Today I was asked a really important question by a client:
“What does great executive coaching look like?”
How would you answer this question?
We were in the process of discussing an integrated culture change and engagement model, in which teaching coaching skills to leaders to enhance their effectiveness was one element, as was coaching for these leaders to help them drive sustainable change in the business.
What do coaches actually do? What is great coaching and how can you measure it? How would you have responded to this question?
My response went something like this:
We live and work under circumstances that are both demanding and constantly changing. As we change the organisation, or we move people within it, people have to adapt what they do to become most effective under that new circumstance.
It is no good for someone to do what they have always done. Even if it made them successful in the past, things change, and adapting strengths and developing new skills and processes to thrive and excel in changing environments leads to greater success.
Coaching is simply the process of speeding up the adaptive change process. It is about helping people to adapt to the changing landscape, support their transition to new skills and processes and more effectively and efficiently deliver on their capability to perform. It is helping people step up to their bigger games faster, easier, and with the correct support so that the adaptations they make can be sustainable and appropriate for the context.
Coaching is also engaging, empowering and acts as a safety net under people who are stretching outside their comfort zone.
Great executive coaching is the seamless integration of coaching and mentoring, focusing on the adaptive change of the person to the circumstance. That is, understanding that there are some skills (performance and cognitive) that an executive may have – the coaching looks at enhancing their application in the current context. The executive may also have ‘blind spots’ or skills which are less well developed – here shifting to more of a mentoring frame to help identify and develop new skills that would really make a difference provides the most effective and efficient coaching experience.
It is not just continuously asking someone “so how do you feel about that?”, or issuing ‘instructions’ on how they should do it. These are at either extreme of the spectrum, neither which makes for a useful coaching experience. It has to be flexible to move with the client, as well as adaptive to their needs, rather than rigid in method, approach or style.
Because coaching allows the executive to build and enhance their skills to enhance performance, it should be measurable through goal performance and objective achievement, as well as speed of adaptation to change.
There are lots of people who call themselves ‘coaches’. Some are fantastic, and others not so. Having a definition of coaching, and what makes ‘great coaching’ is a good place to start.
What about you?
- Have you experienced coaching, what was it like?
- How is your definition of coaching different to the one I shared with this customer?
- How could a quality coach help you adapt and perform?