Do You Really Need an Executive Coach?

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By: Shawna Simcik

Recently, a client shared the comment with me, “I don’t think I really need a coach.” I asked, “Why?” and she replied, “I have read so many leadership books, been to a ton of training classes.  I don’t think a coach will tell me anything that I don’t already know.”

I slowly grinned at the lack of knowledge that surrounds so many of my conversations about this term, executive coaching. Ten years ago, most companies engaged with an executive coach to help fix behavior, offering it has a last resort for poor performance, and frankly, probably in an effort to demonstrate to the courts that, ‘we tried everything.’

Today, most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers and refining the behaviors that may potentially derail a leader’s success. When I think about the most successful athletes in the world today – they all have coaches behind them. Helping them by motivating, energizing, setting higher goals, etc.; and yet, as leaders, we believe that we don’t “need” a coach.

As a business environment continues to change and becomes even more complex, leaders should be increasingly turning to leadership and executive coaches for help in understanding how to act. The kind of coaches I am talking about will do more than influence behaviors; they will be an essential part of a leader’s learning process, providing knowledge, critical questioning, objectivity and accountability.

To the critics or skeptics of executive coaching – you are right – the industry is fraught with conflicts of interest, blurry lines, ineffective retired leaders that call themselves “coaches”, and at times, sketchy methodology. Further, executive coaching can be expensive and time-consuming. Although, I would ask the question, whether all the books and training classes, that were also time-consuming and expensive, were effective? How many times have we attended a class and said, “Oh, that’s good,” and then never changed a single thing we did back at the office. Executive coaching is where the rubber hits the road. An executive coach can provide honest and direct feedback about your performance. The coach is the objective voice, not influenced by organizational politics, holding you accountable to try and implement new behaviors within your organization ultimately to take your performance to the next level.

What’s your experience with executive coaching? We would love to hear your feedback.

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