Beware of Executive Coaches By: Tom Casey
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 recent recession 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 displaced executive was going to “start a dot.com”, that aspiration has now been supplanted by well intentioned: but unprepared advisors whom are now “coaches”.
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 why client sponsors feels more sanguine when they or their managers are being advised by someone whose experience as a coach is primarily self-nominated?
The above is further complicated by the “industry” lacking any regulatory oversight.
This dilemma prompted Discussion Partners to do a Pulse Survey of our relationships, in early 2010 and updated last month reformatting the standard question, “to be an effective leader, what skills do you need to possess”, to “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 from 2011 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 coaches 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 pontificate “when I was a young manager”. The 2011 Update is CEO’s are asking for a “script” from the coach on how to manage the “client”.
- 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”?
- Intellectual Curiosity – This attribute surprised those of us at DPC, as it continues to with the 2011 update, and therefore shame on us! It is only logical that a client is entitled to expect that their advisor is staying current. Although the John Bordereau’s, Noel; Tech’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.
- 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 2011 update indicates the time horizon for tolerating non- performance and/or bad behaviors are shortening.
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 2011 update Threshold Attributes by CEO.
Given the 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.)