Executive Coaching – the Secret of Sustained Success
Executive Coaching helps inspire leaders to transform themselves and their people to improve business results and performance, by developing skills, confidence and focus. One of the most effective techniques available for development, its use has increased dramatically over the past decade. No longer seen as an executive perk it is becoming a crucial area of challenge and support, adding a clear positive return on investment. However, as with any rapidly growing industry, the ‘coaching business’ can offer variable quality and results. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and it is important to get the chemistry right, regarding client needs and the coaching style used. Dr Phil Bardzil is a chartered business psychologist and experienced coach of 20 years. He explains how executive coaching can help leaders to develop an edge: building on strengths and exerting a positive influence on their teams and wider organizational effectiveness.
The first ‘secret of sustained success’, in executive coaching, is to establish clear outcomes of importance to work towards. The Psychologica Model™ has been developed from extensive research into leadership behaviours and their direct impact on organizational climate and, indirectly, on customer service experiences. This provides a coaching framework to identify where leaders can best align their talents, to fulfill both personal and organizational objectives. The most effective leaders establish a balance between strategic thinking (blue) and ‘real world’ activities (red), enabled by engagement with key partners and stakeholders (yellow). Effective coaches help to integrate these key elements, through enhancing positive behaviors: communication skills (green); organizational skills (purple) and emotional management (orange). Resulting from European Union funded research in a range of sectors, these success factors emerged as crucial to leaders, staff and customers alike. Use of a validated model allows executive coaching at the individual level to be integrated successfully with wider team and organizational development outcomes.
Anyone can call themselves a ‘coach’ so it is important to check on professional credibility, through established qualifications or affiliations to respected associations. A second ‘secret of sustained success’ is to ensure professional credentials and, ideally, competence in the use of psychometric instruments. Coaching effectiveness can be enhanced if supported by use of personality measures or 360° Analysis (where colleagues provide assessments of performance, using on-line surveys). The Psychologica Model™ forms a basis for a range of diagnostic tools and related coaching aids which are available to support coaching relationships. It has proven links to a number of established development approaches, so can complement existing HR practices.
Executive roles demand a wide range of skills and abilities. Few individuals excel in all areas but coaching can be used to balance performance and help identify the appropriate leadership skills to adopt under different circumstances. For example, the ‘blue zone’, of intellectual capabilities, includes: developing vision; setting strategy; and managing complexity. The ‘red zone’, of tangible outcomes, includes: crisis management; motivation; change management and performance focus. Clearly, there is some overlap between coaching and management consultancy in some of these areas. Consultancy tends to focus on structural and transactional tasks, while coaching usually emphasises transformational change – creating a ‘safe space’ for leaders to reflect on personal issues, with the benefit of immediate and honest feedback. Business is largely about people and the ‘yellow zone’, of emotional intelligence, is crucial to developing leadership success. This includes demonstrating self-confidence in: public speaking; challenging effectively; managing relationships; exerting influence; working collaboratively; adapting to change; and managing stress. Development in each of the three core ‘zones’ requires a different approach and the third ‘secret to success’ is to find a coach who can flex their style appropriately, according to client needs.
Research shows clearly that ‘strengths based’ approaches, where coaches help clients to build on existing attributes, provide a better return on investment than focusing only on areas of under-performance. While there is a need to be honest and realistic, dwelling on negatives can be a waste of resources and can undermine self-confidence. Executive coaches are not just for ‘fixing people’ but can also ‘make good better’. A fourth consideration is to choose a coach who practices positive psychology and can help individuals use strengths and preferences to enhance potential in areas of challenge. The aim is to stretch clients and shift them out of comfort zones, but to do so with empathy and support, leaving them in a better place. Often this is through re-framing issues and facilitating fresh insights.
Executive coaching continues to grow globally. We see increasing interest from the financial sector which, despite its relative size and economic importance, is actually vulnerable. Most banks are overleveraged, have incentives which reinforce counter-productive behaviours, are at risk from new technologies, and have failed to regain the trust of customers. Organizations which develop authentic values-led leadership will have a clear advantage over competitors. Executive coaching is key to achieving this.
Dr Phil Bardzil has a PhD in Organizational Psychology. He has experience of leadership, as MD of a multi-national subsidiary, and also as director of a research centre in Manchester Business School (University of Manchester), where he developed the Psychologica Model™. Phil has written a number of academic papers and presented at numerous international conferences. Psychologica Ltd is based in the UK and works with organizations in all sectors. Webbased technologies allow executive coaching to take place internationally and coaching products are available from regional distributors.