WHAT IS COACHING?
Coaching is a form of awareness, process analysis of the person being coached, suggested alternatives to achieve a higher level of success, all accomplished in a positive approach. In a simplistic definition, coaching is working with a Thought Partner to explore alternatives, usually before implementation. Coaching is about providing the person with a highly knowledgeable Coach to guide conversations around the specific area designated. Usually there are at least 3 individuals. A= the person receiving the coaching B= the Coach and C= the sponsor from the organization
WHAT IS EXECUTIVE COACHING?
Executive Coaching is unique in that the person being coached holds a senior title. Usually these individuals are somewhat isolated from feedback since they hold significant levels of power and control. This also requires that the Coach has had experience at functioning at this level. Many times, the participant has a title with their name. If a person is receiving Executive Coaching, they usually have multiple academic degrees, hold a senior leadership position and are highly accomplished in their career.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COACHING AND TRAINING?
Training is a process of teaching new skills, knowledge and abilities. It stops short typically of long-term integration on both a subjective and objective approach. Coaching is about self-thought discussions with a Thought Leader. Training is a right way and a wrong way, while Coaching is a complex integration of multiple and holistic approaches. Training is prescriptive while Coaching is about Critical Thinking and long-term outcomes.
WHY DOES SOMEONE NEED A COACHING PROGRAM?
The world we live in is constantly changing as does the demands for our products and services. Along with this is the changes in global business and competition as well as technology and consumer preferences. Change and growth are very difficult for many to easily adapt to without support from a coach. A coach can readily focus on key areas that support the core competencies of the participant. Because coaches many times are external to the company, they see the world or segment of a profession more holistically. They then bring this knowledge to a discussion with the leader about how and why adaptation and change would be beneficial. They can even help them identify the path to sustainable change and dispel fears of potential failure.
WHO QUALIFIES FOR COACHING? WHAT MAKES A GOOD CANDIDATE?
Virtually all senior leaders and growth-oriented professionals qualify for coaching. Those that seek it or are provided the services usually enhance their personal success and growth by implementing self-development and taking on new and expanded assignments. What makes a good candidate? Simply being open minded and accepting feedback about themselves and then be willing to enhance their approach to day to day work.
WHAT TYPES OF COACHING ARE THERE?
Unfortunately, there is almost an unlimited list across the full spectrum of Coaching. It may be helpful to think of 4 main groupings of coaching, especially at the Executive Level.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COACHING?
In a simplistic form there are three main benefits.
These outcomes help the individual and the organization and may result in a higher retention rate of valued team members. Fewer problems, lower turnover and a higher level of leadership effectiveness pays big dividends.
WHY DOES COACHING WORK?
Coaching does not always work as people can be very defensive and stubborn when faced with information and data that they do not agree with or want to accept as realistic and accurate. Assuming that their hurdle is overcome, and they see the logic in the coaching issues, the natural instinct to win versus fail becomes a foundation for accepting change and creating a better path forward. The intellectual discussions with the coach assist in laying out a revised forward path of success. That which help drive past successes comes into the mix on how to create future wins.
The coach has succeeded when this three-part approach plays out.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF WORKING WITH A COACH OUTSIDE MY ORGANIZATION?
The external coach has an opportunity to be very effective working with leaders. First and foremost, they do not report to the person they are coaching. They report to the sponsor. The coach can be blunt and direct as they are not part of the company’s internal political network. Third they bring external perspectives to the leader as they work with multiple Individuals in multiple industries. Most importantly they can share issues confidentially as long as there is trust and respect.
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO REALLY CHANGE?
While there is no universal answer of yes or no, all research points to we can change many aspects of how we act, think and relate to others given the appropriate approach and sustained drivers for change. There will always be those who refuse to accept change but that is a very small percentage. Also, it is good to think of changes needed into various categories. For example, one category could be training in a new way of how to do it. Once learned the person can make a choice to do it the old way or the new way. The second area is a person’s attitude and willingness to adapt and adopt change methods. It takes both together on a consistent basis to implement long term change. The “How to” and the “willingness to do it” the new way.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING A COACH?
There are two major areas to explore. Subjective areas and Objective areas. Think of this as an interview if you were hiring a new team leader or senior leader. You want to know about the person as well as their professional experiences and accomplishments. Remember this person at minimum should be equal to you as a peer, but most desirable if they were equal to your immediate boss. After all, it probably is your boss who is the sponsor or recommender that you have a coach. Look for credentials in addition to experiences.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK A PERSPECTIVE COACH?
Think of this as hiring a new executive with a focus on their credentials and how they communicate and how the process will work. Take these three categories and ask open ended questions. Listen to their full answers. Take notes and then; when you have heard their approach, it is appropriate to ask questions. For example, you would want to understand how the coach learns about you and your organization. You also want to know how many sessions and how the coach sees these unfolding. In the end you must build a platform of mutual respect to move forward. This is not about a popularity interview it is about the coach’s ability to help be a critical thinking confidential advisor/guide/ strategic coach to assist you and think through options and your style. Remember the focus of coaching has a lot to do with the questions for selection of a coach.
HOW DO I DETERMINE WHICH PROGRAM IS RIGHT FOR ME?
First and foremost, the program is a journey in the growth and development cycle of a career. Before any journey is laid out, the desired outcomes are and must be defined. Once there is agreement on outcomes, the coach along with the participant and the sponsor need to determine what the roadblocks are that have triggered the request for coaching. With this approach and significant input from the potential coaches, all lay out the approach and roadmap. Once these are determined the selection of which coach should be fairly objective in determining the best coaching approach.
WHERE DO YOU START WITH A COACH?
The first step is to complete an analysis of the current situation for coaching. This helps the coach learn about the organization and the executive and the key players. Building a partnership with a coach is desirable in that the coach becomes more vested in the success of the business and may lead to additional coaching. All must come to an agreement on outcomes that are built upon a realistic analysis of current t situation.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY COACH IS A GOOD FIT?
This is subjective for most people in evaluating. It is important to understand that coaches are to push back and challenge current thinking and potentially behaviors on leadership. Pushing back is not a popularity evaluation, it is about learning and understanding. This may not be comfortable but is important if coaching is focused on new and better outcomes. Dialogue with the sponsor is also important. If results are happening, then the process is moving in the right direction. It is imperative that the coach and the participant have these conversations regularly.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF THE COACHING PROCESS IS SUCCESSFUL?
During the coaching process each session should be relevant. While the two of you will most likely see the same issues differently, you need to feel that you are being challenged and that there are alternative approaches. Hopefully there will be a few “aha” moments during and between sessions. After the coaching sessions are complete, a 30, 60, and 90-day retrospective review will help to determine the success factors of outcomes. Again, outcomes can be objective as well as subjective. Additionally, the sponsor will also have opinions as to the success of the coaching journey.
HOW DO COACHING SESSIONS WORK?
There are no set guidelines especially at the senior levels as the coaching is usually complex and strategic. Once the analysis is completed, then the participant and the coach need to come to an agreed upon approaches and how sessions will work. Most executives prefer in person, potentially off-site confidential meetings. These may be a half day in length over a 6 month or one-year period with open ended phone calls and e-communications. More frequent dialogue is encouraged depending on issues and obstacles and business scenarios.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BEGIN A PROGRAM WITH A COACH?
Up front activities, after the coach is selected, include a preliminary meeting with the Coach, Sponsor and Participant. The focus is on the Why we are coaching and the hoped-for anticipated outcomes. This is a must to insure focus on the coaching journey. Then the shift goes to analysis and understanding the business issues. This, many times includes a series of Leadership profiles that are both Core profiles, specific to the individual and Behavioral profiles which focus on how the individual interacts with others. These profiles not only serve to facilitate the coaching style and type of engagement but may actually add to providing alternative solutions to leadership styles and implementation. They are in a sense a road map on how the executive thinks and most likely behaves. This drives coaching approaches for effectiveness. Once the feedback is completed the goals are reframed in light of the profiles and discussed again to focus on outcomes. It is only then that the actual coaching dialogue can launch to be most effective.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO LAUNCH A COACHING OR COACHING/DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM?
There really is no good or bad timing, but it must make common sense of the business and the future of the business. Based on outcomes hoped for and the business and business cycles there are some natural lead off points. If a new product is being launched, then a new effort may need to start internally 6 months or so in advance. If a new leader is put into a position, then a “success coach” may assist on this transition. Let the business drive the coaching activities with a focus on success.
IS COACHING RELEVANT TO ALL MANAGEMENT LEVELS?
The answer is a definitive YES. At lower and entry level management coaching the sessions may be done via a group or remotely or by e-communications. Many coaching sessions blend advance manager training along with developing leadership skills in implementing these functions. For example, How to Conduct a Performance Review is both a process (the key steps) and how to deliver the specific information to the employee. This is the coaching part of effective communications skills in a professional environment. In fact, it is usually this part of the soft skills that causes many managers to stumble early in their career as they have not received the coaching with the technical learning.
WHAT IS NEEDED TO MAKE TEAM DEVELOPMENT WORK?
A complex issue at best, but it reverts back to all we have stated about coaching. First an analysis of what is happening. Then a definition of desired outcomes. Research what is and is not happening so that we can reach the goals. Look at the culture and the leader, identify obstacles; the team members will surely be able to point these out. Review what can and cannot be changed. Have open discussions. Define revised approaches and ground rules. Coach all team members as individuals and as a group. Set new norms and start new approaches. Review and measure and evaluate. And most importantly celebrate victories.
HOW CUSTOM ARE YOUR VARIOUS PROGRAMS?
The type of coaching and the level being coached drive certain format issues. The blend of Training with Coaching also drives format. Given these parameters the analysis of the situation is also a standard. The building a partnership and knowing the person through profiles varies with each program and anticipated goals for coaching. Once these are all in place the actual dialogue varies depending on how the participant best learns. Learning style has everything to do with sustainable outcomes. The coach needs to communicate in a way that is credible with the participant. In reality almost every engagement varies to accommodate the variables. This is a key difference between “Teaching and Training” versus “Coaching”.
ARE MY COACHING SESSIONS CONFIDENTIAL? WILL MY COMPANY KNOW WHAT TAKES PLACE IN OUR SESSIONS?
Simple answer is YES, they are confidential, and NO the company will not know what takes place in each session. The only caveat to these answers is one of ethics and legal obligations. A coach must reveal any concerns about ethical violations or legal violations. This does happen occasionally, but is typically not part of development, growth, project or leadership executive coaching.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE OFFERED WITH MY COACHING?
This varies by type and level but typically include profiles/testing materials and comprehensive feedback materials for self-understanding. In addition, certain books are given as additional resources to support coaching objectives, certain articles are provided also. On an ongoing basis the participants receive weekly leadership blogs and are encouraged to sign up for various newsletters. For the long-term they also have access to their coach for follow up questions.
HOW LONG IS EACH PROGRAM?
Programs are driven by stated outcomes and complexity and type of coaching models and drivers for coaching. In general coaching is in segments of 3 month or 6 months or a year. Sessions vary to being in person and phone and e-communications. There always needs to be an ongoing dialogue between the three, including the sponsor. The sponsor helps the coach better understand how progress is unfolding.
HOW MUCH DOES COACHING COST?
Coaching pricing can vary from about $750 per participant in a group program to $100,000 and more for a top executive. What is important is to understand the coaching is an investment and not just an expense item. The costs need to be in the context of the business and the scope the individual have on the company’s success. It is an investment in people and must be viewed also in the context of hiring a different person and bringing them up to the same level of productivity. It is not a simple mathematical factor. One should have an open discussion with the coaching company on this issue. Investing in a coach is like interviewing your surgeon and is not like buying tires for your car.
IS COACHING USUALLY PAID FOR BY THE COMPANY OR THE INDIVIDUAL?
At Miles LeHane we are primarily corporate/organizational sponsored coaching firm. There are a number of “retail” coaches. We find our best success records are with individuals in a corporate environment that usually has a built-in ongoing support system to enhance ongoing development. This has been a key to our success and is a key part to the fact that we do turn down potential engagements if we cannot see a clear road to sustainable success.
WHEN DOES COACHING NOT WORK?
There are a few key reasons for coaching not to produce sustainable outcomes. First is the participant has not accepted that their current behavior and thinking and leadership is not the best for them. They totally believe everyone else is wrong and they are correct despite clear evidence that there is a problem. A second area is when the coaching is correct and the participant buys into it, but the organization will not let the changes happen. This may be blockage by one senior leader, or the culture is too broken or the politics are too strong against any change. Third has to do with the individual being comfortable with the new approach. Some simply find a different organization that honors the old approach.
WHEN IS INDIVIDUAL COACHING MORE IDEAL VERSUS A GROUP PROGRAM?
Typically, the top tier of leaders/executives will have an individual coach. This is driven by confidentiality and business responsibility. The next tier of growth leaders will have a combination of both small group as well as individual sessions. Managers and supervisors will typically have group sessions. Again, this may vary by subject, industry and types of issues for coaching. There are a few key important areas that all levels may participate in Group Coaching such as fire and safety training and awareness.
“Dr. Miles is that rare top-level executive who combines subject matter expertise, a keen and curious intellect, a sense of history, and management science in the pursuit of excellence in all matters related to Human Capital Management and Performance!”
Hector Velez, COO Vector Talent Resources
“It’s rare to find an expert whose insights are revolutionary and whose counsel is practical. But Dr. Miles is admirably and thankfully up to the task.”
Bill Crigger, President Association of Career Firms, North America
Miles LeHane’s approach to Coaching begins with a structure that is customized and balanced to focus on the mutually “contracted” success objective agreed to by the Stakeholder (usually the employer), the Participant (entrepreneur, executive, manager or technical professional), and the Coach from Miles LeHane.