Is Coaching For You?

I read an article in Fortune Magazine’s Career section called “Coaching is Hot. Is It Right For You?” Writer Vickie Elmer says “Once seen as the last step for an executive about to fall off the ladder, leadership coaches now help smooth a promotion, teach outsiders about their new culture, and tune up talent.”

Wow. Now hiring a coach is an investment in people who are seen as very solid performers. A July 2011 American Management Association survey shows half of the respondents use coaching to prepare individuals for a promotion or new role. While 1/2 provide coaches to mid level or senior staff only, 38% make them available to anyone

So it looks like coaching is here to stay. But is it right for you? Let’s dig a little deeper into this subject this month.

And since it is Thanksgiving month, I’d like to say Thanks For Giving to all my clients who helped me have a record year. It’s not about money, but the opportunity to serve and make a difference in people’s lives. And for that I am very grateful!

To gratitude and abundance!

Who Gets Coached?

Coaches seem to be everywhere. Many see them as a personal trainer for business. My all time favorite coach is Marshall Goldsmith.

I got to be a coach for him back in the 90’s and I was impressed enough to continue coaching and developing my whole career! Goldsmith and his associates recommend that a coach work only with leaders who:
• Are considered good coaching candidates.
• Have high potential within the organization.
• Have not committed an integrity violation.
• Are willing to make a sincere effort to change.

His model for behavioral coaching outlines a reliable process to help leaders achieve positive, measurable changes in themselves, their staffs, and their teams. First, the coach secures an agreement with the client (the organization) and the leader being coached with respect to two key variables:
1. What are the key behaviors that will lead to the greatest positive change in leadership effectiveness?
2. Which key stakeholders should determine (one year later) if this change has occurred?

There are specific behaviors that can be identified through the use of multi-rater assessments (360), where people in the leader’s world give feedback on their perceptions in different areas. It’s important to note that a coach will encourage and work in only a few areas that lead to growth:  focusing on a few behaviors that would have the greatest impact in effectiveness and by leveraging the strengths of the client. It’s not about addressing every little behavior that could be better, but just a few!

Why Do Leaders Give Up?

I’ve seen situations where coaching has been ineffective. When it comes to change, some leaders lose motivation and fail to “stick with the program.” Regardless of a coach’s competence, failure to achieve goals may occur for several reasons:

  • The leaders was forced into the relationship (they needed “fixing”) and they have no skin in the game, ownership, so they play games.
  • They get impatient. Behavior change takes time, especially for others to notice, even after change has been made!
  • Distractions appear! By planning for distractions in advance, leaders can set realistic expectations for change.
  • Rewards are often later. Achievement of one goal doesn’t immediately translate into achievement of other goals.  They may give up when these things fail to materialize instantaneously.
  • Ongoing maintenance is required. Leaders must recognize that professional development is an ongoing process, with a lifelong commitment. Leadership involves relationships. Relationships and people change. Maintaining positive relationships requires long-term effort.

Ground Rules of Coaching

There are things to consider when contemplating offering coaching to your leaders.

  • Some things must remain confidential to the company in order for trust to be allowed in the relationship. Aligning coaching goals with the organization’s principal objectives is crucial, as coaching isn’t merely an exercise in personal improvement!
  • The different relationships must be clear: boss (or HR), person being coached and the coach
  • Method of information collection (360 or observation) needs to be explicit and supported.
  • Judgements, objectives and progress need to be objective, and there must be honest sharing.
  • Define the parameters of the engagement. Usually this lasts from 12-18 months. The coaching relationship requires discipline and boundaries for progress to occur.
  • Key stakeholders need to let go of the past and offer “feedforward” rather than feedback. They need to offer support and complete honesty.
  • It takes a village–stakeholders should know what the leader is working on and offering suggestions, a two-way street, allowing stakeholders to serve as “fellow travelers” in the quest for self improvement (as opposed to singling out one leader who must change). It also greatly increases the value the corporation gains throughout the entire process.


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