Coaching has a lot of positive connotations. It’s someone you can look up to to help you succeed; someone who can offer personal guidance that only comes from experience; and someone to talk to and listen. However, there is one negative connotation that comes with coaching: the perception that it’s a passing of knowledge from someone experienced to a novice. This isn’t the case. Many leaders don’t realize that strategic and tactical coaching is different. The concept of coaching can be confusing if we don’t understand how it works or why it is essential for leaders to seek outside feedback from time to time to improve their leadership ability and skill sets.
The types of executive coaches
Coaching is NOT a one-time experience. It is a process of ongoing engagement that’s been found to have various benefits. Unfortunately, it can also be an enormous distraction and detractor in the workplace when leaders are unsure how to proceed or what to do with the advice and counsel they receive.
There are good and bad coaches, but there are ultimately two crucial factors that determine whether your coach is helping you improve or whether they are more likely to be problematic for you. Those two factors are 1) who the coach is and 2) what the goal of the coaching session is.
Many companies have coaches. For example, McKinsey & Co., a large consulting firm, has an entire division of “coaching and development consultants” who provide leadership coaching to current leaders and other “talent management” services, not to mention to individual executives and their senior teams. These consultants don’t tell you that most of their work is coaching and development for executives, not leaders; the business’s primary goal is to help “high potentials” become top-level managers, not leaders.
The power of an effective executive coach
Here’s the thing, managers often find themselves in 1 of 2 situations.
- So deep in the weeds, they’ve lost sight of the big picture.
- So far removed from the work that people don’t know how to provide feedback, question the leadership, or bring them back down to earth.
An effective executive coach will not tip-toe around the issue, they’re hired to hone an executive’s skills. This means, if the executive needs a reminder of how the ground-level works, they provide that feedback. Without it, their voice will go unheard by the lower hierarchy levels. Meanwhile, if they’re too deep in the weeds, an executive coach can demonstrate how to delegate. This’ll pull the leader out so they can see the bigger picture.
Despite the leadership coaching industry having evolved over the last decade, it doesn’t change the fact that most people don’t want a boss. An executive coach is someone that can elevate someone’s role as “boss” to that of a leader. The quality and effectiveness of coaching are higher than ever, and an increasing number of companies are providing coaching for team members and individual executives. Many also recognize that leaders need to be coached now and again to improve their performance, capabilities, and skills.
Unfortunately, many leading companies cannot identify high-quality coaches or understand how best to utilize their coaching services. In addition, most leading companies are not using the leadership coaching they provide. There are many ways leaders could benefit from using their coaches to improve their skills to effectively lead their organizations. Too often, leaders struggle to find the right coach; work with an ineffective coach; or don’t even know that it’s a good idea to seek coaching.
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