News & Insight
February 2007

Executive Coaching Q&A

This following questions and answers are excerpted from WJM Associates Inc.’s Executive Coaching Q&A, to be published next month. For a free copy of this informative booklet, please email Tim Morin at [email protected] with your name, job title, company, address, and phone number.

When Is Executive Coaching Needed?

  • To retain valuable executives – Dissatisfaction with potential for career development is a leading reason executives leave companies. Executives who receive coaching often feel more connected to the firm through a greater sense of commitment to their jobs, increased alignment with the firm’s goals and a sense that their value is being recognized. Investing in the development of current employees is usually better than spending money recruiting new ones.
  • When a company is undergoing growth or change – The skills necessary to successfully lead a company can shift dramatically as the organization enters a new stage of growth, shifts strategy, enters a new market, faces an evolving competitive landscape, goes public, receives an infusion of growth capital, is acquired or merged with another company, etc. Coaching can assist executives in adapting to change more quickly and competently.
  • As a succession planning tool – Talented individuals being groomed for leadership roles may excel in some areas, but may need improvement in other skills before promotion to a senior role. Examples of further developmental areas include cultivating a more strategic or company-wide perspective, getting better at developing others, bolstering interpersonal skills or increasing competence around conflict management or negotiation.
  • When an executive is being promoted or moved to a new role – Coaching can provide a newly hired or promoted executive with critical strategies for learning about the organization, including its culture and politics; understanding expectations of the new role; getting familiar with processes and practices; developing new relationships, recognizing common pitfalls, and identifying targets for “early wins”. Coaching may also be helpful when an executive is given a project or role that is a “stretch” for them.
  • When training courses or internal “mentors” are not options – Senior executives may be hesitant or unable to attend training courses or other “en masse” learning events or may simply prefer individualized, one-on-one development. In some instances, these executives may also feel that they should already have the skills or expertise in question. In these situations, coaching can be preferable since it is a confidential, personal and “safe” development option where the individual is using an objective, external person to help them with their development. Also, power and politics are removed from the situation because the coach has no agenda other than to help the person and the organization. And of course, in some cases there may not be anyone inside the organization with the time and/or expertise needed to work with the executive.
  • To assist with cultural alignment – Coaching can support executives arriving from other companies and/or other countries as they adjust to a new culture. Many companies offer this type of on-boarding or assimilation coaching for an executive’s first few months with the company.

What are Some Questions to Ask Before Considering Coaching?

  • What is the challenge being faced or the developmental goals for the executive?
  • Is it worth the time? All executives have faults and they will never be perfect. Coaching and behavioral change take time and support.
  • What happens if there is no coaching? Are there other developmental options to consider?
  • Does the executive know his/her behavior is not what it should be? Sometimes people just need to be made aware of the situation.
  • Is the desired outcome something the person is capable of? If the person is truly not suited for the position, coaching probably won’t help much.
  • Are there obstacles to success that are beyond the person’s control? It may be necessary to change the system instead of the employee.
  • Are the incentives currently in place shaping the behavior? Do positive rewards follow good performance?
  • Can trust and confidentiality be ensured by all participants in the process?

What Are Some Questions to Ask When Choosing a Coach?

  • What is this coach’s approach or process?
  • Does this coach have adequate experience in working with an executive at this level?
  • Have you seen an example of a developmental plan created by the coach with a previous client?
  • Does this coach appear to have the ability to develop a strong, trusting relationship with the executive?
  • Does the person have a style that is compatible with the executive’s style?
  • Does this coach have the skills and business background required to meet the coaching objectives?
  • Does the coach appear to be a team player and can he/she be flexible?
  • Does the coach appear to fit with the culture of the organization?
  • Is the coach a person of integrity and does he/she appear to be one who can deliver the truth to the organization and the executive?
  • Does this person appear to be one who has great insight into people and situations?
  • Does the coach have an executive presence that will be respected by the executive?

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