The Six Truths of Executive Coaching

Executive CoachingExecutive coaching has clearly come of age.  Given the growth and fragmentation of the industry (meaning thousands of coaches in the marketplace), it is not surprising that many leaders looking for a coach are confused.

And since there is no official voice for the executive coaching industry, there is a need for some truth about this highly talked-about and somewhat mysterious developmental intervention called executive coaching.

rd&partners has been coaching executives in leading world-class organizations for well over a decade, and six  “truths”  have emerged from our professional coaching of over 1,000 executive clients, and reinforced by the perspective of our many clients who have been long-term buyers of our services.   To help those of you who are seeking clarity about the subject, here are the six time-tested  “truths” about executive coaching.

The Six Truths

Truth One: Coaching is Not Therapy

Executive coaching will not help you decide what you want to be when you grow up, help you find your ideal mate, or help you resolve your childhood issues.  Those kinds of personal challenges are best resolved by therapy or “life coaching.”  An executive coach works with you individually, or with your group, to help you develop leadership behaviors and skills that directly impact your organization’s strategy and enhance its bottom line.

Truth Two: Coaching is NOT for Everyone

Perhaps because it’s confused with “therapy” or “life coaching,” many people erroneously believe that coaching is a “punishment” for poor performers, or those who lack motivation or focus.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Executive coaching is designed for leaders who want to be the best — whose roles are expanding, whose motivation is toward organizational growth and increased profitability, and whose commitment to the process is unshakable.  It’s about making the best of your team even better.

Truth Three: Coaching Must Align to Business Outcomes

Any investment in executive coaching must be data-driven, measured against desired business results – improved processes, streamlined decision-making, and a healthier bottom line. While leaders might benefit personally from executive coaching, personal growth is not the primary intended outcome.  It’s about the business, plain and simple.

Truth Four: Coaching Involves More than the Leader and Coach

The whole coaching process must include consideration of the organization’s key stakeholders.  Colleagues, direct reports, board members or other stakeholders are identified early in the process – and their goals and desired outcomes taken into account.  Any behavioral changes in the leader, and resulting changes in his or her outcomes, will directly impact those stakeholders and their buy-in is critical to the process.

Truth Five: The Cost of Coaching? Paper Clips!

It’s “paper clips.”  Think about how much your organization spends on paper clips, Dixie cups, and coffee filters each year – then think about the ROI from those expenditures.  None, right?  Now think about how much your organization spends recruiting, hiring, and acculturating its executives, “hoping” their MBA or recent experience will leap into the fray, contribute to your bottom line and further your organization’s agenda.  Investing in executive coaching is one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure your investment in talent pays off with results.  Looking at it that way, it’s cheap.

Truth Six: The Right Executive Coach Matters

If you’re a hard-charging, highly verbal, excitable and demanding personality, working with a mellow, low-key coach would be a disaster.  If you’re pragmatic, deliberate, and thoughtful person of few words, working with a coach with the personality of a drill sergeant would likewise court disaster.  A key principle of executive coaching is that the whole process hinges on the partnership between the coach and the coached – they need to be carefully matched in terms of goals, drive, and personal “fit.”  Although they’ll only be working together for a relatively short time – anywhere between 6 and 18 months – it’s essential that the relationship of trust and accountability be established right off the bat.

In Upcoming Posts…

These six truths will be explored in detail in the coming weeks, to give you a clear understanding about executive coaching and whether it’s right for you or your organization.  The next article in the series will focus on Truth #1: Coaching is Not Therapy or Counseling, and you’ll learn:

  • The key difference between therapy or counseling and executive coaching
  • The 7 steps of the executive coaching process
  • 6 reasons for using executive coaching

I’ll talk with you soon!  In the meantime, if you’d like to explore whether you or your organization might benefit from executive coaching, feel free to contact me.

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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