I recently came across an essay by thought leader, surgeon, and author Atul Gawande: “Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?” In it he describes his own experience working with a coach and comes to the conclusion:
“Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.”
Wow! If good coaching truly is “the most effective intervention designed for human performance,” why doesn’t everyone have a coach? And what does “coaching done well” look like?
Executive coaching is not therapy or counseling. It focuses on what you want to be different and/or what you want to achieve in specific relation to your work. “Coaching done well” starts with identifying precisely what you want to get out of the experience and ends with measurable accomplishment. A coach can help you to chart a path to achievement of your goals, and accelerate the pace at which you get there, but first you have to acknowledge that you have room to grow.
Gawande suggests that coaching requires first and foremost a little humility and the acknowledgment that, “even expert practitioners have significant room for improvement.” Setting aside your ego and recognizing that you have room for improvement is essential here. So, the first question for those considering working with an executive coach is, “Do I still have room to grow professionally?”
In our practice, we see those who engage in the executive coaching process most often coming to it from a position of strength, with a high degree of self-awareness, humility regarding their management skills, and excitement around the potential for next-level performance. The prospect of coaching forces you to acknowledge to yourself and to others that you have more to learn, but for leaders who have embraced continuous improvement as an organizational priority, that’s a given. They know they’re no more perfect than other mortals and recognize their own development as essential in the development of their organizations. And, I dare say, they relish the opportunity to focus inward and receive the personal support they need to stay at the top of their game.
Still think coaching is for athletes and employees in dire need of remediation? Think again! Here are some examples of when you might consider engaging an executive coach for yourself or for someone you manage:
New leaders – Perhaps you are managing an organization, a department, or a team for the very first time. With an executive coach, you don’t have to go it alone. An experienced coach–a trusted partner–can help you to build upon the strengths that have gotten you to where you are, identify opportunities for growth, and support you in developing strategies for success in leading a team and achieving your personal and organizational goals.
Rising stars – As a manager, you know the importance of nurturing and building the strengths of individual members of your team. You’ve also learned to spot the star performers who, with targeted professional development and explicit encouragement, could be your organization’s future leaders. Offering these rising stars the opportunity to work with an executive coach may be just what they need to accelerate their growth, work more effectively with others, and prepare for a future management role. You’ll also be demonstrating a commitment to their growth as part of your organization, which will boost employee satisfaction and support retention.
Change agents – Of course, change isn’t easy, but today’s leaders are not only faced with a fast-changing environment but often must lead their organizations through the process of re-thinking their business models, restructuring staffing, developing new revenue streams, and doing it all while trying to ensure buy-in from key stakeholders. Working with an executive coach—someone who has been there before—can help you to navigate the change process and smooth-out the bumps in the road “in real time” as you work together to enact essential change.
Senior leaders – You want to be the best that you can be, but getting constructive feedback on your performance as a leader and manager has been harder and harder as you’ve moved up the ladder. An executive coach can elicit feedback from those you manage, from key partners, and from those who depend upon your success. With a coach, you can process the feedback received and develop strategies to build upon your strengths and address any identified shortcomings, all in a “safe space” with a trusted and experienced partner. Along the way you’ll be modeling for your organization a commitment to continuous improvement and likely learning new lessons about how to provide and make best use of constructive feedback.
These are just a few examples of when it might be helpful to engage an executive coach. If after reading this blog post, authored by Jeff Wahlstrom, you are ready to acknowledge that you “still have room for improvement,” get in touch with us today at Starboard Leadership Consulting. We have proven assessment tools, experienced executive coaches, and more than 13 years of experience working with organizational leaders and their teams. We look forward to hearing from you!
“I engaged Starboard in a year-long, multiple session executive coaching process and found it to be incredibly valuable to my personal growth and development. I have subsequently engaged Starboard to provide coaching for many of the bank’s up-and-coming leaders. I strongly recommend Starboard for any leader who wants to take his or her game to the next level!” – Larry Barker, CEO, Machias Savings Bank