Executive Coaching for Performance
How to Get the Most From an Executive Coaching Engagement
No matter their background, industry, or even what part of the world they come from, top executives often face a similar problem: The skills and knowledge that helped them attain that leadership position aren’t the same as the skills they may need to excel in that role.
Sometimes they simply need to up their game in the new role and perform better.
Sometimes the new role requires a new mindset, skillset, approach, or leadership skill.
And sometimes a leader is faced with navigating a crisis, and needs to be supported through that, while at the same time preparing to lead the organization into the future.
Executive coaching is a proven tool for addressing challenges and elevating leader performance.
It functions as a form of highly customized, one-on-one, professional development, with the executive coach providing the leader with personalized, timely feedback to tackle whatever issues are most pressing.
How Does Leadership Coaching for Performance Work?
Coaching for performance typically starts with a process to ensure a leader is matched with the right executive coach.
Today, technology has made virtual, on-demand coaching more accessible than ever before, so executives can connect with a coach who has expertise in their particular industry, challenge, language, or focus area, regardless of where both parties are located. It also offers busy senior leaders an opportunity for development in smaller time increments, on a flexible schedule, at their convenience.
Often in a coaching for performance engagement, executives may have completed assessments of their leadership skills, such as a 360-degree feedback assessment, to help them understand their strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and habits, or may have taken targeted assessments on topics such as conflict style or approach to change. Using the data from such assessments can help guide the conversation with an executive coach so that the leader can get highly relevant, personalized insights and suggestions.
Or, the leader may not have taken such assessments, and may simply appreciate a coach serving as a sounding board and helping them to navigate their current situation, while preparing for the future.
Either way, to ensure the coaching engagement is successful, the coach and the coachee should work together to decide on goals, discuss ways to measure success, and agree to expectations on things such as confidentiality ahead of time.
The executive coach then works with the leader one-on-one, either in-person or more commonly, via teleconference, over a period of several months to help them apply what they already know, discover new perspectives and resources, and increase their self-awareness and ability to meet new challenges.
During that time, the coach and the leader work through job and personal challenges that can hinder the executive’s career success — and the success of the business unit or function the executive leads. This coaching for performance approach ensures the leader is ready to face the challenges of the role.
Issues that often come up in executive coaching include how to handle crises, interpersonal conflicts, work-life balance, and how to get clarity on important issues. The coach doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to these challenges. But the coach helps executives uncover their assumptions, ask smarter questions, and find solutions in unexpected places.
A coaching for performance engagement typically wraps up with a final meeting between the coach, executive, and the direct boss or HR leader if applicable. Progress towards goals is discussed, remaining challenges are noted, and next steps for the leader’s ongoing support and development are clearly identified.
Executive Coaching for Performance: What to Consider
Finding a good executive coach isn’t just about the coach’s credentials. For a one-to-one coaching partnership to work, a strong match on several fronts is required. An executive coach who worked well for one leader, for instance, may not be the best choice for another.
Here’s what you need to know about choosing a coach and establishing a solid partnership.
To begin with, consider whether a potential executive coach has the experience and skills required to help a leader face their particular goals and challenges. Is the coach experienced in the leader’s industry or field?
Once the pair is matched, as the coaching engagement gets underway, the coach and coachee will likely have a face-to-face or virtual meeting to get a good feel for each other and begin to build rapport and trust. They should make goals and expectations as clear for each other as possible.
To get the most from executive coaching for performance, you’ll want to consider the practical aspects of the coaching relationship by asking these 4 questions:
- How will coaching sessions take place? One benefit of executive coaching is that professional coaches can work with you in many ways: face-to-face meetings, virtual formats, by email, or in combinations of these. The leader should consider their own preferences and availability, and talk to the coach about the ways they prefer to work with clients.
- What kind of schedule will work best? Talk about the frequency of coaching sessions, but also consider when and how the coach is available at other times. Should the coach also be accessible to report and acknowledge progress, or discuss barriers and problems, or get questions answered about the process?
- How is confidentiality handled? Coaching requires you to reveal a lot about yourself and your organization, and it’s only effective if confidentiality is ensured.
- How are fees and payments handled? Do any coaching services incur additional costs? Under what conditions are you charged for canceled appointments? What happens if you’re forced to discontinue the coaching engagement?
Remember, executive coaching is a 2-way relationship. Each side has responsibilities to make the engagement successful. A leader’s job is to take an active role in the process and be receptive to new perspectives and to new ways of acting.
Indicators That Executive Coaching for Performance Is Successful
How do you know if the coaching for performance engagement is working? Use this checklist to review the success of a partnership with an executive coach:
- Clarity: Working with a coach has helped the leader view current challenges in new ways.
- Perspective: Working with a coach has helped the leader better understand how context can shift the approach to a current challenge.
- Resilience: Working with a coach has energized the leader to persevere through current challenges.
- Productivity: Working with a coach has helped the leader recognize how to maximize value with limited time.
Successful coaching engagements help executives become more effective in their lives and in their careers. Coaching for performance can help senior leaders prepare mentally, emotionally, and professionally to lead the business through challenging times.
It also produces positive returns for their organizations, which are better able to adapt to dynamic marketplaces and implement new strategies.
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