Executive coaching

Tiger Woods knows how to play golf.
He’s proven himself so well, in fact,
that it begs the question of why he would require a coach to improve his
game.

Consider upper-level corporate executives: Why would these obviously accomplished professionals need additional training or coaching to sharpen their business
skills?

“What a coach does for Tiger is to help
him become aware of elements of his
swing, something he’s doing differently or
some new ways of thinking,” says Dr.
Stephen Brock, LPCC, professor at Coles
College of Business, Kennesaw State
University. “In an analogous way in the
business community, coaches use assessments and tools to help managers and
executives leverage strengths, identify and
compensate for vulnerabilities, and develop additional skills in a particular area to
be even more effective.”

Smart Business spoke with Brock about
the evolution of executive coaching, and
how managers and executives can improve
and enrich their professional and personal
lives through coaching.

How are mentoring and coaching different?

Mentoring and coaching often are used
as interchangeable terms, but in reality,
they are two distinctively different activities. Mentoring is much more akin to the
guild system in the Middle Ages where a
master craftsman took on apprentices to
teach skills, give direction to move his
charges along to journeymen and, finally,
to become master craftsmen themselves.
Alternatively, coaching is a collaborative
relationship that does not require the
coach to be a subject-matter expert in a
particular field, other than the field of
human development. A coach understands
the process of enabling people to explore
their goals, to do critical thinking about
their challenges, their talents, their abilities, how to access and leverage those to
accomplish their goals, and how to create
measurable steps as they move forward.

How has coaching changed over the last
decade?

For several decades, professional consultants have been coaching personal
development. Often, the coaching involved a problem employee who was going to cost
a company a great deal of money to
replace. So coaching started as a kind of
remedial intervention process. That has
changed dramatically. Today, the focus of
coaching emphasizes working with people
who are already functional and performing
well but who want to achieve an even higher performance in their life.

Meanwhile, coaching is right at the cusp
of becoming a singular profession unto
itself — perhaps in the next five years.
England and Australia already have graduate degrees in coaching, and several U.S.
schools are developing graduate degrees
and certificates.

Who are prime candidates for an executive
coaching program?

Senior executives are driving decision-making down in the ranks to become more
efficient and effective, and they are using
coaching at all levels of their organization.
I’ve seen law firms, cardiovascular practices, hospitals, manufacturing facilities
and sales groups, all of which are using
coaching in slightly different ways. In some
instances, it’s used as part of succession
planning where higher performers are
groomed to move into greater levels of
responsibility. Coaching is also effective
for people who have been promoted and must learn a new set of responsibilities.
Senior executives use coaches as an objective frame of reference because presidents
and CEOs often don’t have people they can
talk to and get straight answers from. A
coach becomes their sounding board —
someone who can say the unpopular thing
or point out counterproductive behavior.

Today’s managers routinely have to play
multiple roles to their subordinates, so
companies have started training their middle and lower management to become
more effective coaches as part of their
management skill set.

What are key components of an external
coaching program?

There are a significant number of responsible organizations rooted in solid theory
and practice that train and certify coaches.
There also are a number of fly-by-night outfits that realized they could make money
selling coaching certifications. Some of
these programs require very little on the
part of the individual to become certified.
A good program is one that engages both
business acumen and acumen in psychology. It should provide people with a basic
understanding of how a business operates
and a true understanding of interpersonal
and intrapersonal dynamics. Another factor is trust. Coaches should meet a potential client at least once or twice to see if
trust will develop and if it’s a good fit.

How does coaching impact today’s business
climate?

Some companies are starting to develop
their own internal coaching programs.
These internal coaches become a resource
to anyone in the organization who would
like to have coaching. Front-line superintendents, supervisors or cell leaders could
easily gain from trained, internal coaches.
However, I think we’ll continue to see the
use of external coaches who have no
investment in internal politics and who can
give the tough message that truly benefits
the person receiving it. Of course, there are
also companies that use a combination of
these approaches.

DR. STEPHEN BROCK, LPCC, is a professor of leadership
and executive coaching at Coles College of Business,
Kennesaw State University. Reach him at (678) 231-3812 or
[email protected].

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