In today’s workplace there is great store placed on the benefits to be had from the formal support and development of employees – and effective leaders are recognised as those who develop their people and retain their high performers. However, as employees who hold a management role advance into more senior executive positions they generally receive little or no development input. The upshot is that senior leaders run the risk of reaching a plateau in critical leadership skills. One way of combating stagnation in the growth of an organisation’s leadership is by putting an executive coaching programme in place.
What is executive coaching?
Coaching is not a form of counselling. It is not the same as consulting and it does not require the coach to have expertise in the client’s occupation or professional sector. Executive coaching is fundamentally a process of facilitation. It involves a collaborative partnership between a coach and client that supports the client’s action toward a desired outcome. Coaching is most effective for executives who have identified leadership goals and are motivated to achieve them. A coach’s job primarily involves encouraging clients to explore their goals, to reach clarity around their motivation to succeed, and to brainstorm action steps that will help them to reach their desired outcome – first and foremost in line with organisational objectives. In short, coaches work to promote a productive thinking environment for clients, in which they facilitate generating the insight, creativity, and action steps to support their client’s agenda. 1
Coaching is a leadership tool
In turn, helping leadership to understand and embrace coaching techniques gives them the tools needed to guide others to do the same – to cultivate talent and drive performance in employees.
EAP counsellors who provide executive coaching as well as personalised leadership development for ultra-high performance environments attest that this service offering has a positive impact within their client companies by improving the way leaders mentor their employees, develop future leaders and embrace their own creativity in terms of more innovative problem solving.
Here are seven areas in which executive coaching can grow leadership skills:
- Facilitating change management
Executive coaching is often used in times of organisational change to help executives develop the mind-set and behavioural skills needed to focus on reaching their work-related goals while simultaneously dealing with the disorder associated with organisational change. 2
- Constructive confrontation
Coaching is about removing the obstacles that lie in the way of each person reaching their greatest potential. Confrontation and courageous encounters are an integral part of this process. The goal of coaching to plot the best path in constructive confrontation is to minimise the destructive elements of conflict, and to maximise its constructive potential – particularly when the conflict has seemingly reached a stalemate.3
- Decision making
Most executives are engaged in some aspect of decision making multiple times on a daily basis – exchanging information, reviewing data, coming up with ideas, evaluating alternatives, implementing directives, following up. Probing the facets of a problem or decision helps leaders to assess situations, analyse problems, and develop strategies for operational success. 4
- Downsizing Dynamics
Coaching supports leaders as they guide their work teams after a period of downsizing. It creates a thinking space to get a handle on the typical emotional reactions experienced by remaining employees as they witness their colleagues leaving and work responsibilities are reorganised. It serves to increase understanding so that strategies can be put in place to effectively support employees during a distressing workplace transition. 5
- Giving and receiving feedback
Coaching gives rise to the skills necessary to give and receive constructive feedback in the workplace. It draws attention to the role that effective feedback plays in building strong relationships and in avoiding performance and productivity problems. Through coaching, leaders discover ways to offer feedback in a manner that is productive and objective rather than critical and personal, and ways to receive feedback in a proactive and positive manner.6
- Team Management
Coaching is central to improving the performance of entire teams by providing leaders with insight into the best practices for forming and managing a work team. It provides a platform to explore natural stages of team development and the common struggles that employees face when working on a team. 7
- Values & Ethics
Coaching explores strategies that encourage ethical behaviour in the workplace through the promotion of corporate values and role modelling of principled decisions and actions. 8