Why Coaching Works
In an article published in the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, William Bergquist points out that properly done executive coaching starts with an in-depth problem analysis that eventually results in a custom-tailored solution. It is impossible to cut corners. Instead, the coach must gain an understanding of the company’s values, business goals and work environment realities.
Working with a receptive management staff is crucial. When the solutions are presented, they come in the form of goals that are entirely reachable, realistic and apropos to the current status quo of the business’ operations. Although challenging, they present a definitive and logical progression of steps that leads to desired results. It is interesting to note that accountability gives rise to tackling problems head-on that corporate culture or business practices have ignored.
How Executive Coaches Operate
An executive coach observes while on location. Blending into the background, the professional notes processes, assesses skill pairings, observes the workings within chains of command and evaluates the flow of the project management lifecycle. First observations become part of the client company’s assessment. Document reviews round out the assessment. The coach examines the business’ mission statement, company history, accomplishments and failures. It is frequently possible to see a breakdown between the mission statement and overall mood in the workplace early in the process.
Management staff and company owners meet with the coach to discuss their business goals. If the professional senses that there may be a divide in the visions of both parties, she may choose to meet separately with key figures of the business. As a result of these meetings – and against the backdrop of the initial assessment – the coach formulates goals for the business that span the immediate and extended futures.
Management education is of the utmost importance at this juncture. Owners and managers receive pointers with respect to blind spots, missed or ignored problem areas and potential liabilities. Each item comes with an action plan that takes the problem area from a realistically assessed status to a desired end goal; this is accomplished with the help of reachable in-between steps.
For example, a breakdown in production efficiency points to missed benchmarks. The coach notes that the delegation cycle shows a number of flaws, including the project manager’s failure to address missed deadlines. She then discusses the issue with the manager and realizes that he is aware of the missed deadlines but does not have an adequately trained staff to address them. Next, she consults with the training manager, who realizes that a change in processes has not yet made it into the training materials.
The immediate goal would include an extra training session for the affected workers. The long-term goal is a revamp of the training literature and implementation in new-hire classes.
It is a common misconception that implementation suggestions end the relationship between the executive coach and the company client. This is incorrect. Instead, the coach stays on until there is a track record of goals being reached. Should the client company fail to reach the goals, the coach either goes back and re-evaluates the data or scrutinizes it if the breakdown is a personnel issue. This step in the process may go on for a one-year period. It may include training sessions, telephone consultations, video conferences and a re-assessment at the end of the contract period.
Advantages and Possible Pitfalls
The promises of improved team building, program management and effective leadership sometimes face opposition. No professional really likes an outsider coming in and pointing out mistakes. Deeply-ingrained management and leadership styles chafe at the notion of being outdated, outmoded and perceived as liabilities to the company. Meticulously enforced pecking orders and closely-guarded hierarchies present another pitfall; if change demands an upset to these orders, push-back is often severe.
Assuming that the upper management team is on board with executive coaching, it is pivotal that they share this vision with their supervisory staff members, who then translate it into a company-wide idea. It is not enough for the executive level to buy into the process and the subsequent changes; the implementation of actual changes involves everyone from the boardroom to the mailroom. Granted, executive coaching primarily affects the day to day operations of the corporate leaders, yet the changes that must be made affect all levels of the operation.
Finding the right professional to the take a business through an executive coaching process is crucial to the success of the exercise. Just as important is the buy-in of all staff members.