Executive Coaching is a process that helps a Leader achieve sustained Leadership behaviour. When an Organisation engages a coach for you as a Senior Leader, it signals two unequivocal things: You matter to the org and you are great in your functional domain. The organisation is signalling your importance and investing in your Leadership Development.
You don’t need to “be fixed”. In the words of a Senior executive Sponsor, “I don’t need to see a light switch change, I need to see a flick of a dial in his Leadership behaviour.”
This Leadership behaviour change may play out in the following ways-
- Connecting Business Strategy with Behaviour change – A fortune 10 Divisional CEO told me “I want to double my top line in the next 5 years, my Country CEO’s cannot behave the same way if we have to achieve these results”. The coaching engagement, in this case, was to enable the CEO to bring alignment between his own behaviour and the organisation’s “Winning behaviours”
- Taking over the Hot Seat – If the Coachee is headed to the next level, where he/she may need to display a different set of behaviours. A CXO becoming the CEO (for instance).
- He is a great guy, But….If a Functionally adept CXO displays poor EQ and this is impacting his ability to unlock value for his stakeholders and his own career advancement.
- You are the Future – If you are amongst a bunch of Hi-potentials that the organisation wants in Key positions down the line, It would be great to get insights into the “Future Ready” behaviours you may want to consider.
Most leaders today spend enormous time and energy managing external resources without taking the time to self reflect. We are called human beings and not human doings, for a reason.
The leader is so busy and does not take time to stop and reflect, what good is a Ferrari if does not stop to refuel?
What can we learn from an 18th-century obstetrician?
Ignaz Semmelweiss worked in the Vienna general hospital and he was struggling to reduce infant mortality. In the section where he practised, the mortality rate was 1 in 10, one in 10 women giving birth in that ward died! In the same hospital, In a Ward run by midwives, the mortality rate was 1 in 50. An intrigued Semmelweiss tried to simulate and standardise a series of factors right from birthing positions to ventilation and diet including laundry, nothing he tried made any difference in mortality rates.
At this time, he had to take leave for 4 months, when he came back, he was amazed to find that mortality rates had fallen significantly.
When he investigated, he found he was unwittingly the cause for the high mortality rate. Those days, Doctors would split time between the treatment of live patients and research on cadavers and Semmelweiss found that he was spending far more time on the cadavers. From this data, He concluded germs were being passed on from cadavers to live patients through the hands of the person who was meant to save them!
In a similar manner, many Leaders go through their leadership journey without being aware of the effects they have on their team!
There was this one time, I was helping a fellow coach facilitate a session and he had invited a señior leader to say a few words. The senior leader said “What’s the big deal with leadership development? In my career, I didn’t have a coach and I did ok”
My friend told him gently “We all know how to breathe, So, why do people go to an Art of Living course or learn pranayama’? It’s not that we can’t function with the way we breathe, It’s just that, we can function at a higher level when we learn how to breathe properly.
Leaders need a coach precisely for the same reason. We all need help, only the smart ones ask. I could tell you the world’s best athletes, Business leaders have a coach, Imagine the varied leadership styles you would have encountered with different leaders in different organisations. What style is better and what style is worse? The answer is – It’s contextual and a combination of nature and nurture, right.
The coach comes in to increase alignment between the coachee’s behaviour and the organisation to help the Coachee to get better in a direction he wants to. The simple truth is “what got you here won’t take you there”.
Having a coach helps!
Every coach has a secret sauce and provides an experience and that comes as a combination of expertise, background and simply put, the style of the coach.
You coach the way you are!
To begin with, I provide a safe space for the leader to just be, to breathe. I listen to his story, really listen to what’s happening in his world and along with feedback from his stakeholders, We co-create an action plan for putting in place a framework to eliminate behaviour that’s holding him back, and put in place a new set of behaviours. I play various roles during this process, I am a sounding board, an accountability partner, cheerleader etc.
Sounds Simple right?
Not quite, adult behavioural change is one of the toughest tasks especially when the leader is a super successful leader with a mantra that has worked for him in the past.
Who is Executive coaching meant for?
For leaders at the top of their game, who want to get better! The desire to grow is one of the most fundamental human aspects. I have never met someone who doesn’t want to get better at some aspects of their work or life!
As a leader, when you are given a coach – the first thing that can come up in the CEO’s mind – I am a successful CEO, why do I need a coach, is there something wrong? Leadership is a contact sport and one of our biggest blind spots is we are never able to see ourselves the way others see us, we are not good at that.
Why is leadership development relevant even today? Is it a fad?
If you google leadership models, you get more than 2 million results, Servant leadership, charismatic leadership, servant leadership, transformational leadership, strength-based leadership etc.
Let me quote the opening lines of Anna Karenina – a novel by Leo Tolstoy – All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Similarly, all successful organisations and leaders are alike, unsuccessful leaders and organisations however are all unsuccessful in their own way.
Leaders continually need to evolve and grow, a combination of the environment and internal growth will lead to the appropriate style of leadership.
If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, you will tend to look at all challenges as a nail, hence it is important to widen your leadership repertoire and continue your Sadhana to be the best leader worth following.
The key question: What kind of leadership behaviour will take you and your org to the next level?
Once you identify this set of behaviours, how can you cross-pollinate these winning behaviours starting from the Top?
Why is executive coaching needed and its Importance
Executive Coaching is simply a process of understanding in greater detail about the world’s most Important person –“Yourself”. You simply cannot be a Great Leader without truly understanding the way you are wired. The truism is “You lead the way you ARE”. Who we are and who we can become can be unpacked in various boxes, though this seems like a philosophical question.
We bring our whole selves to the Workplace – Our beliefs, needs, values, references, metaphors etc. These are a potpourri of various elements from combining Nature and Nurture.
The next step would be to understand and practice behaviour that enables us to become better at leading ourselves and others. In the words of Eric Schmidt – Ex-Chairman – Google “If there is one thing we are bad at, it is seeing ourselves the way others see us”.
Since Leadership is a contact sport and our lives enmesh with other lives on the path of unlocking the value to our organisation- we have to be mindful of our comportment.
How do we handle change, conflict, communication etc? How do we influence other teams and Individuals to elicit better results?
What the Typical Coaching Process Looks Like –
- A typical process would begin with a “Chemistry session” with your coach. This is simply a meeting where both of you can assess expertise, energy and that sense, you can work towards a meaningful and productive relationship with trust and rapport.
- This is followed by a series of stakeholder Interviews in a narrative analysis. “What’s working” and “not working “ with the Leader’s behaviour. The Coach dons the hat of an investigative reporter, looking for greater insight into the way the Leader is being perceived by his Stakeholders.
- Then, the Coach and the Coachee contract with one another on the goals that he would “sign on”. This has to pass the test when the sponsor agrees to it. The sponsor is typically the Line manager of the Leader.
The sessions begin once this process is over.
There are various bits of documentation along the way-
1)The coaching engagement contract – contains SOW, guidelines, mutual expectations etc
2)The coaching action plan – A nuts and Bolts breakdown of the Micro behaviours and their impact and the end result.
3)The end of engagement summary – Where hand holding is done to the accountability partner within the org and the journey is captured.
How to choose an executive coach?
Ahh, this is an interesting question. The simple answer is – depends 🙂
As in all journeys, a greater sense of what you want from that journey will enable you to get the right guide by doing your homework and asking a bunch of questions.
Some of the questions that may help you-
- Is the Coach credentialled by a certified body? ICF, EMCC etc. This is a primary and basic prerequisite as the journey to become a Coach is a fairly humbling process and it ensures all the corporate hubris that one accumulates is eroded.
- What themes has the coach handled in the past? There will be some recurring themes that come towards a Coach and that would have become a niche. In my case, it is Executive Presence and CXO Storytelling.
- What Level has the Coach worked and coached at? Ex- C-Level, Board Members etc.
- What is the coach’s coaching philosophy/methodology etc? CBT, Narrative etc.
- What are some of the difficult coaching challenges, the coach has successfully overcome/failed?
What you get to learn from executive coaches?
An Insight into the way you are wired and how you present yourself to the World. Subconsciously, you may model some of the desirable traits of your coach and that is not a bad thing. Every Coach desires to have a systemic impact. Once the Leader spreads the good word by showcasing the power of Coaching, he is able to, in turn, “coach others” in the Organisation, thus creating a cascading effect.
Truly break through some of the limitations that have held you back till now through rigorous practice of newer behaviour and shedding older limiting behaviour.
An “Outside In” perspective. Most leader’s views may tend to be insular and limited to their org or their previous org. The coach will come in with a great sense of what works and doesn’t cross a slew of organisations and different categories.