Although executive leadership coaching is becoming more a trend in a growing market, there are different approaches to it and fundamentals that must be in place in order for the process to be effective. Let’s discuss how my executive clients have achieved success.
In order for an effective leadership coaching relationship to be established, there are some key pieces that must be in place.
Before anything else, the client must actually want the coaching. Depending on how the coaching is positioned and the sales process, there might be prospects that want the service with different levels of interest. But in order to drive results and a successful relationship, it’s imperative that the client actually wants the coaching and is motivated for it. Several techniques can be used by the coach here to quality the client.
The second fundamental is that goals must be clearly set for the leadership coaching process. As the process might have different durations and might be used for different goals, from actual behavioral coaching targeting specific behaviors to a more general, talent management approach, it’s imperative that clear goals are set for the program. Should we expect a specific behavioral change? Should we expect a specific relationship to change? Without goals, it’s impossible to properly measure progress and achieve ROI. The right choice of stakeholders to objectively give 360º feedback to the candidate also comes into play here, as without proper feedback, the client cannot be aware of their own growth.
A Commitment to Action
During the coaching process, many executives will learn new information about themselves. However, not all will act on it. The true driver of the success of a leadership coaching program is the action that the client takes, at the end of the day, to move towards their goals. The coach can support the process by making recommendation and keeping the client accountable, but at the end of the day, the sole responsibility (and capability) to change the client’s actions rests within themselves.
In my top executive coaching clients, I am ruthless about accountability, because I personally believe that top performers must be constantly motivated and pushed out of their comfort zone in order to grow, and this is a neverending process. Of course, this is one of the core tenets of my personal philosophy – the client’s fit with their coach goes a long way in determining the quality of the coaching as well.
The usual techniques used in executive leadership coaching usually revolve around making the person a better leader for either their current team or a new team, such as for a newly created department, and may also involve changing specific behaviors. They usually involve processes such as:
- Goal-Setting (for setting and measuring progress on leadership/behavioral change goals);
- Emotional Intelligence (both internal and external awareness and execution);
- Some superficial CBT (being aware of thoughts, emotions and behaviors and changing them);
- Analysis and clarification of corporate values and culture;
- Some essentials of talent management and leadership that might not be currently covered by the client;
However, there are additional tools I use in my coaching that support the main goal of leadership development through unique angles.
In many cases, I work with clients on their influence and persuasion as well. I apply a model like my Kingmaker Influence model for their interactions, which comprises building empathy, tailoring communication to different personality types, and many more techniques. This allows the executive to more easily build relationships with both talent, other executives and their boards, and allows them to better negotiate and push initiatives across, for example. Clients find this a great complement to usual leadership development activities.
Personality assessments, usually as a part of the former, also come in here. Using a framework like my Four Perceived Personalities, executives usually can diagnose the personality types of the people they interact with, from talent, to other executives, to prospects and clients. This helps both to build empathy but also to influence their behavior.
Top coaching clients also usually benefit from some vocational coaching and vocational optimization. This consists of analyzing the vocational areas with which they resonate the most and the least with, using short assessments, and then making recommendations for job crafting based on these.
Going one level deeper, with some of the top performing clients we dive deep into their transference processes. In short, what they expect and project onto the members of their team. Likewise, we also analyze what they displace onto others in terms of usual emotions. This helps identify which subconscious expectations and projections leaders are placing onto their teams (and others) and help resolve them outside a professional context – or empower them, when positive.
And, in some extra cases when we want to dig deeper, we may also consider additional techniques such as:
- Belief and Assumption Transformation;
- Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques (for deeper, specific behavioral change);
- Coping Strategies for Stress and Crises;
Conclusion: Towards Effective Executive Leadership Coaching
Leveraging executive coaching for top performing executives starts with the right foundation – setting goals, committing to change and having the proper fit with the coach. Besides this, the techniques offered in a leadership coaching context will usually help the client achieve their goals, but additional techniques I have used with clients such as vocational optimization, influence and persuasion and personality assessments prove added value in several specific situations, serving as a powerful complement to the leadership coaching process.
This HBR article on how to leverage executive coaching is a great supplement.