Over the last few years executive coaching has enjoyed growing popularity in the world of staff development. It’s no-longer viewed as solely the domain of senior management or simply for staff requiring remedial development (“to get them back on-track”). It is becoming regarded as an essential tool for developing both existing managers and new ‘high potential’ staff alike.
However, despite this growing popularity, many common misconceptions still exist. These mainly revolve around the nature of the work that executive coaches do and the results they’re expected to achieve.
This blog post is intended to explore the most prominent of these misconceptions and give you a better idea of what executive coaching is and what it can do for you or your business/organisation.
Misconceptions about coaching
“I don’t have issues and don’t need executive coaching.” A lot of people see coaching as a sign of shortcomings rather than as a key tool for improving performance or building a business. Coaching creates a space to allow you to identify and build on your strengths. It’s not a punishment for a particular failure, though it might help you avoid repeating destructive patterns or behaviours in the future.
“Coaching is just for high-potentials.” Coaching is for anyone that wants or needs to improve their performance or wants some support to achieve a specific goal. In fact, more people are seeking coaching, whether or not they have been identified as ‘high-potentials’ by senior management. Everyone has barriers, and coaching can help you to identify them and break through them to achieve your goals. An executive coach listens to you, inquires about your goals and the roadblocks you’re facing, and then asks more questions to help you find workable solutions.
“I don’t want others to know I’m being coached.” Coaching should not be a secret; in fact, it should involve others in the process, including perhaps, your boss, your colleagues, and maybe your direct reports. Many coaches begin with a 360-degree assessment, which by nature is an open and involving process. Openness can foster commitment. It’s also a sign of a confident and proactive individual.
“Coaching is now a standard process.” Despite efforts to standardize the practice of coaching, there are as many different approaches as there are coaches, and this is unlikely to change. Coaches are continually developing new insights into the process and developing and discovering new tools to help them coach more effectively. There could be real benefits in looking for one that is on the learning edge rather than a coach whose ideas are set.
“Women don’t ‘get’ coaching.” Approximately two out of three people who receive coaching are probably men, and this probably reflects their proportionate representation at the managerial and executive levels. But this has been steadily changing. Today at least one in three of those getting coaching are women, and that number is expected to rise. Coaching works for anyone who is wanting to improve their performance or make changes in their life, be at work or life in general.
“Executive coaching is like therapy or consulting.” Professional coaching is a distinct service which focuses on an individual’s life as it relates to their goal-setting, outcome creation, and personal change management. Professional coaches are taught when to refer their clients for therapeutic help. Unlike a consultant, a coach is trained to elicit solutions and strategies from their client; they come from a belief that the client is naturally creative and resourceful.
“An executive coach needs to be certified.” Certification may reassure your employer or organisation, but it is no guarantee of a coach’s professionalism, or whether that coach will be the right ‘fit’ for your needs. The ‘fit’ of a coach with their client is crucial for success, so spend time with them to find out beforehand. Most professional coaches will offer a no obligation first meeting or telephone call, to ascertain if the ‘fit’ is right.
“A coach needs to be tough.” Rapport between the coach and client is the essential ingredient for the relationship to work. Whilst there is a need to establish and maintain accountability for actions within the coaching, there is no place for “bullying and badgering” in coaching. If you’re not comfortable working with your coach, it may be time to find a new one.
“Coaching is for people who do not have their lives in order.” A coach is for anyone who is ready to make improvements and real changes in their careers or lives. Coaching is helpful to all types of people, from corporate executives to stay-at-home mums. Organisations such as IBM, NASA, and the BBC have implemented award-winning coaching programs that provide documented evidence of how coaching creates extraordinary results for their business and employees alike.
“Coaching is not proven to produce a return on investment (ROI).” Coaching generates solid ROI for clients. According to the 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study, the median ROI reported by companies was seven times their initial investment in coaching. Almost 96 per cent of Client Study participants indicated that they would repeat the coaching experience given the same circumstances that led them to coaching.
In my experience, some coaches will have a very directive approach, but the great majority seek to discover what is best for their clients. Telling a person what to do or when to do it won’t develop leadership thinking or skills in the long run.
Essentially a coach is there to ask the right questions at the right time – without criticism – to trigger the clients thinking processes. A coach is there to listen to their client and then ask more questions to help them reach their own conclusions and solutions.
Make sure that you spend time talking to any prospective coach, getting to know them a little and understand how they will work with you.
What misconceptions do you have or have you heard about executive coaching?
Martin Smith Learning and Development Ltd is a specialist consultancy working with leaders at all levels to improve their relationships with the people that they interact with both internally and externally to the company. We work with organisations, teams and individuals to identify how they can get the best from their people. We have experience spanning diverse industries and encompassing sectors such as engineering, design, customer service, finance, supply chain, sales and procurement.
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Martin is a full member of the Association for Coaching an independent non-profit organisation with the goal to promote best practice, raise awareness and standards across the Coaching industry. Martin is accredited to use Extended DISC , Strengthscope™ and PRISM Brain Mapping tools.