What is Executive Coaching and Why do CEOs need a Coach?
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.
If the leader is so busy and does not take time to stop and reflect, what good is a Ferrari if it does not stop to refuel?
What is Executive Coaching?
“ICF, the International Coach Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential”
What can we learn from an 18th century obstetrician about Self Awareness?
Ignaz Semmelweiss worked in the Vienna general hospital and he was struggling to reduce infant mortality. In the section where he practiced, 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 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 “Whats 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’? If people want to get better at breathing, shouldn’t leaders invest in themselves to become better at leading?
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 (Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sundar Pichai etc) had 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 coach comes in enable the leader the increase awareness around his blind spots, to bridge the gap between “knowing and doing”.
The simple truth is “what got you here wont get you there”.
Now that you have understood what this is all about, let’s get to the official definition.
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 thats 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, cheer leader 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?
Executive coaching is meant 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 orgs 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 tool box 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.
Here’s another article on Executive Coaching that you might enjoy.
On the other hand, if you are interested in becoming an executive coach yourself, here is a good article to guide you: