Demystifying Executive Coaching
Updated: Dec 20, 2021
In a recent conversation with an acquaintance of mine, I mentioned that I work with leaders at different levels of seniority and help the leaders who I work with to grow highly promotable and sought after. Sometimes they feel overwhelmed, are swamped by routine or experience a lack of confidence, I shared. I help them through whatever they are experiencing to meet their goals.
Needless to say, her reply absolutely shocked me:
“This immediately suggests to me that these leaders have no leadership if they need any help,” she said.
Before I had a chance to pick my jaw up from the floor, she went on: “A leader is a person who leads and a lack of confidence is a quality in those who need to be led, as far as I’m concerned.”
This exchange encouraged me to reflect on some of the myths and misconceptions around coaching. Specifically: Who is coaching for? What are the benefits of coaching?
Who is coaching for?
I do sometimes encounter the perception out there that coaching is for individuals who “need help” or are struggling as leaders. I have heard leaders say they do not need a coach because they are already a strong and effective leader. But, is coaching still impactful for strong and effective leaders? I argue that it is. I was immediately drawn to thinking about sports, and stumbled upon this article by Alan Bronowicz, which states:
"Coaches can help us see possibilities where we can't, and they can stay focused on the goal while we stay focused on preparing and executing to meet the goal. They act as the lighthouse which is stationary and secure and provides a beacon to direct us when we lose focus."
As you think about this analogy, you will remember that even the best athletes and accomplished stars still have their coaches. Not because their coaches are better than them on a particular aspect of the game or teach them loads of new skills; it's more for the reality check, guidance, accountability and tracking progress.
To this end, one leader who I've been coaching for the last 3 years said, "I like the idea of working with the same coach through the years... I can fool myself, but I cannot fool my coach because you'll remember all our conversations and make it impossible!”
Acting as that lighthouse, your coach will be focused on bringing you back to your goals, your vision and guiding your journey.
What are the benefits of coaching?
Each coaching experience should be unique, because it is tailored to your development goals and your vision for your future. Coaching can be beneficial to those in transition from one organization or role to another, but it also provides each individual - no matter where you are in your career - an opportunity to gain a deep awareness of your behavior, actions, effectiveness and performance. A solid coaching experience allows you to lead with greater influence and impact. Your coach is a partner to you throughout your transformation. Coaching helps you move through the noise and focus on what truly matters.
Ultimately, a coach may be the only person in your life who has no conflict of interest with you. As a coach, your success is my success. The people around you have their own agenda, which is natural. Even in the most positive circumstances, they act from their understanding of your best interest, while your coach focuses on the best interests that you define for yourself.
Take a moment to pause and reflect: Have you had a coach in the past? How did this experience change your perception of the coaching experience?
Finally, if you’re considering a coaching engagement, check out my Six Tips: How to Choose the Right Coach for You.