Executive Coaching is a form of professional and personal development which, usually, happens on a 1:1 basis between a coach and coachee.
Unlike group training (which has its own advantages), coaching provides a more personalised approach. It’s tailored to your agenda and what you want to achieve. It’s always entirely relevant to you, your organisation and your current situation.
Over the years we have had the pleasure of coaching leaders from a wide range of sectors and backgrounds, all of whom have been seeking their own, unique outcome.
In this article we share some of the benefits you should expect to receive from Executive Coaching.
1. Greater self-awareness
Often, the starting point of Executive Coaching is to help you become more self-aware, so you better understand your personality preferences, strengths and areas for development.
A profiling technique, such as Insights Discovery, is frequently used as a foundation for these discussions. 360 feedback, taking into account the views of your colleagues, team and stakeholders, can also be very helpful.
Real world example
We worked with a Director within the construction sector who lacked confidence when dealing with her senior leadership team. She was uncertain about questioning their decisions, to the extent that she’d avoid going near their offices.
Through our coaching sessions we discovered that childhood lessons to defer to authority figures had stuck with her and were impeding her ability to have honest and open conversations with senior leaders.
Once we’d identified what we called her “gremlin” it became much easier to plan development opportunities to keep the gremlin under control. She learnt to present her ideas with confidence and hold challenging conversations with senior figures in a constructive and respectful way.
2. A sounding board for difficult decisions
According to research by the Harvard Business Review, needing a sounding board is the second most popular reason to engage a coach (the most popular being to develop high potentials or facilitate transition).
This can be useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, busy leaders don’t always have the time to sit back and reflect on their strategies.
Secondly, it can be enormously helpful to discuss difficult decisions with a neutral third party. Talking through your thoughts can help to coalesce them, and a fresh perspective can provide useful insights.
Sharing thoughts and concerns in a safe environment helps to reduce anxiety and make the decision-making process smoother.
Real world example
One of our coaching relationships, with a leader in a large engineering company, came about purely because she needed a sounding board.
She simply wanted to talk through her strategies “out loud”. While she could have done this by herself (or to the bathroom mirror), vocalising her thoughts to a coach gave her the additional benefit of having her ideas reflected back to her and questioned in a constructive way.
This allowed her to “sense check” her strategy and refine it before taking it to her leadership team.
3. Specific skills development
Often we identify specific learning opportunities, which will help you achieve your objectives from the coaching.
For example, this could be learning different leadership styles, communications techniques or influencing skills.
Executive coaching sessions can act as the training room for developing these skills. This will be backed up by guided self-learning (eg books, blogs or elearning) and seeking opportunities in your day-to-day work to practice new philosophies and techniques.
Real world example
We coach a wonderfully enthusiastic and dynamic Managing Director. He’s a truly inspirational leader.
However, he wasn’t as comfortable with the more habitual side of his management role. He struggled to be satisfied when he wasn’t leading his troops into battle or introducing the next big idea.
We worked on expanding his leadership toolkit to include a wider range of leadership styles, so he could adapt his style to the given situation. We identified how each of these could benefit him, and his business, while still giving him the job satisfaction he deserves.
4. A better understanding of your people
To be an effective leader you need to be self-aware and understand those you work with.
In Microsoft’s 2022 Word Trend Index 54% of managers say that their leadership is out of touch with employees. Obviously, the events of the last few years have exacerbated this problem, but that doesn’t negate the need to address it.
Through Executive Coaching you can explore your relationship with your managers, colleagues, team and clients. And you can take the time to step back and consider the impact of our new ways of working.
On an individual level, you can get to grips with why you get on with some people better than others. You can learn how to adapt your behaviour and increase your empathy to ensure that you’re optimising every working relationship.
In a wider context, you can improve your empathy with your team as a whole and identify any blind spots you may have, which could be making you seem out of touch. Your coach can also facilitate a feedback loop, speaking to your team directly to gauge their feelings.
Real world example
We coach a Head of Business Improvement whose role is crucial in implementing change within her company.
Getting buy-in for business changes was a struggle, even more so because she is a woman in very male-dominated organisation. In the past, changes had simply been imposed on the workforce, with little thought for change management. She wanted to introduce a more collaborative approach.
We worked with her to develop a process which would ensure that the employees felt actively listened too and which would demonstrate her empathy with their situation and view points. Once they had opened up and realised that their opinions were valued, it became much easier to collaborate with them to implement the change in a more effective and less disruptive way.
5. Enhanced decision making
Decision making is a key element of a leader’s role.
As already discussed, coaching can give you an opportunity to talk through difficult decisions. Your coach can be a useful, and neutral, sounding board.
But coaching can help your decision making in more ways than this. If you find some decisions particularly difficult, coaching can help you develop techniques to strategize and plan these decision in a more effective way.
Coaching can also help you to learn when to delegate the decision making to others in your organisation.
Real world example
A few of our clients are businesses who have recently and rapidly expanded from a small to medium size.
This can be a difficult transition for owners, particularly when it comes to decision making. As a small business, every strategic decision is taken by the owner. But once the business has grown and introduced departments and managerial hierarchies, it isn’t practical (or sensible) for the owner to continue as the sole decision maker.
Executive coaching can help the owner to map out which decisions to retain and which to delegate. It can also give them the skills to ensure that their team feel confident and safe in making the decisions which are delegated to them.
For experienced leaders, in particular, it can be difficult to find opportunities which take them out of their comfort zone. However, it’s important that everyone in the organisation is stretched from time to time, heightening engagement and motivation, as well as adding to personal development.
Through the increased self-awareness which coaching gives you, you’ll be able to work with your coach to identify situations where you naturally feel less comfortable. Your coach will help you to find tactics to deal with those challenging scenarios and opportunities to practice them, encouraging you to think in ways you haven’t before and expand your leadership skillset.
7. Increased confidence
The coaching experience should be an empowering one, giving you the confidence to deal with any situation you come across.
This could mean developing your skills and strategies to take the anxiety out of situations such as public speaking, complex decision making or difficult conversations.
Or it could be a more general feeling of confidence resulting from having a better understanding of yourself, those around you, and how you impact each other’s working life.
Growing in confidence can have very direct, positive impacts on your working life. It can also reduce anxiety and increase your general wellbeing.
Real world example
We coached a senior leader who wanted to improve his influencing skills to better convey commercial ideas to the Board of his organisation.
He felt that he was being held back by coming across as too eager to please, and often stumbling over words due to nerves.
We worked on his communication techniques, such as slowing his rate of speaking, incorporating pauses and how to mentally organise his responses to questions. We ensured that, between our sessions, he found opportunities to practice the techniques, and we reviewed his progress at each coaching meeting.
As a result, both his communication skills and confidence improved immeasurably. He has since been put on a fast-track promotion scheme.
8. The ability to navigate through stormy weather
Coaching is an excellent way to support leaders in dealing with big changes.
This could be a change in leadership, stepping into a new market, a business acquisition or … you know … a global pandemic that turns everything upside down.
In periods of transition, leaders are expected to steer the business to a successful outcome, while simultaneously ensuring people impacted by the change support the new vision. It’s a lot to ask.
Leadership behaviours need to adapt to the period of transition and be ready to adapt again to the new way of working afterwards. Every one of their personal actions needs to be aligned to the unfolding situation, driving the change to completion.
By equipping leaders with the skills to weather these storms, businesses can accelerate the transformation and get back into smooth water more quickly.
9. Success sooner
For some, it isn’t a lack of skills or vision that prevents them achieving their goals. It’s a lack of time, a lack of planning or a lack of confidence to overcome barriers. It can also be due to good old-fashioned procrastination!
Executive Coaching will help you to set clear objectives (for example career goals) and create a SMART strategy to achieve them (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based).
This will provide you with a concise roadmap to achieve your ambitions, with the motivation of “reporting back” to help you beat any tendency to procrastinate. Tracking your progress through the coaching sessions will add further motivation as you see your goal becoming a reality.
10. Happiness and motivation
We don’t talk about happiness at work often enough. Or, when we do, we’re usually thinking about how to ensure that your team are happy in their work.
But, of course, leaders are human beings too!
Good coaching will remind you of what you love about your job, or perhaps make you realise that a change is needed to achieve the happiness you deserve.
Expanding your abilities and improving your performance can be hugely re-energising, and the results of your coaching should leave you feeling more positive and motivated. Good feelings are contagious, so your positivity should naturally help your team to feel more happy and engaged.
It isn’t just the individual coachee who reaps the rewards of Executive Coaching, their organisation should see the benefits too.
Your increased job satisfaction will rub off on your team, helping to support a positive company culture. In turn, as research has shown, leaders who positively affect the company climate also achieve greater financial results for their organisation.
And your improved leadership skills, such as refined decision making or influencing skills, will help your business to accelerate its performance and growth.
The Executive Coaching experience
Each Executive Coach will have their own methods and processes. Here at Change Formation we tend to work in sets of six coaching sessions, each of which will be a couple of hours’ long.
The objectives and agenda for the coaching is set by the coachee. At each session we’ll agree self-learning and practice tasks to be undertaken between sessions.
After every third coaching sessions we’ll review progress and agree whether to continue.