In any area of life that matters, people turn to coaches for guidance in dealing with challenges. The same is true for the business world. Executive coaches work with high potential, high impact people — leaders who are already successful by any measure — and get them to consider new vantage points or perspectives that help them succeed even more. Executive coaching deals with outcomes, focused on helping achieve specific and measurable goals.
Executive coaching that takes you to new levels of greatnessGreat leaders, like great athletes, know that the only way to perform beyond expectations, to move the needle further than they knew it could go, is with the help of a good coach.
What is leadership coaching and how is it beneficial?
Most people operate largely on autopilot. Over thousands of years of human development, we’ve learned to rely on past behavior to become more efficient in dealing with the normal challenges of life. For the most part, this serves us well. It allows us to grow in our knowledge and skills as we layer new information over what we already know.
The development of new skills becomes a foundation for how we can achieve goals. If we are better at a skill than someone else, our perceived value goes up and we get that raise, or that promotion, or we succeed over a competitor. As we excel in our skills, we win, gain favor, and become more successful. Neural pathways are created and become established.
Leadership changes everything
When we are thrust into positions of leadership, the focus shifts from enhancing our skills to developing the skills of others. Leaders who can’t let go of their desire to win over others through performance skill create conflict and turmoil within the organization, rather than building motivation and unity.
Executive coaching helps leaders develop new neural pathways, assisting them in growing from the ego stage to a new way of thinking that empowers others to achieve. The best leaders are even able to celebrate with genuine enthusiasm when they can help others perform at a higher skill level than they achieved themselves at the same task.
Without coaching, leaders are unlikely even to recognize the kind of conflict they are creating within their organization.
Perhaps the most important role an executive coach plays is to help direct leaders in unexpected ways. A coach will ask questions that leaders haven’t been asking. A coach will hold up a mirror for the leader, candidly influencing the leader’s self-awareness. The result is disruptive thinking that breaks leaders past bottlenecks and growth barriers, opening up new opportunities and results for the organization.
When do you hire an Executive Coach?
The longer an executive goes without coaching, the more entrenched their behavioral patterns become. Far too often, coaching is set aside until a crisis actually develops. At that point, it is much more challenging to change behavior than if the coaching principles had been applied at an earlier stage.
Human beings have a natural tendency to self-diagnose problems. But this is rarely effective. That headache you thought could be fixed with a pain killer might be the result of serious underlying issues. Only an objective diagnosis by a qualified third party can yield the treatment needed to solve the problem. This is equally true when it comes to organizational problems. Bringing in a coach before a problem becomes a crisis treats the root of an issue before it becomes jeopardizing for the business.
One of the key challenges in Leadership Development is a natural process that happens when you advance people from something they are good at into a role where they no longer do that familiar work. Directing and motivating others to do a job well involves a new mindset, the requisite skills to delegate and trust others, and the emotional intelligence to let go.
Making that transition isn’t automatic. It’s not likely to be successful if you just leave people to figure it out on their own. Transitioning from a skilled worker to a leader needs to be learned. In many cases, these newly promoted leaders believe they could do the task or job better if they were to do it themselves. Learning to delegate and trust others, including allowing for the mistakes they will inevitably make, is a process that requires training and an unlearning of past behavior.
In short, the earlier a business brings in executive coaching, the more robust the organization becomes.
“The longer an executive goes without coaching, the more entrenched their behavior patterns become.”
Shaun Dyke, SSCA Partner
How is Executive Coaching different from mentoring?It may seem at first glance that executive coaching is a lot like mentoring, but the differences are actually quite significant.
It’s accepted that mentors are skilled and knowledgeable in a specific field, position, or industry. We turn to mentors when we want to learn how to better perform at those things. An executive might depend on a mentor to help them understand how to handle the various challenges in their unique leadership role. They might face unexpected issues or situations and want advice from someone who has been in that very same role and successfully handled those very same things.
Executive Coaches are not the same as mentors. An executive coach doesn’t need to be the best in that particular field or role. They don’t even need to have ever held that position, or handled that exact situation. Their role as a coach is not to give advice about how they would deal with it. What they do is ask the right questions to help executives discover for themselves how to handle a situation. Seeing the path oneself through the wisdom and guidance of a coach ultimately makes better leaders.
A coach brings a new perspective to the issues leaders deal with every day.
An executive coach is more goal-driven than a mentor. Mentors deal with honing skills while coaches deal directly with goals and outcomes.
Both support roles are vital for success in an executive role. Mentors who have walked the same path before you provide wisdom in your skills as a leader. Coaches give insight by helping you see things through a new lens, opening up new opportunities and possibilities you hadn’t considered before.
The importance of transparency
In most areas where people have a desire to improve their skill or the outcome, they understand the need to leverage a coach. Someone who wants to lose weight or increase muscle will turn to a coach for guidance. They expect the coach to bring a different way of thinking and create accountability to help them achieve the results they want. But to guide that process, the coach needs to get to the root of the problem.
This requires transparency and communication. If you were to visit a naturopath and ask them to help you eat a healthier diet, but were unwilling to be transparent about what you are eating, positive results would be unlikely. Executive coaching is no different. Transparency and accountability are vital.
How do you select the right Executive Coach?In order for your coach to be effective in helping you achieve your leadership goals, you must be comfortable enough to be completely transparent. If a leader can't be transparent with their coach, then the coach has failed. So this is perhaps the most important element in evaluating a potential coach.
Are they Trustworthy?
Do you get a sense that you can trust the coach to hold your feet to the fire and help you make tough decisions? Or, does the coach only agree with everything you are saying? You should be able to get a sense early on whether they will challenge you on key issues. Did they respond quickly and show up on time? Check references to see if they are reliable and able to honor commitments.
Do they listen?
Does the coach spend too much time talking about themselves? Are they talking more than listening? A good coach will ask questions, spending most of the time listening to you. Asking the right questions helps get to the foundation of a problem. You might even ask “What is the first question you would ask me if you were my coach?”
Naturally, you want your coach to be comfortable in their own skin, able to see their own flaws so that they can authentically see flaws in others. Are they able to admit that they don’t know something? Ask your coach if they have a coach. If they do, it’s a good sign that they are able to evaluate their own personal shortcomings, working to improve themselves.
Do you feel that you are connecting with them on a human level? A human connection is important, because chemistry will affect transparency. Personality types will vary. Some people prefer coaches who are action-oriented; others may prefer one who is more analytical and cerebral. You could ask, “How would you describe your coaching style?”
How Leadership Development connects leaders to the human experienceWhen it comes down to the simplest description, leadership is the skillful use of influence. You can’t lead an empty room.
How can we relate to and understand the needs of those we lead? How can we optimize our communication style so that we can engage, influence, and motivate? How do we prepare people for major changes in business culture or focus? How do we deal with conflicting personalities? How can I be trusted in my role as a leader? These are just a few of the vital questions leaders face, yet there is no training in business school to prepare them.
Take your typical MBA program. There are courses on finance, management, diversity, marketing strategy, and other practical aspects of business. But even leadership courses tend to be light on the genuine issues of how to deal with people.
Leadership Development by SSCA begins where a degree like an MBA ends. Using scientifically verified research and insights, experienced advisors guide leaders through an understanding of the human elements of business and organizational leadership.
In many areas of modern corporate culture, humanity and the understanding of people has become increasingly important. If followers do not feel that they are seen, heard, that their humanity is being recognized, they are unlikely to achieve the expected outcome.
SSCA’s distinctive and proprietary approach leverages proven scientific principles of human behavior to help leaders to connect to the humanity of the people they lead, building organizations that are stronger, more resilient, and more successful. This behavioral approach to solving complex business problems has been a primary focus of the organization for more than 40 years.
SSCA workshops apply sophisticated insights into human behavior backed by proven scientific research. Learn more
How do you measure the ROI of Executive Coaching?Is Executive Coaching worth it? Is it possible to measure the return on your investment when hiring an Executive Coach? The answer is a resounding yes, but you have to be willing to look at ROI in more subjective terms.
Calculating the value of Executive Coaching isn’t as simple as comparing your investment to the revenue of your business. You’re already accustomed to this in other areas of corporate investment. For example, you can’t take the cost of that impressive video wall in the lobby or tree-lined courtyard on the office campus and directly relate that to the revenue those investments will generate!
The best way to think about ROI for coaching is to ask whether it moves one closer to a goal. In other words, is there a Return On Impact? Executive coaching is always connected to specific and measurable goals. The goal is unlikely to be about a revenue number, and more likely to be about subjective things like the effectiveness of your team, morale and staff engagement, improvements in productivity, reduction of errors or spoilage, and other things that have an impact on revenue and profits, albeit in an indirect way.
Effective Executive Coaching makes a leader more confident. While that’s a subjective measurement, it’s not hard to see if the coaching process moves the needle.
Coaching also improves self-awareness. This is also subjective but a great many benefits flow through from your leadership role in the organization as a direct result of greater self-awareness.
Leadership Development is a Lifelong Process
Developing as a leader is not something you work on for a time and one day “finish.” It’s a lifelong process. Coaching through this process is important because change is constant and the challenges faced can shift like the wind.
Leadership Development and Executive Coaching helps leaders see things from a perspective they may not have considered before. By asking questions, the coach helps the leader see how their words and actions might be creating messages or outcomes that weren’t intended or foreseen. The expertise of SSCA’s trusted advisors helps leaders discover new mental models that mold their understanding of themselves, their roles, and their influence on the people around them. Training that does not reshape the way a leader thinks has no long-term impact.
Modern leadership training focuses on specific areas, as compared to generic training used in the past. Today there is a greater demand for the research behind the concepts, ensuring they aren’t outdated, irrelevant, or inapplicable ideas of the past.
Performance evaluation has also been impacted by constantly changing cultural shifts. Instead of focusing only on actions and results toward organizational goals, modern evaluation methods focus on the individual’s goals and experiences as well. Today, these evaluations focus more on how the employee feels, instead of how well they handle specific tasks. With the advent of AI and constant need for both up-and re-skilling, a majority of CEOs agree that emotional skills are critical for the future of work. No doubt we’ll experience further evolution of leadership in the years to come. Leaders need to adapt continually to such changes through ongoing training.
Are you getting everything you want from your team? Are you or your leaders getting training that recognizes the realities of these modern cultural shifts? Is it time to explore some options? Contact SSCA to see how our team of Leadership Development experts might be able to help.