by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative
In 2011 Discussion Partners posted a blog on our web page www.discussionpartners.com on the topic of Executive Coaching. The impetus for the first blog was the feedback we had been receiving from our C-Suite clients on their level of satisfaction with the discipline and its value added to their enterprise.
The headline was “it depends more on the coach than the circumstance”.
The earlier blog captured the detailed sentiments expressed and was featured in our 2013 book Executive Transition-Plotting The Opportunity!, our rationale being many “transitioning” executives identified “coaching or advising” as a likely career option.
In our recently completed study of over 400 Global C-Suite executives we found that not much had changed in the 6 years since the initial posting.
The original with 2017 updates is offered for your information.
In the spirit of truth in advertising the notification of “Beware of Dog” should also apply to Executive Coaching.
The domain of Executive Coaching is growing rapidly for 2 incongruent reasons. Foremost it has been well researched and documented that the use of external coaches is the most impactful leadership development vehicle. Secondly, with the displacement of so many executives, during the global recession concomitant to the retirement of “Boomer executives” there has been a proliferation of those who now carry the business card of Executive Coach.
The more cynical of us remember the late 90’s when a transitioning executive was going to “start a dot.com”, that aspiration has now been supplanted by well intentioned; but unprepared advisors whom are now “Coaches”.
This is of concern as it is doubtful one would feel comfortable being represented by a Lawyer who hadn’t been to law school, or treated by a Doctor who didn’t attend Medical school…essentially the base line criteria, so what about Coaches?
The above is further complicated by the “industry” lacking any regulatory oversight.
So why do client sponsors feel more sanguine
when someone whose experience as a Coach is primarily self-nominated is advising them or their managers?
This dilemma prompted Discussion Partners to conduct a number of Pulse Survey’s. The first was in 2011, repeated in 2013 and updated this month. The 2017 edition encompassed over 400 C-Suite incumbents.
In all three surveys DPC reformatted the standard question, “to be an effective leader, what skills do you need to possess”, alternatively asking “to be impactful what are the top 5 critical skills needed by an Executive Coach”?
Top 5 Responses
- Strong Business Fundamentals – There is a need to be clear. Many coaches focus on advising on strategy and operations as well there are those who focus on leadership effectiveness. The response had more to do with the third area in that even when advising on the quality of a leadership bench, or correcting some less then attractive behaviors there is a need for the coach to know enough about business to be credible with their client.The update for 2017 is that now more than ever knowledge of global business and economics is a “must”.
- Sensei Tendencies – The ability of the coach to weave in “war stories” or “lessons learned” from the coach’s experience. At Discussion Partners we refer to this as Illustration Advisory an intervention whereby we can share an example. There is of course the need to resist the temptation to pontificate, “when I was a young manager”.The 2017 Update is CEO’s are asking for an advanced “script” from the coach on how they intend to manage their “client” that moves beyond the coaches personal experience migrating towards more of an education, lessons learned, historical example, and other client experience foundations.
- Willingness to Confront – The desire to avoid offending to preserve economic security can be taken too far in a relationship. There can be diplomatic ways to articulate, “what the hell were you thinking”?2017 Update-CEO’s want to see more assertiveness embedded in discourse with executives.
- Intellectual Curiosity – This attribute initially surprised those of us at DPC, and as it continues with the 2017 update, shame on us! It is only logical that a client is entitled to expect that their advisor is staying current. Although the John Boudreau’s, Noel Tichy’s, David Ulrich’s, Jim Collins’s and Michael Porter’s are in a class by themselves, the reputation of the coach can be enhanced if they share insights from others, and their own documented point of view.The 2017 update is CEO’s expect Coaches to have an organized fact based “point of view” preferably demonstrated through thought leadership via speeches, op-ed pieces, blogs and publications.
- Willingness to Admit Failure – Staying in a bad marriage is counterproductive if not counterintuitive. The same logic applies to a coaching relationship. If it isn’t working the coach should be the initiator of the relationship separation. Anything less is suboptimal for the client and candidly an unfair position for an enterprise sponsor.The 2017 update indicates the time horizon for tolerating non- performance and/or bad behaviors are shortening consequently the coach needs to show results early and on going.
You will note that there is a presumption of a methodology and highly attuned interactive skills! Both are considered, and continue to be based upon the 2017 update Threshold Attributes by CEO’s.
Given the continued proliferation of those calling themselves an Executive Coach the above is offered as a point of view to assist you in what DPC refers to as QQ (Qualification/Quality) decisions and utilization.