Executive coaching can be a key factor in your success. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, in his recent book, “How Google Works,” recounts how Google values executive coaching for one of the largest groups of brainiacs on the planet. Outstanding talent values coaching just as would any professional sports star. Coaching can be remedial, to correct executive missteps, but the most powerful and effective coaching is for people on their way to succeed.
There has been a steady rise in in the last decade in the number of executives who engage executive coaches/advisers. According to a Stanford School of Business research study, fully 33% of executives contract executive coaching and a great majority of those who do not use executive coaches would do so if they could find a coach whose effectiveness they could trust. In the interests of total disclosure, however, there are hundreds of sources for executive coaching “certs,” but the number of qualified coaches is extremely limited–much more limited than the number of top executives
Senior executives are wary about other people’s advice–especially outside advice. They are, by experience, not usually people who easily listen to the advice and counsel of others. Most senior executives would highly value an executive coach/adviser if they found that right person. Your best instincts tell you to trust yourself and others on a limited basis. So why would an executive coach/adviser ever by necessary?
That’s because senior managers are people with uncommon abilities and insights. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google, barely out of school, had theories about how to make the most effective Internet search engine but those theories were quickly dismissed by those in the early stages of search engines in 2003. People before them like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs charted their direction young, and were also often dismissed, yet they soon had well-known executives 3-times their age working for them while they made the big decisions.
Finding the right advisers is key to the long-term success of senior management. Many organizations today have the complexities of nation states of the 20th Century. Flattened organizations with a myriad of dotted lined relationships require a senior executive to have a wide undersatnding of diverse groups within their organization, complex technology driven projects, and global market relationships. There is a vital need for an outside executive coach/adviser for a key senior executive to navigate the 21st Century.
Internal advisers who are colleagues and direct reports are certainly key to the day-by-day life of the executive. Yet their point of view can be constrained by their position in the organization and their career experience, sometimes in situations that are new to everyone. The most objective and sincere in their coaching, advice, and counsel would immediately agree that their horizon of decision making is colored by their agenda.
Many executives rely on the internal counsel of their people, and they are the lifeline of counsel on a day to day basis. Yet each of these sees the organization from the individual perspective of their expertise. Senior executives also find valuable advice and counsel from past relationships, CEO’s and other senior executives. They can also be invaluable, but lack the multi-industry generalist perspective of an external executive coach. The situation would be similar to Bill Clinton being chief adviser to Barack Obama. Individual situational advice is priceless, but does not provide an overall framework for executive success.
In exploring engaging an executive coach, keep in mind:
1 . Your Coach Must be Intelligent, at Least as Intelligent as You Are. You must find an intellect you can respect. This person must be technically oriented, yet have a broad knowledge of application and strategy. He/she may not understand everything you tell them instantaneously, but they should be very quick to follow you in any discussion. They must be intellectually nimble.
2. They Must have Education and/or Uncommon Experience. You may be an entrepreneur who dropped out of high school at 15 to quickly build a $50 billion business or have a PhD in physics. Whether you have formal education or not, someone formally educated at a top university is invaluable as someone who has learned to think broadly and effectively. They help you frame the right questions to get the right answers.
3. The Coach’s Job is Not to Change Who You are, it’s to Build your Most Effective Self. Effective senior executives have become successful by having a vision and a strategy of building the product and taking it to the market. Effective leaders must gain the cooperation of key people in the organization, but are rarely seen to achieve the goal of the organization without collateral damage. Beware of the coach who wants to “declaw the tiger,” to strip the muscle out of your style. An executive coach will help with interpersonal skills and learning to build alliances, but they must not change the essence of you–what is your unique ability to achieve organizational goals. An executive coach very probably will suggest strategies to develop more effective interpersonal relationships and alliances. At the same time, nothing that an executive coach will bring to you should erode your will, ability, and effectiveness at achieving organizational goals.
4. An Executive Coach Will Bring an Expertise in Measurement and Statistics. No one in the 21st Century wants to make decisions that are not driven by data. An effective executive coach will bring the data from psychometrics, 360-degree assessments, and quantifiable organizational analytics. Without measurable data, one is left with subjective points of view.
5. Results should be Measurable in the Executive Coaching Process. A set of outcome measurements should be set at the beginning of executive coaching. Executive coaching can be a transformational experience, and has been for many. It can be a very satisfying experience of self-discovery and growing relationships. What seemed to be an impossible set of self-limiting behaviors suddenly are easily changed with much greater self satisfaction. Measurement allows you to see if you are moving forward or staying stuck.