It’s universally accepted that athletes need coaches. Depending on the nature of the game and the size of the team, there could be one single coach or an entire fleet of them. But at the end of the day, we expect those coaches to call the shots and to bring out the best in each player.
In business organizations, it’s the leadership team that acts as the coaching staff. They’re the ones who are expected to make the big decisions and mentor staff and employees as they work toward their shared goals.
But who coaches the coaches? How do they know they’re doing what’s best for the organization?
Many times, it’s the owners who take on the role of making sure the coaches are bringing about the results they want to see. Unfortunately, both in sports and in business, they often do this by simply firing coaches who aren’t producing enough wins. Sometimes, this is done hastily and without consideration for the various obstacles the coach is trying to overcome.
Owners and shareholders can get so focused on winning that they don’t care about helping their organizational coaches improve. They just send them on their way, assuming that the next person coming in will perform better.
Eventually, these coaches get picked up by other organizations to come in and save their programs. But because they have been tossed around without any real coaching themselves, they aren’t necessarily any wiser or better equipped for the job.
Being fired doesn’t necessarily create stronger leaders, but it can definitely create more fearful leaders. These leaders operate knowing they are in danger of losing their jobs for any failure at any time. It’s almost impossible to effectively mentor your team when you’re primarily focused on your own survival.
Time for a game plan
It seems like basic logic. If your employees benefit from having coaches, then your leadership team should, too. But when should you bring one in? And how do you know which one to choose?
Here are some tips to help you determine a.) if your organization needs executive coaching and b.) how to find a coach that’s a good fit.
You may need executive or leadership coaching if:
- You want to support your top performers
- Your industry or business model has shifted
- Key roles and responsibilities are changing hands
- Individuals or teams are no longer performing to standard
- Team members are dissatisfied with current culture and leadership styles
- A leader wants to develop core strength areas or improve areas of weakness
- Your company lacks effective policy, processes, teamwork, or communication
- There is active tension and conflict within the leadership team or the organization
A word of warning
Just because your organization needs executive coaching and you’re willing to consider it doesn’t mean it’s going to work. A couple of key things have to happen in order for it to be successful.
- Your leadership needs to be coachable. If owners and leaders perceive coaching as a hostile act of criticism, they aren’t going to get anything out of it. And neither will the organization. You might as well throw your money out the window.
- You need to be committed. If you don’t dedicate the time and resources necessary to allow the process to work properly, you’ll end up with a lot of intention and no results. Building a great team requires a significant amount of time, work, and practice. And yes, good coaches cost money. If you’re going in on coaching, you’ve got to go all in.
Finding a good coaching match
Coaches come in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors. And they specialize in a variety of skills and industries. If you don’t hire the right one, you won’t get the right advice. Or the best outcomes.
Here are a few things to consider in your search:
Experience: You want your executive coach to have experience being in a leadership role. Even better if he or she has worked in or is very familiar with your specific industry. Keep in mind that years of coaching experience isn’t necessarily the best indicator of fit or success. Depending on your industry and needs, someone coming in fresh from the field can be very effective. Just because someone is new to the consulting gig doesn't mean they can't offer valuable information. Whether they've been doing it for 30 years or just getting started, the most important thing is to find someone who is the right fit for you and your team.
Results: Ask for examples of specialty areas and key problems the coach has been asked to help with or address. Does the coach have ways to measure and track progress? Cover results, outcomes and learning lessons. If they have other clients, ask for references. Any good executive coach will be able to provide you with at least a couple of relevant people to talk to.
Approach: Does the coaching style align with your leadership style and company culture? How are organizational goals determined and what does working toward them look like? What processes will the coach take you through? Ask how long an engagement typically lasts and what the sessions will look/feel/be like. Choose a coach with a philosophy and style that will be well received by your team.
Victory is yours for the taking
Many teams are quite averse to bringing in consultants, especially at the executive or ownership levels. But if no one is coaching your top leaders, how can they possibly be at their best? Or bring it out in others?
Think of your leaders as the professional team that they are. Invest in their growth and development so they can do the same for your organization.
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