Individuals in leadership roles often benefit from one-on-one work with a coach skilled in working with them to improve their effectiveness by listening to their issues and inviting them to examine their way of addressing them. Do they react in ways that are habitual or intentional? How is that working for them? At Kaplan Consulting Network, we couple our extensive experience in business with our expertise in human motivation and behavior to provide lasting, practical change with coaching clients.
Executive Coaching: What It Is and What It Isn’t?
Companies today are under increasing pressure to build a workforce capable of adapting to the speed of change and the growth of competition. Current economic conditions require organization leaders to do more with less and to stretch beyond the limits of their comfort zones. The result is that more leaders report feeling overworked and overwhelmed, personally and professionally burned-out. How can these issues be addressed so that leaders feel they can contribute with greater competence and fulfillment? How can organizations attract and retain the best leaders, maximizing their potential and effectiveness?
The selection of an Executive Coach is an important decision for any leader. What is involved? How much work will be involved, and how long will the process last? What role will the leader’s supervisor play in the process? How long will it take? Is coaching the same as counseling? Does coaching promote dependence between the client and the coach? What if the leader wants to terminate the coaching agreement?
My intention here is to provide answers to the most commonly asked questions about what coaching is and what it isn’t, and to discuss my personal approach to the coaching process.
1) What is a Coach?
A coach is an individual who works one-on-one with clients to increase their level of competence and fulfillment. Just as sports coaches enable athletes to reach goals they are unable to reach on their own, professional coaches help clients to discover what they want and need. They also work collaboratively with their clients to determine how best to achieve those goals. Coaches challenge their clients to observe obstacles that have, until now, prevented goal attainment. They also have clients experiment with different behaviors and approaches to reach excellence, to recognize when they are off-track, and to self-generate improvement when necessary.
2) How do you approach coaching?
My approach to coaching is based on my business experience as an internal consultant for many years, as well as my experience as an external consultant, my belief in the power of individuals to identify and achieve what they want in their lives, and my professional training as an organization development consultant and certified professional coach. I believe for lasting change to occur we have to first get clear on what we want, then identify the forces that either prevent or enable our attainment of those goals, and finally, experiment with different behaviors to produce more acceptable results. I also believe that effective coaching engages all parts of a person -- their mind, their body, and their emotions.
3) How does professional coaching differ from psychotherapy and behavior modification?
Therapy is for healing; Coaching is for dealing. Coaching concentrates on the present and the future, looking at where clients are and where they want to go, while therapy often works in the present and in the past. Coaching is usually more short-term and issue focused than is psychotherapy. Coaching differs from behavior modification in that it examines the underlying conditions in the client’s mind, body, and emotions that are leading to ineffective behavior.
4) What are some of the reasons that might lead an individual to seek professional coaching?
Usually coaching clients are individuals to whom the organization is highly committed. They could be people transitioning from a technical to a managerial role. Or, they might be individuals who are highly competent in the technical area, but who have development opportunity in the “soft skills”, such as motivating employees, listening, delegating, managing the performance of others, influencing skills, resolving conflict, and interpersonal skills. In some instances, coaching clients are high potential individuals being groomed for higher level spots in the organization. In other situations, they are individuals who have significant career de-railers that inhibit their future or potential success in the organization.
5) Can you guarantee me improvement in the areas I wish to work on?
No, you cannot be guaranteed improvement. However, there is a strong probability that you will see improvement in the issue you are seeking help on if we collaborate to identify what improvement you want to see, what actions you will take to achieve these goals, and how we will monitor your progress. Your commitment to taking the actions necessary to improve is an essential part of the process. My process involves helping you to be able to self-generate continued improvement without my direct involvement.
6) How long will it take?
Every situation is different, but we generally see definite results in about six months of working together. Following that time period, clients are usually able to self-correct and self-generate improvements in the given area.
7) Will there be homework between sessions?
You can be sure that there will be some homework between sessions, to augment our discussions with theory or to provide additional insights through reading or journaling. Additionally, there will certain skills practices that will help you to grow in the specific areas you have targeted.
8) How confidential are your services?
My allegiance is to you as my client, and what we discuss is between the two of us only, unless you give me permission to discuss anything with anyone else.
9) What will you be telling my boss about our work together if he/she is the one who suggested this?
Given the fact that my allegiance is to you, I will contract with you around how and if we will keep your boss informed. In some cases, the individual being coached wants to keep the boss informed. In some cases, I provide a general overview back to the boss. In no situation, will I agree to provide detailed reporting back to the supervisor, unless the person being coached wants that to happen.
10) Will you be available to me between sessions?
I will be available for reasonable phone support between sessions.
11) How would you summarize your theoretical approach?
I believe that coaching is most successful if it takes into consideration the intellectual, physical and biological factors that impact behavior. Therefore, I attempt to affect change in any or all of these areas, as needed.
12) How can you help me if you don’t even know me or the kind of work I do?
It is often not necessary for me to have specific knowledge of the type of work that you do to understand some of the issues you’re dealing with. I find that many people’s issues are common in a variety of different work settings. However, if we feel that a more in-depth knowledge of your particular line of work is necessary, we will discuss that and may agree not to proceed. I would be happy to refer you to one of my colleagues who may have a background or style more in line with your needs.
13) What happens if we enter into a coaching agreement and I want to stop?
We will include termination terms in our coaching agreement. Generally, these terms provide for either party to terminate the relationship, provided that the required timeframes and general agreements have been met.
14) What happens if we enter into a coaching agreement and you want to stop?
See answer to Question 13 above.
15) What do I need to know about you that could impact our coaching relationship if I’m not aware of it?
You need to know that I will use myself and our interactions as a data point in our coaching relationship. In other words, I will provide feedback to you on the impact on me of our interactions. I provide you with this information so that you can contrast the intent of your actions with the impact they had on me. I would also appreciate your candid feedback to me about the impact of our interactions, what works well, and what could be improved.
16) How can I avoid developing a dependency on you to solve my problems?
My approach is to help you to help yourself, to give you a way to look at your issues with some new lenses, to enable you to self-generate more effective ways of dealing with your problems.
17) How we will monitor my progress?
Normally, we will develop a plan for our work together, which will include the way that we will measure progress against goals. It may be the completion of certain practices, the receiving of positive feedback regarding the desired change, or the degree of comfort you’re experiencing in experimenting with different behaviors.
"Therapy is for healing; Coaching is for dealing"
- Marianne Kaplan