Executive Coaching Doesn’t Work If It’s Set Up to Fail
In the realm of athletics or performance, the question “Does coaching work?” rarely gets asked. The proof is in the outcome, and you’d be hard pressed to find a top athlete that didn’t also have a top-notch coach. But in business we still have to justify investing in the kind of coaching that yields those kinds of best-in-class results.
We know why coaching works, on and off the field. This article takes a look at some reasons why executive coaching might NOT work:
Coaching is focused on skills or rehabilitation rather than transformation.
A manager is in trouble, or the organization is in trouble, and a coach is brought in to help ‘fix’ the problem. Since coaching works best when a person comes into the relationship willing and eager to learn and grow, this problem-based approach creates a situation where much of the first sessions are spent gaining trust and establishing goals and directions. The coachee thinks “If I don’t get this, I’m done”. This is a weak foundation on which to build a powerful coaching relationship.
Coaching is just for certain leaders in the company.
DCC is completing the second phase of a massive coaching/culture shift venture in a major health care company. The CEO of this company made the radical, but highly rational, decision that if coaching was good for him, it would be good for everybody. He brought DCC in to coach every one of the 88 leaders in the company, all at the same time. In this way, the entire organization was coming alive together, focusing on each other’s strengths and skills, bringing awareness to communication, and all taking responsibility for creating a culture of collaboration and innovation.
The entire enterprise started noticing results, to the extent that the union requested one on one coaching for ALL of its members. We’ll be starting a pilot with 150 this summer.
When coaching resources are allocated just to one or two leaders in an organization, that person is tasked not just with transforming their own capacity to lead, but moving the entire enterprise along with them. Like turning an ocean liner, it can be done, but it takes time.
Coaching isn’t strategic.
If coaching is set up in a strategic way, is tied from the outset to business values and metrics and is delivered by an executive coach with strategic skills, the question “Is coaching working?” will not be asked. The desired outcome and investment is clearly outlined by all parties in advance of coaching, and results are measured and reported all along the way.
Rory Cohen, MA, MPH, SCPC is an Executive Coach and VP for Coach Network Development with David Couper Consulting
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