Executive Coaching

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Executive coaching is, to a degree, self-explanatory: coaching for upper-tier, executive staff-but with what goals? Like other forms of coaching, executive coaching is not merely for under-performers; it can be requested and useful even for star performers who want to shine even more brightly. It may be sought by the executive or by an HR department-but, in either case for shared purposes: enhancement of the executive and of the organization.

In the unlikely event that an executive coach has to choose between furthering the interests of the executive at the expense of the organization (or vice versa), there is the reasonable expectation that the coach will act in the best interests of the coachee (especially if the executive is paying for it), given that officially the executive is the client. However, there are imaginable scenarios in which the coaching could be primarily for the benefit of the organization-which, presumably, would provide the funding.

Executive coaching is an established practice among major corporations, such as IBM, and is sought because it allows for real-time, unobtrusive feedback and guidance that supplements, rather than supplants, an executive's use of time and other resources. As executives rise higher and higher-and therefore more distant from those below, feedback and communications can become more infrequent, tenuous, biased and unreliable, despite becoming more important. An executive coach can, in such circumstances, assist his client with these and related challenges.

For executive coaching to pay off, the client executive should have clear personal and professional goals in mind-including personal objectives in engaging a coach. He or she should also be open to constructive criticism and other forms of feedback, without any "blame games".

Two foci of executive coaching are change management and innovative strategizing: Dramatic changes in an executive's career circumstances often warrant coaching, e.g., promotions, transfers, job re-description. But coaching may also provide benefits in the form of new ways to approach existing situations and challenges. For example, if an executive is much older than his subordinates, there may be better ways to communicate and manage staff a generation younger.

Commonsense suggests that the higher up the executive, the more momentous the results of coaching are likely to be, since whatever changes in perspective, tactics, priorities, etc., that are facilitated by the coaching of a higher-level executive, the greater the likely impact the organization. Still, it can be argued that, to the extent that the title "executive" is deserved, the use of an executive coach may be warranted.

For the purpose of determining whether or when engaging an executive coach should be considered, checklists are available. For example, in considering whether the time is ripe for such coaching, the following should be asked:

Is coaching right for the executive right now?

* He/she is motivated to change or learn.
* He/she has others needed support to accomplish the coaching.
* He/she believes that he/she is primary person who needs to do something now (not someone else).
* He/she is ready for a collaborative partnership to learn and/or achieve business results.
* He/she is receptive to one-on-one help and guidance.
* He/she is emotionally stable and not going through any major, personal period of crisis or distress.
* He/she is willing to commit him/herself to a period of significant time and work to make the coaching successful.
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