Welcome to Executive Leadership Insights by Shields Meneley Partners, your newsletter that focuses on management issues for today’s C-Suite. In today’s ever-changing landscape, many leaders know they need a coach to help navigate the rough waters, however, many people don’t know when or how to get started. The latest edition of Executive Leadership Insights of helps readers understand why it is important to connect with their coach and when they will know the time is right.
As an experienced coach to the C-suite and executives, one of the most frequent questions I field is “when do I need a coach?” Given the amount of responsibility that lies on the shoulders of these leaders, this is an important question.
While there is no timetable for when an executive should work with a coach, in my many years of experience, I have found one common thread. There comes a time frequently when you feel overwhelmed and lonely at the top because you really don’t have anybody to talk to. You’re not quite ready to talk to a psychologist, but you’d love to have somebody’s perspective, objective, and confidential, and a conversation partner. In that situation, a coach could be a appropriate partner for that type of need.
Another instance in which clients come to me seeking coaching is when they start thinking about what work looks like after corporate life? This question usually arises as a result of an event which typically arises around the time they turn 50. Most of the time, it’s because they got fired, sometimes it’s because of a health issue and perhaps other reasons, but they typically have one commonality of having not given any thought to what they’re going to do next.
To be sure, this is a scary time for a client because their path has typically been mapped out and now they unexpectedly have to navigate unfamiliar waters. This is a great time to have a coach as a guide along this new journey. In our experience, this exercise often leads to what we call the “next, next” – what to do after the next step? After all, we want to learn from this experience and make sure our clients are prepared for the next event.
Working with our clients on their “next, next” is wonderfully exciting for them and for us because the possibilities are nearly boundless. We begin with a blank page and explore their options. As you may imagine, it is beneficial to have somebody with a coach’s experience to help guide you through that reflection, through the discovery, and then through a process to create a vision of what’s next. What is more, it is never too early to begin this planning.
There are other reasons when it is apparent a coach is needed. For instance, you are on the path toward the C-Suite and a coveted seat at the executive table and you know you have a deficiency or a flat spot that needs to be shored up. What is more, you know this challenge is recognized by your supervisor, the head of human resources and/or the head of the company. You are on target with 90 percent of your job, but that remaining 10 percent is a challenge. This is where a trusted coach can become vital because in addition to professional advice, there is an important element of life coaching.
My favorite example is when I was on the board of a fairly large zoo and I recognized something we see all the time, especially in not-for-profits, and sometimes in business – the person that gets to the top of the organization didn’t get there because they’re a great leader or manager, they got there because they’re good at the thing, and the thing for a CEO of a zoo is the animals. It’s somebody that has usually risen up through the world of zoo keeping, zoology, or a field along those lines.
During one board meeting I said out loud that our chairman had more humans working for him in the zoo than there were animals in the zoo, and that meant he needed to learn more people leadership skills. We set up a coaching engagement where I spent every Saturday morning with him talking about leading people, executing good management practices, such as succession planning, performance evaluation, compensation, and so on. All of which were a soft spot for somebody who had grown up as an executive by being an expert in the thing of the organization, rather than the leadership side. This kind of soft spots for leaders happens in all sectors, not solely non-profits.
Let us look at this from the human resources point of view or talent person that’s looking at the high potentials or people already in leadership positions. Quite often, they will spot a gap that needs to be addressed to keep that employee on the current path. Most organizations today do not have the resources to fill that need that a particular leader or high potential person has. A coach would be an excellent substitute or add on to that organization to help this person develop those skills.
Another good time to engage with a coach comes into play during onboarding. Given the new work landscape in the age of Covid-19, it is possible to bring on a new person without even having met them. How do they onboard in the culture of your organization? How can they be successful in their first 100 days? This is a wonderful time where a coach can help.
I strongly believe that coaching should be viewed as a benefit and not a punishment. In fact, I will not take an engagement where the person is told you’re going to get a coach or else. What I like to see is when a client is walking me through their organization and they introduce me as their coach. This happens to us often and it is that kind of validation that is so gratifying because we know we have done a good job integrating into that organization. More importantly, the individual is showing some vulnerability and letting superiors and reports they are taking steps to address their gaps, and that can be really rewarding for everyone.
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and we hope you found it insightful. We encourage readers and subscribers to join in the discussion by adding your thoughts in the comment section below.
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