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Could executive coaching accelerate your professional development?

Posted by Jay Hedley

"I have a theory that it is not good to give people the truth. The thing to do is to help them to discover the truth about themselves for themselves" Maslow

Are you wondering whether you’d benefit from executive coaching - but you’re not entirely sure what is it or how it works? Or whether it could be good for your professional and personal development? Well, hopefully this blog will answer your questions.

First, let’s reviewing all the possible avenues of personal and professional development open to you:

Training - when you want to develop general skills

Training is useful if you would like to learn and develop a “how to” skillset or process that is relatively generic in its application to all - and nonspecific to you. Examples include sales training, customer service, how to use new IT software, and so on.

Mentoring - when you want to benefit from inside information

Mentoring is a process that involves a more experienced person in your field giving specific advice and guidance by sharing their personal story, views and approach with you. Mentoring is useful when you want to model and copy a specific person's expertise and approach - and to benefit from the inside knowledge of someone who has “been here and done that” . But to be effective this relies on what has worked for the mentor also working for you.  

Therapy or counselling - when you have a personal problem that needs fixing

Therapy focuses on problems, their sources and symptoms, and how people are dysfunctional. Therapy is useful if you require healing of hurts or resolution from the past and personal pains.

Consulting – when you need expert advice for a specific issue or problem
Consulting is the skill of giving advice and using one's own expertise in a given field to recommend a client on what to do next and potentially how to do it. It is similar to mentoring in that the balance of expertise for your work or business lies with the consultant, but different in that the expertise being shared is based on a specific issue/problem/requirement utilising an objective process that the consultant has expertise in.

Now we’ve looked at the common alternatives, now let’s look at executive coaching and what it can do for you...

Executive and Leadership Coaching
Executive coaching - also synonymous with "leadership coaching" - is typically considered to be (or confused with) training, mentoring, therapy/counselling and consulting. But it's none of these things. If you’re receiving executive coaching but your coach is in the business of advising, telling, fixing, or recommending, chances are you aren’t working with a coach, you are working with a trainer, mentor, therapist or consultant.

So you might wondering then, what is an executive coach? If it's not the above, what is it?

Here is the simple answer - executive coaching is facilitating the access of an individual or team’s internal and external resources to realising an agreed well-formed outcome or evolution.

But what does that really mean?

Coaching is facilitating (the act of making easy or easier) the access of an individual or team’s (people working together to achieve a common goal) internal (Thinking, knowledge, feeling, ‘attitude’ mind-body-emotion states) and external (time, money, support, other people, systems and environments) resources to realising an agreed well-formed (sensory specific with evidence) outcome or evolution (leading to new attitudes, learning and new choices in cognitive and behavioural flexibility).

How is that different from the other methodologies listed above?

Executive coaching is not about fixing problems

Executive coaching is not remedial. It’s about generating potential, excellence and peak performance on the inside (thoughts, feelings, beliefs) and outside (behaviours) of an individual or team, in the face of all of the business - including its issues and it’s possibilities. Executive Coaching awakens, disturbs, challenges, and stretches a person or team to unleash more and more potential talents and possibilities. It is highly confrontative, direct, and explicit whilst being non-judgemental.

Executive coaching is about facilitating your expertise, not the coach’s

Executive coaching is about facilitating the client’s excellence. It is a dialogue of colleagues and involves interdependant roles. It’s about co-inventing the right solution with the client in real-time dialogue. It’s about knowing what to do when, with whom, and why. It’s about being able to search for the why and how when something doesn’t work in the realisation that there’s a structure for it and finding that structure puts us in charge.

Executive coaching is facilitation, not advice giving

Executive coaching is a conversation that explores without judgement how a person or team performs a task, an emotion, a belief, a relationship, a business or a life. It’s a fierce conversation that gets to the heart of things, to the heart of a person’s frames of meaning - to their beliefs, world view, self-view, view of others. It’s a conversation that invites heightened self-awareness and paradigm shifts.

Executive coaching is clean feedback, not evaluative
An executive coach listens in order to give the cleanest and purest sensory based feedback so that a person can see him or herself as if in a mirror. An executive coach sees, detects, and identifies patterns in behaviour and thinking and then offers insightful questions and explorations so that the person can see and discover their own leverage points and make the changes they are ready to make.

So that’s what executive coaching is. Now you may be asking do I need an executive coach? Here’s a quick checklist to see if it's for you.

Do you:

  • Want a process that will help you to evolve by shifting your (or your team’s) inner game, frames of meaning, underlying beliefs, values and thinking patterns, that govern your behaviours and how you relate to others and the world?
  • Want an environment that will enable you to facilitate your own evolution?  
  • Have the ego-strength to face what is in the world?
  • Show up as fully able to be an adult in thinking, feeling, accepting and responsibility?
  • Not need “fixing” or any remedial solutions, but want generative change?
  • Embrace change, want it, plan for it, get excited about it?
  • Show up as proactive, open, disclosing and self-aware?

If you said yes to any three or more of the above, then it may be worth your time having a conversation with an executive coach that meets the criteria in this article.  

If so, there are many to be found and the search alone can be daunting. There’s online executive coaching, executive coaching courses, face to face, group coaching - just to name a few. Whatever avenue works best for you, my most important recommendation is to meet and spend an hour with the coach you are considering working with before making any commitment.

Most reputable coaches will offer a free consultation, the better ones will offer at least an hour so that both you and the coach can assess if you are right for each other.

The happy secret to better work


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