside of your industry, you get the opportunity to look at things through a different lens to hasten your growth and development in different ways.
- Think about what kind of business results you are seeking and then ask questions from that perspective:
- Has the coach worked with others who have created a startup and grown it, perhaps to IPO?
- Does the coach have experience accelerating career growth, working with boards of directors, improving team performance, growing future leaders, working with not for profits, etc.
The feedback from our clients tells us that Executive Coaching will accelerate how fast you can reach your goal(s), no matter what the goal is. When working with a professional coach, leaders have the opportunity to work through obstacles and opportunities to support their professional growth.
Drop us a line and share your experiences and tips on choosing the perfect coach for you!