March 2023

Lessons Learned: Executive Coaching

About two years ago, I decided not to present or publish “lessons learned” since I felt I needed to remain wide open to learning from others. Well, I recently decided I can do both!

Five (plus four) simple things I learned acting as an external coach:

For the person being coached:

  • Objectively assess the business context and organizational culture to assess what is controllable, uncontrollable or malleable/changeable.
  • Assess the limitations of the person you are coaching and, then, do not ask for what they cannot reasonably and realistically change (or improve).
  • Start with a tight plan that details the behavior and measures of the desired skill/competency improvement and/or change. Stick with goals that specific leadership behavior (and the intended/desired impact or influence of the person, team and organization.
  • Let the person struggle a bit in planning and, then, own their leadership development. Recognize the difference that exist when you allow others to “take ownership” of their leadership development.
  • Time box it! Leadership coaching is not life coaching…you and the participant will typically know when coaching is complete (and the burden of independence kicks in!)

For the organization:

  • Do as much as you can to assess the coaching the skills of the immediate manager (or sponsor of the coaching). When possible, have that individual do “your work.”
  • Encouraging two or three-way communication and engagement from the human resource business partners and the immediate manager leads to better support and coaching outcomes!
  • Be honest, when the application of coaching is not practicable or the prognosis of coaching is poor, frame the “true picture” for the client.
  • Drink your own Kool-Aid! Recognize that, as a coach, you need to constantly sharpen your skills in the assessment, development, coaching and measurement activities.

An observation:

  • Been there and done that is not coaching! While advice giving may be effective from an executive turned coach, you need to:
    • view matters through another’s lens,
    • avoid making the “similar to me error” with people and situations,
    • be able to “read the dynamics” that exist in the leadership team, and
    • recognize that “patterns change” in the challenges that humans face (and that past solutions might lead to different consequences).

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