In many progressive organisations, executive coaching is a strategic investment in developing human capital and an essential career and leadership development tool. With greater measurability of outcomes from professional coaching, the business case for executive coaching has never been stronger.
However, businesses need to understand that the success of a coaching engagement is not a foregone conclusion; it is a function of several factors such as the skills, competence and experience of the coach; the effectiveness of the coaching methodology; the level of participation in the process by the coachee; and equally importantly, the enabling environment provided by the organisation.
We came across two articles recently that provide useful insights on the benefits of executive coaching and what the key stakeholders in the process must do to get full value from the endeavour. While Amber Setter, a professional coach and leadership consultant, writes how an organisation like EY is using executive coaching extensively with the use of both accredited internal as well as professional external coaches, Ben Dattner, an organisational psychologist and founder of Dattner Consulting, provides specific guidelines for companies when arranging for their executives to be coached. We list below the key takeaways from these two interesting pieces that are essential for the success of a coaching program.
Adopt proactive coaching
By adopting coaching proactively, it is more likely to be seen as a development tool rather than as ‘remedial’. The slightly negative perception associated with the latter can influence the degree of involvement in the process and therefore, its outcome.
Embrace the process fully
It is critical that the organisation and perhaps most importantly the ‘coachee’ is ready to be coached and embrace the coaching process fully. A good coach will invariably ask uncomfortable questions and for the process to be successful, it is imperative that the recipient of coaching is prepared to face up to and answer those questions in complete honesty. A participant who ‘holds back’ or is not willing to participate fully is certain to leave a lot of value from coaching on the table.
Set clear objectives that are framed positively
Managers of executives who are being coached should set clear objectives from the coaching exercise. Equally importantly, these objectives should be framed as positively as possible. An example cited in the HBR blog: an objective can be framed as “manage workload, expectations, and deadlines more effectively” instead of “need to stop over-promising and under-delivering”.
Provide all the relevant information/data
Both the coach as well as the ‘coachee’ should have all relevant information/data, such historical performance reviews or documented feedback from peers/clients, that will help them better understand challenges and potential issues.
Develop specific action plans
Ultimately the success of a coaching engagement will depend on the quality of the action steps that the parties involved can come up with. It is imperative that the coaching leads to a clearly articulated plan on what the coachee can do ‘differently’ or ‘better’. Without such an action plan, the entire endeavour can be wasteful.
Be blunt / transparent with the coach
Managers engaging a coach on behalf of their staff need to be extremely transparent with the executive coach. It is often the more pragmatic thing to do, as there may be challenges in sharing the same things directly with the coachee.
Build a coaching culture within the organisation
Organisations that integrate coaching into their organisational culture tend to benefit more from it, as EY seems to have experienced. It gives out a clear message that it is perfectly okay to be coached; it communicates that the organisation is serious about developing people and helping them overcome any obstacles to fulfilling their potential.
Another aspect that we feel is extremely important for any organisation embarking on a coaching programme for their senior executives and leadership team is to have a top-notch panel of external coaches who have the appropriate credentials to coach senior leaders. Having a process of establishing leadership effectiveness through the use of proven processes like the Leadership Circle as a part of the overall coaching methodology is a clear reflection of the seniority of the coach and the value the coach could be adding to the business.