What the RIGHT Coach Can Do For You – Part 2
In my 30 years of coaching c-level executives, I am frequently asked how an executive coach can really help someone at a senior level. I get it. Once you have reached this level, you’re expected to know what you’re doing and be pretty good at it. Often, these leaders are confident and don’t spend a lot of time thinking about personal development. The results speak for themselves and it can be hard to see how a coach can help.
I would agree that a traditional junior-level coach from a coaching consortium many organizations belong to, likely won’t have the experience or expertise to go beyond asking questions until they get a breakthrough. This is not the kind of business advisory work I am generally asked to do.
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
Personal Development for C-Level Leaders
In my previous blog, I covered Assessing The Situation. Today, I want to share how even the best senior leaders could benefit from the right Executive Coach. In fact, I can confidently share that C-level leaders who are succeeding in their roles see some of the BEST results from the business advisory type of coaching I offer. Whether you are starting a new role, trying to take your leadership to the next level, or planning for the future, you can benefit from an advisor-coach. Here are a few examples of clients I have worked with in the past two years.
1. Accelerate a President’s integration into a new role with a new team.
This past year, I have helped several new business unit Presidents understand their new role, get to know their team, and integrate into the culture in a way that enables them to be themselves, demonstrate visible leadership fast, identify opportunities, and deliver results quickly. The advantage of a coach in this situation is that the coach can get to know key stakeholders, help identify and triangulate conflicting expectations and sort out hot spots before the new leader even shows up for work. We generally start talking to stakeholders 15-30 days before the new leader arrives. In one case, my client was a head of innovation with three main senior stakeholders. One expected him to revolutionize the brand, turning an airline into a lifestyle brand. One expected him to lay low, maintain the status quo and keep innovation out of operations, and yet a third wanted him to take over an innovative customer experience. My role, at least in part, was to sort this out and create stakeholder alignment before the new leader started so he didn’t walk into a minefield of competing loyalties.
2. Build a targeted plan for development.
It is sometimes difficult to focus on your own development in the midst of everything else you need to deliver but working with a coach is a surefire way to ensure not just that you are developing, but that you are developing in the areas most critical for your organization. A good coach will gather personality assessment data, stakeholder interview data, and information from the boss or board and work with you to figure out how to develop the areas most critical for your success. I have helped clients identify mentors, stretch assignments, taught some skills myself, and perhaps less frequently, recommended advanced classes or programs targeted to the skills they need right now. My clients have made progress on deepening their understanding of finance, general management skills (managing a P&L), becoming more strategic, and improving communication, team development, and stakeholder management this year alone.
3. Articulate and build a legacy.
Many leaders, even at the most senior levels move so fast reacting to what’s in front of them that they don’t take the time to think intentionally about the legacy they want to leave. I’ve challenged several to really think about what they want to be known for AND THEN to find opportunities each week to bring that legacy to life. Could they do this on their own? Sure. Would they in the heat of the battle every day? Not likely. I’ve had several clients tell me that the hour they spend with me every other week is like a strategic retreat from their day-to-day craziness that gives them a renewed focus on intentionally driving what they want to create. One CEO really wanted to focus on building a certain culture, but his daily interactions with his direct reports weren’t doing this to the degree he wanted. We worked on figuring out what he needed to do to set clear expectations around what was important and how he could reinforce the culture he wanted to create in every interaction. Six months later, that culture is broadly embedded in the organization.
Even great leaders need to flex their development muscles to get better, but putting them in “training” isn’t always the answer. A great senior executive coach can quickly get a handle on how to help a leader get laser-focused on what will take their performance to the next level, while at the same time making progress on real, relevant, and complex issues.