Executive Coaching is Not Therapy or Counseling

Part 2 of Six Truths about Executive Coaching

Girl with TherapistTo address this issue fully it’s important to define what Executive Coaching is, then what Therapy or Counselling is, then compare and contrast them. Now one would think that’s fairly simple — but it’s not! Why? Because when you search for definitions of “executive coaching” you get this kind of namby pamby stuff that applies more to “Life or Personal Coaching” — not to coaching executives within an organizational context! Here are some definitions of “Life Coaching” that illustrate my point:

“Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives. Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.”

–International Coach Federation

“Coaching is a solution-focused, results-orientated systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of performance, self-directed learning and personal growth of other individuals.”

–Coaching Psychology Unit, University of Sydney

Coaches should be in the business of giving advice and direction to their clients. Coaches should be experts in life management, decision-making and goal setting. They should tell clients how to better organize their time and their lives, which activities and values are worthwhile and which are not.”

–Thomas Leonard, 1998, founder of Coach University and author of The Portable Coach

Nice….if you are trying to figure out what to be when you grow up or resolve your relationship issues in the dating scene. Really, we hope you, as an organizational buyer of executive coaching services, never purchase from anyone embracing these definitions. Why do we make this bold recommendation? To keep you from looking foolish!

So what is Executive Coaching?

Here is the rd&partners definition:

“Executive Coaching is a one-to-one or group developmental process designed to assist business executives, professionals and other highly valued staff members in achieving long-lasting positive change in their leadership behaviors that improve their organizations strategic and/or business results.”

In other words, it’s simply about making the best even better –for the benefit of organization and the customers it serves.

Now having said that, I recognize that executive coaching often benefits the individual leader in personal ways, but the focus is on how it benefits the leader in professional ways that help the organization attain its goals. PERIOD!

And What is Therapy?

Now let’s look at some definitions of Therapy or Counseling:

“Counseling takes place when a counselor sees a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having, distress they may be experiencing or perhaps their dissatisfaction with life, or loss of a sense of direction and purpose.”

–British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy

“Therapy (psychotherapy/counseling) is a process by which a client and a mental health professional work together to resolve emotional issues or behavioral problems that may be interfering with the person are highest level of functioning. These problems may stem from past relationships or situations, or they may be the result of a current crisis or disruption in one’s life.”

–Therapy World, http://www.therapyworld.com/professionals.cfm

Starting to the see difference yet? Thought so!

Here is a quick recap:

Executive Coaching

Therapy/Counseling

  • Short-term process (6 to 18 months)
  • Can be a much longer term process
  • Specific, narrowly defined issue(s) related to one’s effective Leadership behaviors at work, that directly support & improve the organizational results
  • Broad based, covering all aspects of a person’s life.
  • Focuses on lasting positive change in their leadership behaviors that improve their organizations strategic and/or business results, dealing with feelings only as they impact business results.
  • Geared toward staying with feelings and exploring them more fully, especially in coping with grief, anger and stress.

So What Does the Executive Coaching Process Look Like?

 

The Executive Coaching Process

  • MATCHED
  • Pair executives and coach based on goals and personal fit
  • CONTRACTED
  • Set ground rules (e.g., confidentiality, objectives, and timeframes)
  • DATA-DRIVEN
  • Gather feedback from self, managers, peers, direct reports and others
  • GOAL-ORIENTED
  • Determine measurable goals and develop action plans
  • CONTEXTUAL
  • Focus on development within the organizational context
  • EVALUATED
  • Track outcomes against goals as determined by key stakeholders
  • REINFORCED
  • Ensure partnerships of all stakeholders in the development process

When To Use Executive Coaching

Since it is designed to make your best performers even better, your organization can use executive coaching to:

  • Connect development to critical leadership skills or strategic skill gaps
  • Prepare leaders to adapt to changes in business strategy, direction, or challenges
  • Translate feedback from managers, peers, and direct reports into action
  • Reinforce leader alignment with organizational values
  • Facilitate challenging and cost-efficient on-the-job learning
  • Foster an organizational culture of coaching

WHY USE rd&partners?

With over a decade of coaching, organizational development, and change management experience, we provide practical techniques and tools that get business results.

Our staff of coaches has held senior positions (P&L & Staff) at world-class Fortune 500 organizations. In short, we have “sat at the table.”

This background of experience, coupled with educational credentials from leading universities (MBA’s & Ph.D.’s) set us apart from those who have never faced the business demands of changing markets, product introductions, mergers & acquisitions, or addressing talent issues that shape the competitive edge of an organization.

If you’d like to explore how rd&partners can help your organization, please feel free to contact us.

In Part 3 of the Six Truths about Executive Coaching, I’ll share Truth 2: Executive Coaching is NOT for Everyone!

Image: Ambro

About The Author:

Rob Denker is the Managing Principal of rd&partners. He helps leaders consistently see tangible, real-world benefits by making behavioral changes that are directly linked to the organization’s strategic initiatives, and their own effectiveness as a leader. Connect with Rob and rd&partners on LinkedIn.

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