How an executive coach can improve individual and business performance

Julia Nickless

By Julia Nickless

17 Jan 2019

Today’s complex, ever-evolving workplace has led to a need to make people more resilient and able to deliver performance through uncertain outcomes. It necessitates an agile and diversely skilled workforce and executive coaching is a highly effective, proven strategy to enable individuals at any level to fulfil their maximum potential and reach an organisation’s strategic objectives.

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What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is a one-to-one development activity in which an executive works with a handpicked, qualified coach, who is skilled at asking questions, as well as challenging and supporting them to remove personal blockers, thinking clearly and enhance their performance. It can help them work through challenges, set and achieve stretching goals, think strategically, consider their career options, develop new ways of approaching their work or other people, and help with personal change, amongst other things.

No two coaching programmes are, or should be, the same. This is critical for success, particularly with the increasing diversity of businesses and organisations – and the individuals who work within them. Coaching is designed to be tailored entirely to the individual’s own desired outcomes, which is why it is so effective.  

Who is executive coaching for?

An executive coach is applicable for a range of people in senior or stretching roles, for those on track for a promotion, and even senior individuals at a point of transition in their career. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to unlock the potential of any person in your organisation is through one-to-one coaching as it cuts to the heart of their personal drivers and works with the core motivations, behaviours and values of the individual – meaning they have time to consider, digest and apply long-term changes. This is in contrast to a group or open development programme, which can be a powerful development experience, but can never be entirely tailored to the needs of every individual, and can risk attendees not entirely engaging or committing to their development plans.

Individuals who would benefit from executive coaching include: an innovator wanting to drive forward the culture of the business and explore how it can be influenced, a talented high-flyer who finds themselves leading people and wants to get the most out of their team, an established leader who wants to improve their performance and increase their agility and flexibility of style, or a high-potential “flight risk” executive who you want to invest in to retain.

It is not just for one executive in isolation either, the performance of a whole team and organisation can be significantly accelerated by several key members each receiving personalised, tailored coaching designed to strengthen their particular contribution, skills and perspective, particularly when this one-to-one coaching is complemented by team coaching and broader development across the business.

Why does a business need executive coaching and does it work?

There has been a general societal shift in which people are more likely to accept that they have areas in which they could grow stronger or challenges that are causing an impasse in their career or working relationships. They now expect employee training and development as benefits of working for a good employer. An example of this being central to the ongoing development of an employee would be that of an executive being promoted to a new role where they will face new challenges that they may not have experienced before and, while eager to perform, may not currently have the ability, mindset or behaviours to undertake some of these new responsibilities – a peer-level coach can support through this change.

The effectiveness of coaching to create powerful shifts in mindset and behaviour has been proven time and again, which is why it remains one of the most popular executive development choices for businesses. With the right coach and commitment from the executive, ­its ability to make a significant and sustainable difference both to the individual and to the aspiring organisation is unlimited.

 

Five key ways an executive coach can improve the performance of your executives and your business

1. Greater personal impact and improved agility

Businesses are facing a highly challenging environment with unprecedented levels of uncertainty, competition, change and technological disruption. Both private and public sectors have turned to adopting agile approaches to help them respond quickly and positively to constant change in their operating environment. Business processes, location, organisational structures – no area is exempt from scrutiny. Therefore, executives also need to be agile in their thinking and their way of working in order to succeed and enable the organisation to remain competitive in today’s climate. The ability to be agile is integrally linked to mindset – something that is challenging but absolutely able to be developed through support such as executive coaching.

2. Improved Resilience, Self-Belief and Confidence in Navigating Organisation Politics

Many executives are challenged daily with obstacles to achieving their goals successfully. Some of these will be practical and business-related. Others will be a result of lack of experience in this direct challenge, also past experiences or lack of confidence, uncertainty, or even personal factors outside the workplace. A coach can help the executive to look at these in a safe and confidential environment and assist them to look laterally and work towards tackling them in a positive way, to improve their performance.

3. Decreased risk of losing talent in critical roles

The British Psychological Society has reported on the evidence of whether executive coaching works [1] and the factors that make it effective. They point to the profound change in the way in which people view coaching. While it used to be seen as a remedial activity for those whose performance wasn't good enough, that has changed completely and coaching now has a positive status attached to it.

Executives and others see it as a sign that a business or organisation is interested in their development and considers them someone worth investing in. This makes people feel valued and supported, and they are more likely to stay with the organisation because they recognise the investment being made in them.

4. Greater strategic thinking, leadership of their people and team performance

Coaching gives executives a space in which to reflect and think about where both they and the organisation are headed and how they can contribute. This break from a working day that is often dominated by immediate issues can alter the individual's perspective. They are able to think strategically about the future and make an even greater contribution to the development of robust plans in the business.

5. Executives have a high return on investment (ROI) on coaching

Executives who have had coaching spread beneficial effects throughout the business as their capacity and ability to cope is enhanced. There is a ripple effect through the organisation as they act as role models and influence those who they work alongside, manage or even those they report up to with their positive skills, high engagement and lateral thinking. Coaching just one individual can have a significant impact on the organisational culture, coaching a number of key individuals can completely transform it.

How Connor can help

The traditional model of leadership coaching has lagged behind somewhat, remaining fairly fixed and not always appreciating the different philosophy that agile thinking demands. However, innovative executive coaches such as Connor have led the way in aligning their coaching to a more flexible and personalised way of working. They don't insist on rigidly structured sessions or a programme that is centred around a set number of meetings at regular intervals.

Instead, the executive is, in effect, given a flexible coaching resource consisting of a number of hours across a period of months. They can call upon these as they need to, depending on their requirements. After a busy period, they may want to spend some hours reflecting. When they are about to embark on a new challenge, they may want to discuss how they are going to approach the task.

Do you want to find out more about how executive coaching can help your organisation? Get in touch with our expert team in People Development today.

 

[1]. Page and de Haan: Does executive coaching work?

 

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