Being an executive leader comes with immense pressure and responsibilities. For many years, those willing and privileged to reach the C-Suite were privy to a certain support mechanism to advance their performance and development. This executive ‘perk’ sparked an entire profession, more commonly known as Executive Coaching.
Today, leadership extends well beyond the executive office, as organizations become more agile in addressing rapidly evolving complexities. Accordingly, the question is:
Why Should Executives Exclusively Benefit From Executive Coaching?
Here are four non-executive leadership profiles ripe for coaching, with example scenarios highlighting how coaches can add value through meaningful partnership.
1. Small Business Owners
In an environment where employee engagement is alarmingly low, small business owners are perhaps the hardest working and most passionate people in the workforce. Small business is critically important for economic growth, accounting for over 70% of the private sector workforce. And while there are advantages to being your own boss, they are balanced by the immense responsibilities that come with owning a business and often feelings of isolation.
Scenario: You’ve built a stable small business over the last six years, employing a team of four and leasing chic office space overlooking a golf course. You’ve got a great team, although this year’s revenue estimates aren’t meeting the sales forecast. You begin working more closely with your employees, accumulating extra tasks that get piled onto an already packed schedule. Looking out your office window one sunny Saturday morning, you see your team on the seventh green, and wonder why you’re stuck in the office doing their work.
Solution: A coach acts as a thinking and accountability partner. If revenue growth is the goal, and you’re struggling to prioritize and balance your time appropriately, a coach can help to identify what is driving your behaviour and more importantly uncover a pathway forward.
A coach can help you achieve your business goals, while also working towards deeper, more fulfilling success.
2. Pre-Executive Leaders
Similar to executives, directors and senior managers typically have large and demanding portfolios. Whether they’re seeking an executive role, or looking to better navigate their responsibilities, it can be challenging to know who and where to turn for confidential conversation and honest feedback.
Scenario: Two years ago, you were promoted to a Director role and have communicated your aspirations to become a Vice-President. The company is supportive of your career goals, especially given your track-record of successfully leading large change initiatives and quickly delivering high quality results.
There’s just one challenge. You have a tendency to show your impatience and frustration when things don’t go as planned or move too slowly, and you suspect this has already resulted in you being passed over for an executive role. You’ve been given some informal feedback, but feel it’s just who you are and what drives your success. That said, you also understand that a shift may be necessary to achieve your career goal.
Solution: By this point in one’s career, leaders have typically developed a certain style and cultivated particular strengths. However, leaders sometimes overuse their strengths, turning their greatest assets into weaknesses in a damaging and often unknowing way, particularly under stress. In this situation, a coach can help to build the leader’s self-awareness and challenge current thinking through confidential and candid feedback and discussion, all in alignment with the leader’s career goals.
An overused strength can instantly become a weakness. A coach can help identify ‘blind spots’ and bring clarity to the line between leveraging and overusing strengths.
3. New Managers
First-level management is arguably the most difficult position in organizations. Sandwiched between front-line staff and higher-ranking leaders, these roles come with the responsibilities to execute with limited or no visibility to strategy, planning and upcoming initiatives. They represent the face and experience of the organization to their staff, and are typically woefully ill-equipped.
Scenario: Excited to start your first Manager job, you knew how easy leading others would be with a title and formal authority. Wow, were you wrong. The pressure is intense, your team’s not following directions, and you’re working more hours, while feeling less in control. Fortunately, you were sent to a training course for new managers, where you gained new knowledge and wrote pages of notes. Returning to work, it now seems impossible to apply the material, as the training binder sits idly on your desk. You want to be a good manager and leader, although you’re questioning if you made the right career choice.
Solution: Training is critically important for leaders (especially new ones), although the challenge often becomes integrating the skills and learning into daily organizational life beyond the classroom. The invested time, money and energy ends up yielding a limited return. While a trainer acts like a teacher, sharing concepts with an entire class, the coach is analogous to a tutor, tailoring and focusing all materials and messaging toward the individual coachee. In this situation, the coach could build on the training concepts, and offer complementary tools and resources, in helping the leader develop the particular skills needed. More importantly, the coach works with the coachee to apply their leadership within their specific context (organization, culture, team, etc.).
Gain greater return on your training investment by using coaching to make formal learning ‘stick’.
Millennials (born 1980-1999) now comprise the largest cohort in the workforce, and are drawn to opportunities where they can learn, grow and contribute. Investing development resources in a group that has been branded as disloyal may seem like a risky proposition, although it’s a critical engagement and retention strategy.
Situation: You’ve identified one-third of your employees are Millennials, and have offered numerous webinars and workshops to promote learning and development. Employee feedback has been positive, although you sense your Millennials can and want to contribute more. There is no shortage of challenges to tackle, and you seek a solution to both drive the business and engage your Millennial workforce.
Solution: Initiating coaching partnerships for high potential Millennials is ideal for driving engagement and expediting learning and growth, however, it may not be a feasible option. A more economical approach is group coaching, where many of the same elements of one-on-one coaching are applied, but in a group context. For instance, if the company is seeking new and innovative ways to interact with customers, a coach could partner with a team of individuals, creating a confidential, trusting setting, helping the group to obtain clarity in the what, why and how, while holding the team accountable for delivering the intended results.
Group coaching offers an economical approach for gaining team results.
In summary, executives will always benefit from a coaching partnership, with tremendous ripple effects emanating from their actions and decisions. But given the dynamic world of business leadership – be it a small business owner growing revenues, a seasoned leader striving for an executive role, a new manager learning to lead, or a Millennial eager to contribute, shouldn’t more leaders have the opportunity to partner with a coach?