Advancing Your Career: How to Maximize Executive Coaching
In the past few years, industries around the world have grown increasingly globalized and connected, raising the standard for managers and other business leaders. Thus, it’s necessary for executives to upskill. Before, having a coach was considered a luxury only for senior leaders. Nowadays, executive coaching is considered as a major factor that contributes to an organization’s success. In fact, one of the future coaching trends reported by International Coaching Federation is the increased demand for coaching services. From the estimated market size of $15 billion in 2019, the US coaching market is poised to have an average yearly growth rate of 6.7% — leading to a value of $20 billion in just three years. In this article, we’ll discuss what executive coaching is, who it’s for, what benefits it offers, and ways to maximize it.
What Is Executive Coaching?
Executive coaching involves one-on-one interactions between a professional and managers, C-suite executives, or even high-potential employees. The goal is to equip them with knowledge and opportunities so they can become intelligent, aware, and ambitious employees. Executive coaches help their clients to change behaviors, develop themselves, and become more effective leaders by providing new perspectives or methods to manage stress, change, conflicts, and crisis.
Most executive coaches are not consultants or therapists, although they may come from those backgrounds. They refrain from giving advice, often serving as a confidential and supportive sounding board who asks the right questions so executives can solve their own problems. Executive coaching sessions are tailored to a client’s unique needs, especially when it regards their workplace performance.
When Would You Need Executive Coaching?
Before, high-level coaching was reserved as a solution to “fix” broken executives. As the business landscape has become more competitive, however, companies now hire executive coaches to invest in the development of their leaders and top employees. Usually, you would need executive coaching if you:
- Are being groomed for larger roles
- Are newly promoted and going through a role transition
- Are facing challenges, usually with employee relationships
- Are in need of correction for behavioral or interpersonal issues
What Are the Benefits of Executive Coaching?
In essence, executive coaching is all about developing high-level leadership skills. After all, even frontline managers are expected to be experts in delegation, communication, and strategy. A list of coaching benefits from LHH elaborates on how coaching is important for leaders to receive meaningful and specific feedback, learn and practice new skills, and even extend their own coaching capabilities for the people they lead.
Individual leaders will learn to listen and share thoughts with the people they lead, breaking out of the traditional top-down approach to leadership. On a personal level, executive coaching prepares you for the career ahead of you, cultivating your strengths and giving you the chance to work on yourself.
How to Make the Most of Executive Coaching
So if you’re receiving (or about to receive) executive coaching, what can you do to maximize this service? Here are some tips to consider:
Keep yourself open, even if it’s uncomfortable
Executive coaching engagements often begin with a candid assessment, sometimes through self-reflection. In other cases, your coach will meet with peers, subordinates, and supervisors to identify their needs vis a vis your performance. There may be times where you’ll be present to hear the insights they will offer, and it may be hard to hear. However, neither your coach nor your colleagues are trying to insult you. Rather, they want to ensure you have the skills to move forward.
In our interview on leadership development with Kerri Burchill, the professional coach emphasized that part of coaching revolves around genuinely taking and listening to each other — which is admittedly a vulnerable process. These hard conversations are important for pulling leaders out of the day-to-day spin, so it cannot be missed. Given this, it’s important to get yourself ready for some potential discomfort to get more out of coaching.
After all, you can’t improve without feedback; if you’re not ready to accept that you need to receive coaching, then there is no point. The difficulty here is setting aside your ego and arrogance, in favor of starting with a beginner’s mind. The best coaches will help you recognize your skills, but also identify broader challenges and opportunities to grow.
Actively prepare and engage for your coaching sessions
Modern leaders need to be equipped for rapidly changing demands. A write-up on leadership skills from the World Economic Forum notes that there is no single set of skills to make a company succeed, as different skills are valued at different levels of an organization. Some things that you should focus on are diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). Employees also report the need for executives to have mental flexibility, as well as capabilities in building rapport, influence, and persuasion. This means that you and your executive coach will need to do a lot of work to meet developmental goals. To prepare of each session, you should:
- Create the right environment, so you won’t be interrupted or distracted
- Set aside at least fifteen minutes before each session to update your agenda, or to list the most important leadership issues you’re facing
- Compile notes from the time in between sessions, especially if you performed an action to advance your leadership or made progress in any way
Remember, this is your career and vision on the line. While your coach can guide you through it, you have to take initiative and commit to the program for it to work.
Take courage to leave your comfort zone
As with other competencies, leadership skills are something you’d need to test out and practice over and over again until you learn the lessons. And it’s hard to change your behavior, especially if it involves the way you interact with people or address problems. Change won’t happen overnight, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t try.
Leaders must take the first step outside their comfort zone to benefit their organization. Whether it’s opening yourself up to scrutiny or accepting help from an “outsider”, you’ll need to embrace these untested waters to come into your own. Do the work. Invest time and effort to get the most from each coaching session. You’ll eventually learn to apply techniques that can improve you, both personally and professionally.