Who needs an executive coach? Here's what the Harvard Business Review (6/13/05) said about it:
Executives who can say, "I want to get over there, but I'm not sure how to do it," says James Hunt, an associate professor of management at Babson College and coauthor of The Coaching Manager (Sage Publications, 2002). "Coaching works best when you know what you want to get done." Perhaps, in spite of your outstanding track record, you haven't yet gained the full interpersonal dexterity required of senior managers—for example, you're not yet a black belt in the art of influence, which is so important in the modern networked organization. Honing such a skill might be an appropriate goal for a coaching assignment.
But simply having a clear purpose won't guarantee coaching value, says Michael Goldberg. "You have to be open to feedback and willing to create positive change. If not, coaching may not be the answer."
There are certain times when executives are most likely to benefit from coaching. Executives should seek coaching "when they feel that a change in behavior—either for themselves or their team members—can make a significant difference in the long-term success of the organization," says Marshall Goldsmith, a high-profile executive coach and author of eighteen books, including The Leader of the Future (Jossey-Bass, 1996).
More specifically, the experts say, coaching can be particularly effective in times of change for an executive. That includes promotions, stretch assignments, and other new challenges. While you may be confident in your abilities to take on new tasks, you may feel that an independent sounding board would be beneficial in helping you achieve a new level of performance, especially if close confidants are now reporting to you. More so, you may recognize that succeeding in a new role requires skills that you have not needed to rely on in the past; a coach may help sharpen those skills, particularly when you need to do so on the fly.
But coaching is not just for tackling new assignments. It can also play an invigorating role. Coaches can help executives "develop new ways to attack old problems," says Vicky Gordon, CEO of the Gordon Group coaching practice in Chicago. "When efforts to change yourself, your team, or your company have failed—you are frustrated or burned out—a coach can be the outside expert to help you get to the root cause and make fundamental changes."
One increasingly common use of coaching for senior executives focuses on the challenges of managing younger workers, and on helping executives better understand and lead a new generation of employees whose work ethics and values are different, says Stephen Fairley, president of Chicago-based Today's Leadership Coaching and coauthor of Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching (Wiley, 2003).
Joel has worked with dozens of individuals on just such issues. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 650-336-3937, to find out more. Or click here and get a free time management report.