In the past, coaching had gained the reputation as a last resort for failing executives. If executives were assigned a coach, it was often seen as a signal that they were in trouble because of failure to meet expectations or bad behavior. Coaching was also perceived as delving into the personal life of executives, raising concerns that coaching was akin to therapy. In fact, some coachees call me their “shrink” or “Doc” and refer to coaching sessions as psychological tune-ups.
The fact is, executive coaching does address gaps in executive behavior and performance and it is about psychological change, But the perceptions that coaching is reserved for executives who are at risk and that it is therapy are misguided and need to change.
Executive coaching is a dynamic process designed to help executives learn new roles and behaviors that will enhance their knowledge and skills of leadership and problem solving. Today, when an executive is chosen for coaching, it is usually because the sponsoring company is investing in the coachee, This investment is usually a sign of optimism that the executive is coachable and will be more effective as a result of coaching,
The idea of coaching likely evolved from athletics where coaches are hired to help improve performance. Athletic coaches observe athletes and offer advice on how to change habits that interfere with or prevent optimal performance. A coachable athlete is motivated to re improve, thus willing to spend the time and energy in learning and practicing new ways of performing, Effective coaches have a good grasp of methodologies that help athletes to change. It is important to acknowledge that almost all successful athletes work tirelessly with their coaches to improve their performance.
There are no schools that offer degrees on how to become a successful executive. And, after decades of failed training programs, seminars and hiring MBAs as potential leaders, it became obvious that the so-called “soft” skills like emotional intelligence were not taking hold with the executives responsible for leading companies. Something more intense and developmental was needed to eliminate ineffective behaviors and to replace them with more effective behaviors. This has led to the realization that the coaching, which had been so effective in helping athletes to improve performance, may also help executives to perform better.
The stigma of only coaching executives who had failed began to give way to coaching for maximal performance. Learning how to lead, engage, delegate and empower earned their respect alongside technical and critical thinking skills. Executive coaching has become the preferred method to help executives master these behaviors. Unlike athletics, executives need to apply their skills in the context of an ever-changing, highly complex business environment.
It will take time to reverse the negative perception of coaching, particularly in traditional industries and smaller companies. Executive coaching needs to demonstrate its effectiveness to gain momentum in creating healthier, sustainable companies.
So, will executive coaching be viewed in the future as important as the MBA is now perceived as the route to top jobs in organizations?