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This section focuses on executive coaching and addresses
what's unique about working with executives, as well as my guiding
principles and methods. Additional information on this website
covering leadership development,
development and life coaching
may also be of interest to executives.
How do you define executive coaching? How does
it relate to other developmental tools an executive might use?
I like the definition posed by Fitzgerald and Berger
in their book Executive Coaching - Practices and Perspectives.
As they define it, executive coaching "is one-on-one, confidential
work with executives aimed at enhancing their current or future
effectiveness." They further clarify that executive coaching:
- Has a developmental focus,
- Goes beyond technical or industry guidance,
- Is distinguishable from psychotherapy but may
share some frameworks of analysis, and
- Is based on a complex and sophisticated understanding
of, and focus on, both the individual executive and the organizational
In my practice, each executive coaching engagement
adheres to the structure above and includes elements of leadership
development and organization development. Executive coaching is
a process that can be applied to increasing leadership competencies,
including developing skills to solve organization problems.
When is executive coaching needed?
Coaching can be useful in helping executives overcome
several challenges they face. Often, executives have strong competencies
that have helped them reach the executive ranks, but which no
longer serve them as well as they had in the past. New skills
and approaches may be needed. Executives may sense that they are
not getting accurate feedback from people within the company.
Coaches can offer an objective view on strengths and growth opportunities-supporting
executives throughout the development process.
How and where do you work with executives?
How we work depends on the goals we're trying to
reach and the level of intensity that fits the situation. In the
most accelerated approach, I am directly involved with the executive
in the work system, coaching him or her in real time with the
team. In other situations, I accompany the executive during the
workday, but our coaching is offline and private. The least intensive
coaching is when I work with the executive entirely outside the
What unique perspective do you bring to executive
My style and approach are informed by four factors.
One, I leverage my own experience
- as an executive in a diverse set of assignments and as a coach
and consultant to a wide range of clients. Two, I've built on
education and training from
others. I've been well trained in both consulting and coaching
by strong schools and gifted practitioners whose theories, methods
and models serve me well. Like my executive clients, I have a
personal development plan to ensure that I'm always growing. Three,
I enter into a partnership with
the client that focuses on personal development from the inside
out and tangible results in the role. Finally, I genuinely enjoy
this work. Even though projects are focused on results and have
plenty of challenges, I expect to have
fun along the way.
What kinds of issues do you work on with executives?
- Increasing emotional intelligence (self-awareness,
self-management, social awareness, and/or relationship management),
because I believe these skills are the foundation for other
- Improving performance on a required competency
(for example, communications, delegation, planning, time management)
- Developing the capacity to become effectively
reflective and active in the moment, which may take the form
of internal questions like, "What's really happening here?
What am I thinking/feeling? What is the basis for my experience?
What are my options? What is my goal? What will be the most
effective action I can take to move toward our goal?"
- Preparing for a new opportunity (understanding
the desired goal, identifying strengths to leverage, creating
an action plan)
- Optimizing the first 100 days in a new job (such
as learning the lay of the land, modeling style and behavior,
building relationships, setting the vision, establishing priorities,
identifying and building visible metrics, creating momentum,
generating early wins)
What does the coaching process look like?
The process follows a natural progression. Below
I've outlined the process and the primary questions we typically
answer at each phase.
1. Initial dialog to establish the relationship
Are we a good match for each other?
2. Formalize the agreement
What are our expectations of each other? What are the boundaries
of our relationship?
3. Identify issues and translate into the future
What will be different in the future? What does success look
4. Build the plan
What are the primary goals? What process and tasks will be
necessary to achieve the desired vision?
5. Work the plan
What activities are leading toward the goal (which I support)?
What's not working (which we analyze and address together)?
- Help the client take responsibility and stay
- Work through issues and barriers
- Assess our relationship
- Reset the plan as necessary
- Measure to ensure results are met
- Make sure aspects outside the specific goals
are still working
6. Measure success and celebrate
Have we achieved the goals? Did anything else break in the
7. Follow-on coaching
What do we need to sustain this achieved result? Are there
other opportunities we wish to address?
8. Conclude the coaching relationship
What can we learn from this experience?
How do you and your client know you've made progress
I typically do three types of assessments. On a
frequent basis I ask the client what's working and whether he
or she would like any changes. I personally assess the relationship
and voice any particular satisfaction or concerns to ensure I'm
in sync with the client and that we're working as productively
as possible. Finally, we measure the results against the goals
What stages does a coaching relationship typically
go through? How do
you and your client know when you're "finished"?
I think of the relationship as having a beginning,
middle and end. The beginning is setting the relationship and
establishing the future vision. The middle is all of the work
to achieve the desired changes. The end is the closing and celebration
of the work together. I try to celebrate the success of a project
even if we've decided to take on a different challenge.
We know we're finished when we achieve the desired
results. On rare occasions we decide that we've achieved as much
as we can achieve, though it may fall short of the goals we initially
set. In either case, we mutually decide we've completed a piece
of work together.
What are the main benefits your clients report?
The benefits fall into two categories, one centered
on outcomes, and the other on process. Most often, clients report
that they achieved the results they sought. Frequently, they increase
their emotional intelligence. By improving their ability to objectively
assess beliefs, values and behaviors and their impact on others,
they can dramatically increase leadership effectiveness.
You can find additional perspectives on the Clients
page. The following comments taken from feedback forms are representative
of the benefits clients have experienced.
- "I gained perspective on myself that I couldn't
get from people inside."
- "I didn't have the experience
end of the project, I was ready to solo"
- "She's a great thinking partner
had great ideas for problem solving"
- "We had experiences with consultants that
didn't work well
lots of reports, not much results. She
was the exact opposite-very practical".
- "My boss didn't have that much confidence
in me. I needed to bring this project home with the team intact.
She helped me do just that."
How are coaching, consulting and psychotherapy
All three fields are committed to helping clients
make change and achieve results. I believe that all three disciplines,
when practiced well, can develop capacity and resilience within
Coaching is future oriented and focuses on bringing
out the best in the client. The coach does not typically produce
work products outside of the coaching sessions. The relationship
is one of partnership, in which the coach brings process expertise
and the client brings the content and has overall responsibility
for driving results.
The consultant brings his or her expertise to help
achieve the client's goals. The consultant offers advice based
on his or her expertise and often produces work products independently
or in collaboration with the client.
The psychotherapist relationship is often focused
on healing wounds by understanding the past or the past's impact
on the present. Psychotherapists are trained to help client's
achieve emotional healing or relief from psychological pain. The
client often relates to the psychotherapist as the expert, authority
In my practice, I can offer integrated consulting
and coaching services-with clear agreements for each of the elements
of the work. On some occasions, clients are working simultaneously
with a psychotherapist. In such cases, the client takes responsibility
for coordinating activities between the two service providers.
Do you have a confidentiality policy? What are
All of my work with coaching clients is confidential
in that I don't talk about our work with anyone other than the
client, unless directed to do so by the client. There are instances
in which an executive can accelerate team performance by offering
content from his or her own development plan or by creating a
team development plan. Some clients also choose to have me accompany
them as they review their plan with their boss or the board.
When an executive is interested in working with
a coach, how can he or she position this request with their boss?
The first step is for the executive to be clear
about the results he or she wishes to achieve. If a potential
client requests it, I am very willing to talk with his or her
boss about the coaching process. Most clients establish a plan,
which is reviewed with the boss before implementation. They also
periodically brief the boss with progress towards the expected
results. I support clients in these efforts. I do not give the
boss confidential information from my one-on-one work with clients
unless specifically requested and given permission to do so. This
element of confidentiality is established at the outset of the
What is one of the greatest challenges that you
see executives face?
I have great respect for the role of executive.
Often the challenges of the assignment are such that no human
could make all the right decisions. Some people find it difficult
to accept that they can't perform perfectly no matter how much
time and effort they expend. To add to the challenge, some executives
don't feel comfortable asking for help or acknowledging that they
are developing new skills.
How do you help executives manage ambiguity?
In my view, one of the greatest challenges is managing
ambiguity. Executives want to be able to gather enough data so
that they can make the right decision. Unfortunately, it is rare
to be able to gather enough information in a timely fashion to
be able to eliminate the ambiguity. My focus becomes acknowledging
the ambiguity and managing anxiety in the face of ambiguity.
Peter Koestenbaum does a great job of summarizing
the challenge that faces all leaders: "You need to be comfortable
in doing business in a vague and unclear world. It is great to
be able to be specific, precise, organized, and clear. In fact,
it is essential. But if your leadership capacity stops there,
if that is all you can do, then you will find yourself at a disadvantage.
The world is ambiguous, the tasks are nebulous, the solutions
are hidden in a miasma of confusion. You need to integrate conflicting
possibilities; you need to navigate without a compass, the stars
being hidden by a chaos of fog. Half of what you need to know,
to see clearly, is beyond the horizon. Key messages come to you
in tongues you cannot decipher. And yet, that is the zone where
you will find the secret answers, as powerful as they are also
elusive." (Peter Koestenbaum's Leadership Thought 10/6/03,