Executive coaching is the stealth-weapon behind the success
of many of today's corporate leaders. Today more and more
senior executives use coaches, for everything from
accelerating their transition into new leadership positions
to navigating the politics and culture of their
The right coach can have a significant positive impact on
your career. But there's more to maximizing the executive
coaching experience than just selecting the right
individual. So how do you get the most from your coach? Here
are several guidelines:
It doesn't matter how great your coach's reputation is, if
you can't establish rapport, you'll never fully benefit from
the relationship. There's no formula for assessing rapport
in advance. And no credentials or testimonials will indicate
a good match.
You'll get a "gut feeling" from your initial conversations
indicating whether this is the right collaborative
relationship. If it doesn't feel right, don't make the
assumption that things will get better over time. look for a
Many ambitious executives feel they need to take on a
"leadership persona." But maintaining this persona with your
coach will only hamper progress. In fact, there's no point
in trying to change the essence of who you are. A key
quality of today's most respected CEOs is genuineness. Don't
expect your coach to make you over into someone you're not.
The right coach will help you bring out your best.
A coach is there to help you improve your game, not to
ferret out and fix every flaw. The best results are achieved
by focusing on strengths, not weaknesses. Of course the
right coach will help you identify and correct major
stumbling blocks to progress. However, the primary focus
should be maximizing your strengths.
Insist on Confidentiality
You need to make sure that sensitive matters stay
confidential. That's why so many executives today hire their
own coaches, rather than rely on internal advice.
Keep in mind where your advisor's ultimate loyalty lies. For
example, if you're working with a coach hired by your board,
you won't want to bring up any issues that might result in a
conflict of interest. On the other hand, if you hire your
own transition coach, the coach's only allegiance is to you.
It's not uncommon for personal issues to arise that impact
performance. Coaching isn't therapy, but you should feel
secure revealing any pertinent information to your coach.
Define Your Goals
As you work with an adviser, it's important to keep in mind
what your specific needs are. What are your most immediate
goals? What long-term results are you seeking?
Advice on emerging markets, financial strategy, etc, is one
thing. However, interpersonal issues - dealing with people,
changing culture, navigating politics and making the right
career decisions - require more than business acumen. A
coach who can identify the potential psychological
ramifications of your decisions, in advance, can mean the
difference between outstanding results and disaster.
Benefit from Psychological Savvy
While advanced degrees aren't any guarantee of
effectiveness, a psychologically informed coach can help you
better understand and counterbalance habits that stand in
the way of your advancement. The right coach can assist in
navigating the politics of your organization, identifying
likely opposition and recommending ways to deal with it. A
psychologically informed coach can also often obtain
"inside" information -- information that others want you to
hear, but find difficult to communicate directly.
Demand Brutal Honesty
The higher you rank, the harder it is to get honest
information. People around you have a vested interest in
keeping you happy.
Dr. Steven Berglas, psychiatrist and UCLA business professor
explained in an interview with Chief Executive Magazine, "A
lot of times consultants and coaches are deemed great
because they're adding syrup to a sundae. They just go
along." The CEO may feel good, but little progress is made.
In fact, according to Berglas, an "alarming number" of
coaches without psychological training hurt their clients
more than they help them. They either fail to identify
behaviors that get in the client's way, or their lack of
expertise keeps them from tackling these difficult issues
Give Your Coach Access
If you have good rapport, confidentiality, and respect for
your coach's abilities, you'll find it easy to give him or
her access. Allow ample rein to inquire, research, survey,
whatever it takes to thoroughly understand the issues you
face and, most importantly, get you the information you
Copyright 2006; Dr. Jane Adler and Dr. Robert Karlsberg, authors of The Road to CEO: Psychological Strategies for Getting to the Top, specialize in Executive Transitions, Leadership Development and Organizational Change.
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