Coaching at the Executive Level:
How to Coach the Coach
(For individual use only, not to be reproduced or used in any way without permission)
The Center for Coaching & Mentoring, Inc.
In our work with organizations to train leaders to be effective coaches, we are almost always targeted to the first line supervision up through middle management and at best senior managers. Typically, we have to address the issue of “rolling up” this training to the executive and senior management levels. There are some noteworthy exceptions, but many of our client’s training departments are not focusing on the senior levels for this type of training and support.
A survey of consultants and upper-level executives reported in Training and Development magazine, found that 90% of executives resist coaching. The reasons why fell into three categories:
|1.||They did not feel comfortable with their skills.|
|2.||They have too many demands on their time and felt development was a low priority, or not even their job.|
|3.||They did not value the development of others – “They should be able to figure things out for themselves.”|
|Our own experience, and the experience of clients we interviewed, supports and amplifies these findings. Here is a more detailed table of barriers and possible strategies to address them:|
|Executives and senior managers are just too busy to spend time on development and coaching.||
|Performance feedback is not wanted or needed by senior managers, so it is not critical to spend time on it.||
|They have blind spots concerning their ability to coach others, or find it too revealing to admit to a need in this area.||
|Executives and senior managers don’t want to attend formal training on coaching.||
|For executives and senior managers, formal group training is too uncomfortable, perhaps unsafe, and takes too big a chunk of time.||
|A lot of what senior managers do (use of intuition, dealing with ambiguity, etc.) is hard to capture via formal performance appraisals so developmental coaching doesn’t happen.||
In the Center for Creative Leadership study, three out of four of these reasons for derailment deal with leadership style and personal behavior, not with making their numbers.
Okay, making the numbers is a critical priority in any organization. But relying solely on these numbers to evaluate executive success is ignoring the rich developmental opportunities for communicating, team building, mentoring, coaching, visioning and leading change. As one of our executive clients said, “results evaluation is easy; it’s also a cop-out”.
Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, perhaps one of the most numbers driven CEOs of the decade, is quoted in Built to Last as recognizing the need for balance between numbers and values. “People who make the numbers and share our values go onward and upward. People who miss the numbers and share our values get a second chance. People with no values and no numbers – easy call. The problem is with those who make the numbers but don’t share the values . . . we agonize over these people.”
Coaching is a critical process to address this need for balance.
Development and coaching are critical leadership skills that can easily take a back seat to “making the numbers” unless a conscious effort is made to position them as a priority. It is needed and beneficial and achievable if you will adjust your strategy to address the particular barriers at the senior levels.
There are several key factors that need to be addressed to get more coaching at the senior levels. The strategy and approaches for making this happen must be adjusted to their specific concerns.
The approach taken must use a proven, successful process that focuses real-world results.
One-on-one coaching and support is a valuable alternative to formal training at the senior levels if you have skilled, experienced resource people.