The right coach often requires executives to select a coach who is different from them.
Like the other day, I received a call from one of the organizations where we have multiple coaching engagements. The VP of Talent was at her wits end. She was extremely frustrated because one of the executives who needed coaching kept rejecting all of the coaches she put forward. This executive would tell her the coach didn’t have a capital markets background, or the coach wasn’t a senior executive in their previous life, or the coach hadn’t worked for a Fortune 50 company, or the coach didn’t have international business experience, or the coach didn’t have board experience, and the list went on. What this executive wanted was someone exactly like him. He didn’t want someone who might challenge him and his leadership.
The truth was this executive didn’t feel that there was any benefit in having a coach. His leader and HR were recommending that he have a coach and politically he knew it was unwise to say no if he wanted to continue his career progression. He figured if he had to suffer through coaching, then the coach better be like him so they can just go through the motions, tick the box, and say he had coaching. He simply wanted a coach that understood the business. But what he needed was a coach who also understood the critical elements to sustained leadership change.
This happens quite frequently, organizations invest in coaching for their senior executives, but the executives don’t feel coaching is necessary. That is why the right coach matters. To help executives truly change, it takes a lot more than just understanding their business. In addition to understanding the industry, coaches need to have a deep understanding of how organizations work—the systems, processes, and initiatives that help organizations be more profitable. Skilled coaches have a good understanding of change management, organizational structure, team effectiveness, and performance management. They also know what it takes for executives to change, grow, and develop, as well as what hinders them. A deep understanding of the psychology of leaders and effective leadership is critical. Finally, effective coaches can skillfully support executives through the coaching process, using the coaching competencies.
As you can see, to really help executives transform, coaches need to know a lot more than the business to be truly effective. Executives often do not need to strengthen their business capabilities, they need to be better at how they lead others. Successful coaching engagements help executives integrate their strong analytical capability with interpersonal skills to become more fully equipped and resilient leaders. That is why when we hire coaches at Lee Hecht Harrison they possess all of the criteria to be truly effective executive coaches.