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Executive coaching - is it an opportunity?

Q. I'm in a senior role at a company I have been at for over 5 years. Things are good, and could be better. There is one person on our leadership team who is obnoxious and really keeps us from moving forward. I'm not the only one who feels this way, but the CEO has ignored the issue,until now. We've been told we are getting coaches. Why is it this "opportunity" feels so threatening?

 A. Developing top talent is playing a more important role in this economy as organizations struggle to develop and implement successful strategies for growth and success. You may have had many more people at your company responsible for the work that needed to be done, and without any excess capacity each person's role and the team's role need to be more effective than ever. Some of your skepticism may be from what you've been told about why you and your colleagues are getting coaching, and what you think is involved.

My reaction is congratulations because organizations I have seen use coaches are ready to invest in the career development and success of the individuals and in this case, the team. I consulted with Mike Noble, my colleague at Camden Consulting Group, who outlined the coaching process as "contracting, assessment and feedback, action planning, and implementation and follow through. Contracting establishes the scope of the work, setting initial goals, and clarifying roles. Assessment and feedback involves developing a balanced view of the current situation, the organization and the individual. Self-assessment helps to develop a better understanding of personal style and preferences, and most importantly creates actionable insight. Action plans are developed, and these are implemented through effective coaching." Vital to the success of a coaching situation is the focus is on only a critical few developmental areas, not a massive overhaul.

Effective coaching is challenging, developmental, and provides valuable learning experiences which increases the capability of an individual and his/her impact on the organization. Executive coaching works in collaboration with the executives and the organization to facilitate skills development required for the achievement of business results.

There are many benefits to executive coaching for the individual and for the organization. Coaching is most often offered to C-level executives and senior teams, senior managers in new or expanded roles, key individual contributors, and high potential employees. For coaching to have the positive outcomes desired, a strong commitment from all parties is involved, the coach, coachee and the organization must be aligned to be able to foster and sustain improvements. Coaching is not "charm school", as some nay-sayers have commented. Effective coaching has specific goals, and measurable results aligned with the business needs. There are many examples of coaching success which can show an actual return on investment. I have seen senior leaders whose style was viewed as unsupportive by their direct reports develop stronger management skills, and decrease their turnover rate generating significant savings by retention.

Coaching most often uses 360° feedback tools, which can provide an objective picture of an individuals overall effectiveness, and identify opportunities for development. You may feel threatened because one of the significant benefits of coaching is an increased self awareness. Many people wonder if the results will be exposed in this process, or shared with their colleagues or managers. Confidentiality of assessment data is vital to the success of any coaching program, and the agreement to confidentiality is part of the initial contracting between a coach and the organization.

 You have been provided a valuable benefit, and as with so many other things in life, the results you receive are directly related to what you are willing to invest. Perhaps your CEO has not ignored the issues, but has found a valuable resource to bring sustainable development to the top leadership team of your organization.

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