In today’s demanding business environment (cost pressures, flatter organizations, more direct reports, “speed to market” as a competitive advantage, etc.) you have limited opportunity to devote time and energy to your own development. Most leaders struggle to meet all of the responsibilities of their positions and are too busy and too stressed to step back and learn from their experiences – or to implement changes that establish best practices. The one thing that is in no one’s best interest is for you, as a leader, to forsake your own learning and development – no matter what level you may be. In the current environment, Executive Coaching is one sure-fire way you can continue to develop your executive-level skills, as well as address your developmental and growth needs (which impacts the entire organization), while continuing to run your organization on a day to day basis.
Full disclosure – I am an Executive Coach. However, if you have been reading my articles for any time at all, you know I am not one to peddle my wares. I run a referral based business and have been extremely successful leveraging that model. However, as I meet people around the world, I have discovered that there is a fundamental lapse of understanding as to what exactly an Executive Coach can do for leaders at all levels… and the impact they have on career development/ advancement, team building and organizational improvement – as well as personal effectiveness in all areas of life. So today, I am going to talk to you a bit about what an Executive Coach can do for you… and why you (and your direct reports) desperately need one.
Coaching comes in a variety of flavors, but the overarching goal is to help you be the very best version of yourself as a leader, executive… and whole person. The experience feels like a blend of forward-focused therapy, board discussion, consulting… and Olympic cross-training. The focus is on your advancement (as you define it) – a definition that evolves over time. Given the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party, who is not tied to the organization or other executive or company influence, can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support cannot. Coaching develops you, the leader, in “real time” within the context of your current role… while allowing you to maintain your day-to-day responsibilities.
Without a doubt, many of the most successful people in the world today attribute much of their success to having engaged an Executive Coach. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the best advice he ever got was to get a coach. Bill Gates emphatically said everyone should have a coach. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson advocates coaching too, especially for executives. If you want to be the very best executive you can be – with all the perks – your best bet is to engage an Executive Coach!
Here are some of the reasons executive coaching will make you successful:
Your coach will ensure your goals are crystal clear and specific. You will be challenged over and over again to be specific and eliminate any haziness. Left to your own devices you may be heavily inclined to be vague in your goals. I have never seen anyone who has not benefited from being challenged to clarify their goals. Clarity is critical – you have a far better chance of achieving a clear goal than a vague one!
Procrastination and lack of follow-through is the greatest threat to any goal. A coach will make you accountable to taking the necessary actions to move your goal down the road toward achievement. Left to your own devices, you are likely to adapt the “I’ll do it tomorrow” approach – an Executive Coach will keep you on track and accountable to your own success.
A coach will ensure that you have agreed milestones to measure your progress… and will be the objective assessor of that progress. This ensures you stay on track and do what needs to be done to deliver your goals on time. Your coach exerts an external, objective pressure that you need to be wildly successful.
Your coach will drive you to achieve what you are capable of and to break through your limiting beliefs – and you do have limiting beliefs that determine how far you will go. It is the job of your coach to push you to go further than you think possible. It is all about your growth, and you need that additional voice of challenge to push you forward.
Hold Your Feet To The Fire:
Your Coach will motivate, inspire, entice and challenge you in ways that will always keep you moving toward (and exceeding) your goals. Let’s be honest, we all need this. The greatest performers in all walks of life have coaches – performance coaching exists in sport, business, the arts… and just about everywhere else. Coaching is for the driven, successful people of this world!
Build Your Capacity For Success:
Success is a result of what you do. If you are continually moving towards your goals, you are developing muscles that will serve you well into the future. Success is born of winning, and habitually doing the right things to win builds the muscles you need to continually succeed.
Focus On Your Success:
Coaching will ensure that you keep the focus on what matters – your achievement (in this context). Left to your own devices you will be inclined to focus on the problems, or the things that get in the way. A coach will banish the habit of accommodating negative thoughts, ensure you learn to focus on positive outcomes and teach you to celebrate every win.
Everyone, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e, has blind spots. There are just things we can’t see… or never think to ask ourselves. We all know we’re not perfect – even when we’re at the top of our game – but we seldom ask ourselves how what we can’t see is keeping us from getting to the next level. And yes, there is always – a-l-w-a-y-s – a next level. If you are not yet convinced, here are some more critical reasons to engage an Executive Coach:
- Consistently improve business results: greater productivity, faster promotions, bigger profits
- Allow deeper understanding about yourself, how you’re perceived and where you can improve
- Facilitate better outcomes and advance faster… with greater precision
- Obtain unique perspectives from a trusted, strategic advisor – an unbiased third party – to talk through challenges and opportunities…
- Enable cultural awareness (organizational, political and geographical): gain perspective on beliefs and attitudes that may be holding you back
- Discover and create clarity on your personal vs. professional values, leading to greater focus and conviction
- Form an awareness and action plan around personal and professional “blind spots”
- Gain emotional support, empathy, and encouragement – feel less lonely
- Ascertain the hard truths others won’t tell you
- Enable an environment of support for skill development – communication, delegation, conflict management, team building, persuasion, etc.
These are incredible leverage points for your personal and professional growth… without ever leaving your office – leverage points you simply cannot achieve on your own.
Executive coaching is different from other forms of coaching. You, as a leader, deal with your business as a whole every day. You have to consistently perceive and understand how everything in the business links together and if it is functioning optimally. From your position, you should be able to see further ahead and guide the business along the right route. But what is the right route? You have a lot of power to make decisions about which route you want the company (or your area of responsibility at the very least) to choose. And as we all know, a lot of decisions are not made on a purely rational basis, but on your intuition and experience. You often influence the decisions for the company as much as the outside world. So, as a top leader you need a set of cognitive skills not always required of others – skills that are not learned in a classroom. Those skills need to reflect objectively on the way you do things and make decisions, since your own experiences and motivations have such a great influence on the success or failure of the business. A coach will help you to develop perspective on the organization… and on your world. A coach will help you to not only see and perceive the landscape differently, but provide you with the tools and skills to consistently choose the right route.
Here are some critical characteristics of Executive Coaching that will greatly benefit you, as a leader:
As a leader you have your own unique work environment, personal history, capabilities, values and personality – an Executive Coach can accommodate your individual needs and preferences.
2) Work – And Learn At The Same Time – On Actual Issues
Executive Coaching is based on actual issues relevant to YOU. The core focus is your business and how you affect it. In practice, the role of Coach and Consultant are often intertwined.
3) Flexible In Time And Place
With a bit of give and take between you and your Executive Coach, times and locations for coaching can be arranged to suit your schedule.
Your coach is an outsider to your business. S/he will come to know your business in due course, but doesn’t have a role inside the company and is not affected by all the politics. An Executive Coach from outside the company can be more objective. Often, because s/he works for other clients, your coach also can bring in an outside view to help you to benchmark yourself more accurately and establish best practices.
An Executive Coach, like professional therapists or consultants, will always agree to a confidentiality clause in their contract.
6) Professional Knowledge
A professional Executive Coach, with significant work experience at a high level in business, will often be qualified with a reputable coaching diploma and perhaps a master’s level business qualification. A good coach will be experienced and will also know the theory of business, so that when s/he offers ideas you can be sure they are based on experience and knowledge.
You have gotten to where you are because of your knowledge, skills and drive … but also despite your deficiencies. The old saying, “What got you here, will not get you there” could not be more accurate. An Executive Coach will not only help you to grow your skills, s/he will also help identify gaps and provide the opportunity for you to fill them. Often, gaps have complex and deep personal causes that only in-depth 1:1 Executive Coaching can address.
You go to school to learn – to add building blocks of knowledge and skills. One challenge you may have is that a lot of those building blocks have actually not served you well and have manifested in bad habits. So, in the craziness of daily life, a lot of poor practices get integrated along with good, useful education and experience. Before you add more knowledge and skill to your personal repertoire, often bad habits and bad thinking need to be unlearned. Your coach will help you to question and challenge the way you normally do things and the way you think – encouraging you to look at your world from different perspectives – making it possible to create something even better than you imagined.
Executive Coaching has a core aim to empower YOU, the individual leader. It gives you time and space to think. It helps you to think objectively and holistically. It provides a strategic partner to debate and discuss critical decisions with. It generates solutions. All these are skills that you can continue to use when dealing with new challenges and opportunities in the future.
10) Cost Effective
Executive Coaching is a cost effective way to create and maintain superior leaders. Real problems get solved. It often leads to ‘breakthrough’ thinking, where roadblocks that have been there for years get blown away. It is often immediate, as it deals with the here and now.
My advice to every leader out there – find yourself an amazing Executive Coach. It will change your life.
The reality: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE.
What Have You Done For Yourself Lately?