Why Does Executive Coaching Work, and Why Now?

Shelley SmithBlog, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Predictive Index

Executive Coach Shelley Smith

Failure rates for senior executives have been pegged at up to 33 percent, and recent research shows that executives rated high on interpersonal effectiveness (emotional intelligence) outperform lower-rated executives by 15 to 20% on yearly revenue targets. In this fast-paced, highly competitive business environment, the value of capitalizing on that kind of edge is obvious, and executive coaching is the vehicle for executives who want to be at the top of their game.

Coaching provides training for individuals and teams, but what does it take to build an effective executive coaching process?

• Discovery, which happens through discussions, gathering information, and assessment
• Debriefings that help define what you see, what you heard, and what you believe to be true
• Developing a strategy, complete with tactics
• Delivering on goals in the manner needed, whether verbally, in a presentation, written, hands-on, etc., and exceeding expectations
• Driving it home by making sure it sticks and making sure reflection happens.

It’s impossible to develop a top-notch coaching plan for anyone without first assessing who they are and what they need. The assessment phase generally consists of an in-depth assessment interview, developmental feedback interviews with key stakeholders, and sophisticated leadership personality assessments using validated personality tools. A first-rate assessment can help executives more objectively identify their own leadership strengths and weaknesses to create a customized development process. That same process can be used to help a management team work well together by understanding clearly how to work more effectively with different personalities.

Debriefing is both a continuation of the assessment phase and the preliminary step for action planning. The debriefing is a two-way process where the executive interacts with the coach regarding the results of the assessment process. Often, the reactions of the executive (e.g., defensiveness, denials, embellishments, etc.) provide further data for developing action plans and for use by the coach to help motivate an executive to stretch and grow.

After the executive and the coach come to an agreement on what developmental needs take priority (identifying which are truly achievable and most important), the executive develops an action plan. The coach helps the executive understand the benefits to change and the consequences if he or she doesn’t. This then becomes a powerful motivational tool.

They look for real-time situations where the executive can practice new behavior that he or she has learned through the coaching process, and they work together to develop a time frame for completion of specific tasks. (Without firm dates for completion, people tend to put off practicing difficult new behaviors). The action plan becomes the tool to compare what is wished for to what is achieved.

The executive practices his or her newly learned or refined skills by keeping track of the results: Successes, failures, and resistances, as well as any other factors that might derail development. The executive then meets periodically with the coach to reassess and refine the process.

Reporting back to the coach and reviewing progress is the next phase. Reassessment and refinement then becomes an ongoing process between the executive and the coach. When striving for personal excellence, a continuous development process becomes a part of daily living.

Shelley Smith is the owner of Premier Rapport, a business consulting and executive coaching firm in Newport News. She can be reached at shelley@premierrapport.com or (757) 897-8644.