Effective coaching can have a huge impact on the success of an organization.

Blog by Peter Dove

Shared Values Associates

Breakthroughs in innovation come from new thought. Henry Flagler gave John D. Rockefeller invaluable insight that made Standard Oil possible, which in 1879 produced 90 percent of the refined oil in the U.S. Tim Paterson made it possible with his Windows innovation to make Bill Gates one of the richest and influential men in history. Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples had Butch Harmon and Ford had Harry Levinson. Coaching is concerned with innovation, development and the facilitation of new thought. W. Edwards Deming said, “Nothing changes without personal transformation.”

As you see on the International Coach Federation’s website, there are a number of different kinds of coaching within this field; business, internal, leadership, life vision and executive coaching to name a few.  When selecting a coach it makes best sense that the coach be in compliance with the 11 core competencies the ICF has defined as best practice. The ICF is the coaching organization that is recognized worldwide as the standard in this space.

Coaching constitutes an ongoing conversation that empowers a person or team to fully live out their calling – in their life and profession.

For a leader, the chief outcome of executive coaching is to manifest high performing direct reports and then mobilize, lead and guide those people to a keen internal vision. For either the leader or the key person with few or no direct reports, coaching allows for enlightenment followed by action. The idea is for the participant through expert prompting to listen to the inner self in order to develop insight and understanding since most often they do have the answers. Then the participant can take specific action to reshape their life around that learning to, among other important things, facilitate a culture of high performance, which is an essential role of an executive.

Coaching is for those executives who are in ascension, often referred to as “High Potentials.” It is also for solid performers, whom one would like to reward. Coaching is also for those in regression, who are successful in certain aspects of their job but struggle in others.  The coaching relationship is expected to produce insights, greater personal awareness, changed behaviors, actions, and ultimately results that are satisfactory to the participant, their direct reports, and the expectations set by the organization.

Much is expected of the participant in this coaching process. Self-evaluation, reasoning, imagination, making decisions about a new direction, courage to look at and own faults as well as courage to own successes all resulting in significant behavior change toward established goals. The point of this exercise is implementation of new insight and behavior in order to move to the next level. The focus of executive coaching is on the participant – their goals, their learning and their growth. The participant’s accountability is a willingness to learn, change and grow.

Coaching is learning – rather than teaching.

The Participant is the expert on their life. Coaching techniques such as active listening, open questions, encouragement, and best practices management training where needed and challenging the participant are used. The coach is supportive and assists in discovering insights, facilitates change and next steps.

Coaching is action.

There are a number of models but often there are 10 or so one hour sessions, two weeks apart. In a session the participant determines 1-3 actions steps to take before the next session. Progress can be quick. The participant focuses on their life – not just their work. We all know that changing old habits and thought patterns are difficult but necessary for growth. The coach holds the participant accountable to the action steps.

Here are some important distinctions. Coaching is not therapy. Although many of the communication techniques are the same; like active listening, reflecting, use of questions, some advice giving, etc. Therapy focuses on the past to bring healing and unblock a person to move ahead. Coaching is future and action-oriented for healthy people who are fundamentally clear of psychological and emotional issues.

Coaching is not mentoring.

Mentors are experts in a particular field who seek to pass on their expertise to a person. Mentors provide knowledge, advice, guidance, correction, and encouragement. They may use some coaching techniques, but mentors usually play the role of advisor and teacher to guide and impart knowledge and wisdom. While there will be mentoring moments, time with the participant will be largely around coaching.

In coaching the emphasis is not training though training does take place. Coaching is more focused on the participant’s agenda within their scope as an executive. Coaches use adult learning principles of self-discovery and awareness to motivate change from within the participant.

Coaching is not authoritarian.

Picture the tough sports coach who screams and then demands pushups for mistakes. That is not coaching. The coach may push beyond what might be thought reasonable, but should always be supportive. The Participant is in control. The responsibility to decide and act is theirs. Coaching is effective because it brings out the participant’s best. Again, the participant can create their own answers if facilitated properly.

Here is an example of a coaching best practice process.

1. Assessment: First of all the participant must assess if the coach is a good fit for them, it’s their decision. From that point it is best for the participant to take a self-assessment. There are a number of these on the market. I use the Harrison Assessment as well as a multi-rater called the Leadership Impact Survey by Impact Achievement Group (www.impactachievement.com), so the participant can receive feedback from their workplace as to their management/contribution acumen. As with a map, in order to get to point B one must assess where they are, that is: point A. Prescription before diagnosis is called malpractice. Assessments provide essential additional data used to flesh out what areas specifically the participant may want to develop in order to go to the next level.

2. Outcomes: Based upon assessments and conversation the participant and their boss decide what outcomes make best sense to pursue always with the focus on creating a work environment that facilitates insight and high performing direct reports. Sustained high performance necessitates a high trust culture.

3. Awareness: In order to grow, change and become more it is necessary to increase self-awareness and this is another key role of the coach; to facilitate awareness.

4. Action Plan: Faith without works is dead. Commitment to sustained action is necessary if any progress is to be made. This is a process and will be one of trial and error at times because the territory for the participant will often be new.

5. Delivery: Finally, through this process lasting change will be achieved. The hope is breakthrough and a new door opened such that the participant wins big as do others in the culture. The coach ought to report to the sponsor (boss) during and after the process as to progress while maintaining confidentiality.

6. Re-assess: Now it is time to re-assess, measure progress, reflect on lessons learned and consider any next steps.

Why use a coach? The reasons people want coaching are many and as unique as the person. Here are just 20 examples that motivate people to use a coach.

1. Making significant change

2. Career path planning

3. Developing the team and improving the culture

4. Dealing with problem employees

5. Having difficult conversations

6. Holding others accountable

7. Asserting self

8. Dealing with uncertainty

9. Making better decisions

10. Setting better goals and reaching them faster

11. Dealing with fear and gaining perspective

12. Facilitation of high performing direct reports

13. Getting organized

14. Having someone to talk to

15. Improving relationships on and off the job

16. Having peace of mind

17. Dealing with set backs

18. Being more influential and learning management best practices

19. Building collaboration

20. Simply being a better executive and leader

To bring this home, circle three that stands out to you. The coaching relationship is exciting, filled with little and big breakthroughs and allows for a life of continued success, joy and fulfillment.

About the Author

Peter Dove, is president of Shared Values Associates, a firm dedicated to corporate culture design. Learn more about Peter Dove at www.peterdove.com.