Have you ever considered hiring an executive coach? Well… if you have, here’s one thing you’ll want to know – not all executive coaches are created equal.
Not only are they not created equal, they carry different labels like leadership coach, business coach, executive coach, advisor, consultant…to name a few.
So what’s the deal? Most coaches have a particular speciality, focus, point of view, methodology shaped from their collective experience and/or certification (and by the way, a certification is by no means an indicator they are any more effective than someone who doesn’t have one. It primarily means that they have learned a specific methodology).
So if you’re researching executive coaches, this can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. Even getting a referral from a fellow colleague may not serve you well, because what they needed may not be what you need.
So the purpose of this post is to provide a few preliminary thoughts and suggestions should the need arise. I will frame them in the context of a checklist you can use:
1. Determine – write down exactly what you need and what outcomes or results you want to achieve.
> You may find that your list falls into specific categories, such as operations, relationships, your personal development (eg. I want to be more productive, become more self aware, learn how to be more emotionally intelligent, map a career path).
> You may also find that operations means leading, getting results with, developing a management team, collaborating successfully – where your growth is about you with others in a current context.
> You also want to ensure a measurably ROI. That’s why determining outcomes or results is essential. You want to feel good about the experience, be able to demonstrate value to yourself and all other stakeholders (like a board or stockholders).
2. Prioritize your needs
> If you need to do “triage” … you’ll want to decide what needs the most attention first or what would have the most important, useful impact financially or otherwise.
>You may require over time more than one coach, advisor or consultant… meaning you may want to choose someone with a very specific expertise vs. someone who is a ” jack of trades master of none”. It may serve you not to think of one person having all the capabilities to solve or address everything…all at once.
3. Interview them – Have a “get to know them” conversation
> Learn about their experience and background, what shaped who they are today, why they do what they do and examples of their coaching experiences and results. See what resonates and closely matches what you want to achieve. If they are truly skilled, you’ll be able to experience results even with an initial conversation.
> Nothing is worse than working with someone that you don’t connect with, enjoy or “rubs you the wrong way”. You don’t want any blocks to improving. You don’t want to spend your hard earned money on an emotional or psychological distraction.
4. Don’t let the word, coach, consultant trip you up.
Let’s look at those titles or roles more closely.
Coach defined: professional relationship with the goal to enhance the client’s leadership or management performance and/or development.
Consultant: a person who provides expert advice professionally.
Advisor: a person who gives advice
Another definition of executive coach: provides a safe, structured, and trustworthy environment in which to offer support for the individual. The coach also helps the leader understand their current competencies, see how they’re perceived by others, and focus on identifying and clarifying current goals as well as the appropriate action steps to reach those goals. source: https://www.td.org/talent-development-glossary-terms/what-is-executive-coaching
You’ll note they are all interchangeable activities/behaviors in the context of helping someone improve to achieve better outcomes.
Career coaching—Provides support for employees looking to make a career transition, whether short or long term, including guidance on their professional development and job search. Career coaches may help with resume writing, job searches, online profiles, and job interviewing.
Life coaching—While not the most popular type of coaching within an organization, life coaches are still sometimes present internally. This specialty of coaching focuses on a variety of aspects of life, including career, health and fitness, finances, relationships, and spiritual growth.
Organizational or business coaching—Provides business owners and entrepreneurs with support in identifying goals, creating strategies to obtain those goals, and boosting the overall performance of the organization. (Isn’t this also performance & leadership as well… as the leader leads is how the organization will perform, other than tactical needs like technology, hiring talent?)
Performance coaching—Supports those within organizations who need to improve their work performance, often as a result of performance appraisal results, regardless of level or job title. (Performance coaching at the executive level has a direct impact on the organization & business).
Leadership coaching—Provides coaching for those looking to grow and develop leadership skills, regardless of whether they are an individual contributor, manager, or senior manager.
Here’s the kicker, when you view executive leadership holistically all of these matter and impact each other – they are difficult to separate. The key to choosing then is being clear regarding what you want to be the emphasis point or lead focus. That’s why determining what you need and want to accomplish is critical to determining the entry point or area of focus for the specialist you choose. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”
Tip: In some cases, you’ll want to engage an executive advisor for a conversation or two to help you sort all this out to make the best decision for the larger investment. It’s totally worth spending a little to save a lot more or spend more wisely and with confidence.
An Example of Coaching Distinctions & Prioritizing Spend
> I am working with helping a executive leadership team work more effectively together. The main executive leader has a executive coach for some time, but that coaching has not necessarily helped her be an effective executive manager or measurably improve her ability to develop an effective team. Nor does she know who to facilitate management development or high levels of productivity through every tier of her department. Yet, she individually has grown as a person.
>There is a distinction between executive leadership and executive management.You can certainly have a vision – know where you want to go – and even inspire people to that end and yet not know how to facilitate a leadership/management team successfully getting there. To be a successful executive leader, you have to be an effective executive manager… that is the ability to initiate and achieve the right things at the right time to satisfy defined objectives and strategy.
> Some senior managers (and their HR counterparts) want to do management training for their lower tier managers and yet they themselves are not effective managers.That’s putting the cart before the horse. Many times when this happens the senior leaders actually undo, or indirectly challenge what’s been learned or potential improvements. The executive/senior leadership culture undermines needed changes. Unless that’s executed in conjunction with the leadership team…for the most part, its money wasted.
Ultimately, any coaching is about improvement, creating a better state and outcomes from where you start. And, if you’re able to achieve what really matters to you and your organization, every dollar is worth it. Getting needs met are both tangible (improved profits) and intangible (less stress more confidence). The important point is why suffer or lose business improvement opportunities by not getting timely help.
That’s the purpose of this post – to support you seeking the help you need with more clarity and confidence.
So…What Term Do I Use?
I call myself – an advisor & facilitator (though some clients still insist on calling me their coach).
A facilitator is defined as: a person that makes an action or process easy or easier; who helps bring about an outcome. I facilitate improvements within an executive team so they can function at a higher level for improved, more profitable results.
Actually, I’d like to be called a “leadership optometrist because I help clients see better – fill their blind spots – but perhaps the title would be too misleading.
Ultimately for me it’s about helping client’s craft a plan and facilitate achieving targeted results.
My focus is executive effectiveness for individuals and team. Of course we know to be an effective leader you have to be able to lead/facilitate an effective team.
After 22+ years in the professional training and development field, (and a student of Peter Drucker) this is the element of executive leadership that seems to be the most misunderstood and yet has the greatest impact…and therefore, where I’d like to spend my time.
In fact, we use an executive management blueprint I’ve created that identifies 9 critical focal points to rapidly boosts results.
There is a gap here in leadership development – having a title, being busy, doesn’t necessarily equate to being effective. Executive leadership isn’t necessarily translated into successful executive management. Focusing on effectiveness is the best ROI of executive and senior level compensation…and for pre-promotion or succession planning.