Imagine a hypothetical, stressed executive, somewhere in the world, working on projects and tasks long after everyone else has signed off for the day. This hypothetical individual mostly eschews all support, and holds to the notion that “if I don’t do it myself, who else will?” In the past, a peer in the c-suite asked this person whether they might benefit from working with an executive coach, to which they huffed: “What can an executive coach do for me?”
The perceived tone of the question – perhaps distrusting, disbelieving, or even downright suspicious of the entire executive coaching enterprise – contains clues as to why the executive, who asks this question in this way, may have more to gain from coaching than anyone else.
This is an article for the dubious, suspicious, stressed and harried executive who may have dismissed executive coaching in the past as “a waste of money,” or “a waste of time,” or “a luxury I can’t afford with the current demands on my time.”
Here’s what an executive coach can “do” for you:
An Executive Coach Can Interrupt You
If you are complaining right now that your work team is sub-par, or one of your colleagues “needs work” on his or her communication; if you consider yourself the sole competent contributor, holding up the enterprise all by yourself, in spite of all the perceived “mediocre” contributors around you…
Or if you feel like you never have enough time, or if communications with key people on your team or network are being missed…
Then let’s entertain the possibility – for a moment – that there is something in your current way of thinking about things, and doing things, that has resulted in the relationships you have, and the situation you have in your workplace.
Whatever your current way of thinking about things and doing things, we refer to this category of things as “automated behaviors,” or “fixed beliefs.” These are part of your sub-conscious operating system, causing you to interpret things in your environment a certain way, to respond (or react) to things a certain way – and you don’t even need to think about it. It’s all conveniently on autopilot.
As long as your patterns of thinking and behaving remain on autopilot, you will end up with more of the same in life, and in the workplace. Including all those low-performers and bad communicators who make your life difficult.
Therefore, in order to get different results in your career – and life – it is necessary to interrupt the automated programs of thought and behavior.
When we do this, the people “out there” who seem to be the root of our malaise, even have a tendency to (appear to) behave differently.
Put simply, interrupting your automated programs so that you can become available to a new set of possibilities is the executive coach’s job. Executive Coaches live and die in the space of interruption – and thank god for that!
Once interrupted, you have the opportunity to do something differently… and get different results.
A Coach Can Provide Feedback
It is very common for the executive to inhabit a different reality from the one their co-workers inhabit. For example, an executive may consider himself or herself a very transparent and approachable person, while in reality, the people who report up to that person may feel very uncomfortable speaking plainly and directly to that executive.
This can be for a number of reasons. In a business environment, there is a power structure, and it is common for people higher up in the command structure not to receive the unvarnished truth from the people below them.
One significant side effect of this common phenomenon is that the executive, hears the partial truth, or the truth slanted a certain way. The executive easily develops a gap between their perception of their impact in the work environment and their co-workers’ perception of them.
When this happens, an executive’s influence and impact decreases. Often in ways that they cannot see.
Therefore, an executive coach can provide something that someone inside of the company would be hard-pressed to provide – impartial, objective 360-degree feedback on the executive’s performance and behavior from every quarter of the company.
This feedback serves as crucial intelligence for the executive to identify what is actually working well, and which areas stand for improvement.
Most importantly, the feedback can bring the executive into a shared reality with his or her co-workers. While the process of seeing oneself clearly through the eyes of co-workers can elicit feelings of discomfort, it is a crucial early step in developing improved leadership capacity.
A Coach Can Elicit Your Highest Vision & Aspiration
Many of us are leery of such things as vision statements, and putting our loftiest goals and aspirations down in writing. Those among us who are systems-oriented, quantitative types can be particularly dubious of such activities.
One reason why people can be dismissive or vision statements and lofty goal sheets, is that all of us have experienced falling short of them after coming into contact with reality over a series of days, weeks, months and years. There are so many things to attend to, so many moving variables and factors to consider. Above all, there are things demanding our attention right now.
An executive coach arrives to orient you to your deepest vision and loftiest aspirations for your career, your company, and your life. Because they are important. Articulated in the proper context, they have the potential to draw out laserlike willpower, and herculean effort – which is why we articulate them in the first place.
The coach then works with you to position and prioritize your daily work activities, and the manner in which you execute these activities, so that they align with your vision and aspirations.
Somehow, collaborating with an ally and advisor on realizing your highest vision and aspirations can make them seem even more real. After all, we are a collaborative species, and perform at higher levels when we can team with trusted, capable people on shared goals.
In the executive coach-client relationship, your goals are the team’s shared goals.
Your Coach Will Hold You Accountable
Not only will your coach hold you accountable for executing the tasks and projects required to realize your goals and move towards the vision you’ve articulated for your life – the coach will hold you accountable for being the person you need to be to achieve what you’ve set out to achieve.
Following the Be-Do-Have model, a coach’s first priority is bringing the client’s attention to who they need to be. Where they need to come from as they participate in the work day and lead their teams.
Is the client coming from urgency, or needing team members to comply with mandates? Or is the client coming from a collaborative place, desiring to empower staff and grow their capabilities, so that everyone can perform at the highest level?
After we articulate an inspiring vision for our lives and careers, and ambitious goals, we begin to notice a tremendous gap between the objective, and our present state of affairs. The change begins not with action (Doing), but with change in outlook and mindset (Being.)
A coach will support you in being the person you need to be to achieve your vision.
If you are among those talented, competitive people who seriously doubted if an executive coach could do anything for them – we hope this article has been helpful in creating a picture of just what an executive coach can do for you. We wish you the best of luck.