As demonstrated in part 2, the benefits of executive coaching can be far-reaching. Effective executive coaching supports executive satisfaction, individual performance and organisational outcomes.
The critical question, however, is how do you make sure that this happens, that executive coaching actually delivers on its potential? The seven critical steps, written from the perspective of someone potentially receiving coaching, are outlined below.
Step 1: Coaching Readiness
Readiness for coaching refers to the extent to which you are ready, willing, and able to be coached. Simply put, the higher your level of readiness, the more likely you are to make the most of the experience and the bigger the likely return on investment for your organisation.
This is important because, no matter how capable a coach might be, no progress or improvement will occur if you do not take responsibility for it. Ultimately, it is your motivation and commitment that matters most.
Critical questions for coaching readiness:
- Do you have a strong desire to improve?
- Are you willing to learn and change in order to improve?
- Are you willing to invest the time and energy it takes to improve yourself?
Step 2: Strategic Alignment
Strategic alignment means ensuring that executive coaching is consistent with and supportive of your organisations strategic priorities. This sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many coaching assignments do not align individual and organisational objectives.
Thus, strategic alignment is important, as coaching effectiveness is far greater when tied directly to strategic and mission critical objectives.
Critical questions for strategic alignment:
- What are your strategic priorities?
- What are the implications of your strategic priorities for your role in terms of what do you need to be good at?
- What are your development objectives?
- What is the linkage between your developmental needs and those of your organisation?
Step 3: Organisational Support
Organisational support means ensuring that the key people involved in your development have bought into the value of executive coaching and are supportive of you and your involvement in that process. Simply put, the more supportive your organisation is, the more likely you are to receive the developmental opportunity.
Enrolling support, however, requires that you clearly articulate the benefits of any programme for you and your organisation. Therefore, your goal should be to communicate the ways in which your coaching programme can add as much value as possible.
Critical questions for organisational support:
- What are the benefits of coaching for you, your team and your organisation?
- Who are the stakeholders who have an interest in your success and how should you to keep them involved?
- What organisational support do you need to succeed with coaching?
- How can you make sure you have enough opportunities to apply the new skills at work?
Step 4: Understand The Drivers Of Executive Success
In terms of executive success, it is fair to say that some executives are average performers, some are good and some are truly outstanding. However, it is the possession, and more importantly the application, of competencies that determine which category you fall into.
One way to think about competencies is to view them purely in terms of the extent to which they support an executives’ ability to make an impact. There are three levels:
- Commonplace competencies, which are usually management-related. These are necessary for success but often have the smallest positive impact on strategic priorities, for example. An executive who is only strong in this area is usually just seen as an average performer.
- Distinguishing competencies, which are usually leadership-related. These competencies have a stronger impact on strategic priorities because they are usually related to the movement between now and the future, for example. An executive who is good in this area is usually seen as a strong performer.
- Defining competencies, which are usually related to creating and maintaining personal peak performance. These competencies drive personal impact and the successful application of the other competencies, for example. Executives who are strong in this area are usually seen as outstanding performers.
Unfortunately, most organisations operate with an incomplete model of executive success. Either success is narrowly defined around one competency area and neglects other critical areas; or it is too broadly defined and assumes that every competency area is equally important for success.
The 80:20 principle also applies to the competencies that drive executive success. That is, 20% of your competency set likely contributes 80% of your impact. The trick is identifying the competencies that make up the 20% for your unique set of circumstances.
Critical questions for understanding the drivers of executive success:
- What are the critical drivers of executive impact as it relates to your organisation/situation?
- What are your strengths as a manager, leader and peak performer?
- What are your development needs as a leader, manager and peak performer?
Step 5: Find The Right Coach
Finding the right coach means hiring the right provider to ensure you get the most out of coaching for you and your organisation. Unfortunately, this is not always easy because:
- Coaching accreditation is no guarantee of quality as most accrediting bodies will accredit all their students rather than just the best;
- Business consultants coming to coaching often don’t understand individual development and the requirements for personal change and therefore tend to underplay the key psychological drivers of results; and
- Counselling professionals who come to coaching often don’t understand business requirements and deliver a glorified therapy session that has little relationship to organisational objectives.
In fact, this step is so important that I have devoted a separate section of this guide report to understanding the critical questions you need to ask to hire the best possible coach for your needs. There are, however, three overarching questions that you must get a good answer to.
Critical questions for finding the right coach:
Does your potential coach:
- Offer a guarantee of results?
- Have a strong enough knowledge and experience base to support your success?
- Have strong relationship skills?
Step 6: Make Sure Your Coach Is Using A Systematic Approach
A systematic approach means ensuring that your coach uses a consistent coaching process spanning assessment, coaching delivery, action planning and progress review. Unfortunately, too many coaches suffer from ‘objective drift’. That is, they tend to lose sight of individual and organisational priorities as the coaching engagement progresses.
While you can expect some evolution of your goals over the coaching assignment, the fundamental focus on strategic impact should remain.
Critical questions for ensuring a systematic approach:
Does your coach:
- Follow a structured coaching process?
- Use a consistent approach for working with the critical competencies for executive success? (See step 4)
- Have a way of tracking and monitoring progress and achievement?
Step 7: Make Sure Coaching Delivers
Making sure coaching delivers means ensuring that coaching, as a whole, is delivering the agreed results for you and your organisation. What you absolutely must avoid is participation in an executive coaching programme where there is no way to track the contribution of your development to personal and organisational objectives.
Critical questions for making sure coaching delivers:
- How will your coach make sure that success criteria and proof of success are clearly established at the start of the coaching assignment?
- Does your coach apply robust coaching evaluation approach at the end of the coaching assignment?
- Does the coach provide an opportunity for post-session feedback and an informal mid-point evaluation and review?
Want To Read More?
- The Executive Coaching Guide: Part 1 - Introduction
- The Executive Coaching Guide: Part 2 - A Brief History Of Executive Coaching
- The Executive Coaching Guide: Part 3 - The Case For Executive Coaching
- The Executive Coaching Guide: Part 4 - 7 Steps For Making Sure Coaching Works For You And Your Organisation