What the RIGHT Coach Can Do For You – Part 3
It is not uncommon for me to hear the question “How can an executive coach really help someone at a senior level?” A good executive coach can help individuals (and organizations) navigate complex situations, demonstrate visible leadership, and advance business outcomes.
However, the key to getting the most out of an executive coach is to pick the RIGHT coach.
With 30 years of experience coaching C-level executives and Presidents of business units and functions at Fortune 500 companies, I fall into the category of senior-level coaches. I have seen many, many complex business situations multiple times over. In other words, I’ve learned to see around corners and help clients avoid pitfalls that only come from experience.
The solutions I am asked to provide typically fall into three categories:
Tackling A Specific Business Issue
In my previous articles, I addressed how a coach can provide a valuable assessment and expedite personal development. Now, I’d like to share a few real-life clients I’ve worked on recently to target a specific issue or growth goal.
1. Stand up a new function or center of excellence.
This can be a daunting task, frequently without dedicated resources (at least at the beginning), but a good coach who has been there before can help you identify goals and objectives, figure out what is realistic, help you build and socialize a plan for the new organization and stand it up for success. These tend to be longer-term projects, and I have recently advised clients on setting up centers of excellence in change management, revenue growth management, and new product incubation. The revenue growth management center of excellence was just credited with $90MM in value in their second year. This is 50% more than projected because the client worked very hard to target real opportunities that would move the needle fast.
2. Figure out how to tackle or accelerate results on a large project.
Many of the projects senior leaders are asked to tackle are large, hairy, complex projects with lots of moving parts. A coach can serve as an objective third party to help prioritize and set things up for success. An experienced advisor-type coach should be able to help leaders see around corners, anticipate and avoid potential pitfalls and set clear expectations involving the right stakeholders. Frequently, given my experience, these involve organizational restructuring, strategic planning, or merger integration. In the last two years, I have coached one business unit’s President through a major restructuring that required a significant mindset shift for the entire organization as they adapted to a new way of doing things. I’ve also worked with another President to successfully implement a downsizing he really didn’t agree with, and yet another President to integrate the leadership team of several merging banks as they become one company.
3. Strategize on how to have difficult conversations.
Nearly every client I have, at some point, struggles with delivering difficult feedback, pushing back on a senior leader, challenging a peer, terminating an employee, or getting someone they don’t have authority over to do something. A good coach can work with you to help you prepare, strategize, and role-play those conversations so you are comfortable, more equipped, and ready to have them effectively.
4. Strategize on board and stakeholder relationships.
For a CEO, this might be the board of directors, but for another leader, this might be about identifying a group of stakeholders where relationships are critical. The process is very similar. For every leadership role, there are people whose opinion matters and whose voice can determine their success. A coach can not only help figure out who they are and what is important to them but also can help build a plan that can be easily integrated into their day-to-day work to manage those stakeholders. For one CEO with a large board of directors, we discussed the state of the relationship with every board member and determined what specific conversations needed to happen and what key messages they needed to hear. We then adjusted the messaging and built a regular cadence of planned interactions so the most critical relationships could grow and develop appropriately. The same process has worked with a functional leader with a plethora of complex cross-functional stakeholders.
These are just a few of the situations I’ve been involved in with senior leaders. There are probably twice this many more that could be relevant. The bottom line is that if you are being asked to do something you’ve not seen before, consider that an experienced executive coach-advisor (particularly one who has been successful in their own right and perhaps has consulted with other clients) may have seen that situation more than once and may be able to help accelerate your learning curve tremendously.