What the RIGHT Coach Can Do For You – Part 1
I’ve been coaching c-level executives and Presidents of business units and functions at Fortune 500 companies for nearly 30 years, and I still get questions about how an executive coach can really help someone at a senior level. I’d like to provide examples of real-life client situations I’ve worked on recently. But first, I must explain that there are coaches and there are coaches…and not every executive coach can or should get involved in some of these types of scenarios.
I fall into a category of senior-level coaches with a tremendous amount of business experience, either from my personal career as a senior executive or my consulting career where I have seen many, many complex business situations multiples times over. In other words, I’ve learned to see around corners and help clients avoid pitfalls that only come from experience. My style of coaching, while deeply impactful, is not based on the Socratic method most coaches are taught in certification programs.
The solutions I am asked to provide typically fall into three categories:
- Assessing the situation
- Personal Development for C-Level Leaders
- Tackling A Specific Business Issue
Assessing The Situation
Today, I want to address how invaluable it is to have an accurate picture of your current situation. Relying on the services of a third party can be essential to gather an unbiased and complete assessment of an individual, team, or organization. A coach-advisor can cut through office politics to find the root cause of issues and identify untapped capabilities, ineffective systems or structures, miscommunications or misperceptions of team members and so much more. These are just a few of the situations I’ve been involved with in the past two years with senior leaders.
1. Assess a team.
When taking over a new organization, there is often a need to figure out what is needed, who has what skills, and who can help take the group to the next level. I’ve seen many situations where a leader is brought in to make changes and needs to assess the team quickly, demonstrate visible leadership fast, and get the group going in a different direction. A great coach-advisor can make this significantly easier by helping you identify organizational capabilities, establish criteria and even interview team members. Often a coach who has worked in a particular function has specific expertise to roll up their sleeves and help you do this well. I’ve worked with CEOs, CHROs, and heads of Merchandising, Marketing, Innovation, Finance, and Revenue Growth Management to do just that. This can be particularly helpful in a merger or acquisition situation and is another area where personality assessments can come into play as an effective tool.
2. Evaluate an organizational structure.
Admittedly, not every coach will have the expertise to do this, but many will. There comes a point where nearly every leader must ask if the structure they have created (or inherited) is best suited to deliver the capabilities the organization needs to drive the strategy. Given that I started an organization design firm, this is an area I am frequently asked to weigh in on. Working with a third party who can ask the right questions about the structure and the way people and functions interact (and interact with your customers) can be a great relief to ensure that you’ve got the best structure in place. Of course, I would never suggest designing structure in a vacuum with any coach, but a coach can certainly help you assess whether it needs to change.
3. Gather interview-based stakeholder feedback.
Some companies call this 360-degree feedback, but often that is done using a formal corporate survey process with a lot political baggage. When you bring in a coach to do this, the questions can be customized to find out exactly what the executive needs to know to focus their development and it can be done confidentially, safely, and sincerely for development only. In my case, this data goes to the leader only and is used to drive our work together. Because it never goes into a personnel file, stakeholders can be honest, and the leader can receive it without fear of reprisal. I start nearly all my engagements by gathering stakeholder feedback, so the client has a clear understanding of how they are perceived. Often this reveals blind spots, and we can get busy working on changing any perceptions that are less than ideal. This might be the most impactful part of an engagement for some. One President received feedback this year that his relationships with a few of his peers were holding him back from a major promotion. It didn’t take long to make real progress on that and change the direction of his career.
These are only a sample of the many ways an advisor-coach can help you clarify the real issues and get them on the table where they can be solved. Because you can’t solve what you’re not talking about.