Marshall Goldsmith writes in his book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” that:
“In the arc of what can be a long and successful career, you will always be in transit from “here” to “there.” Here can be a great place. If you’re successful, here is exactly the kind of place you want to be. Here is the place where you can be the CEO of a thriving company…Here is the place where you can be an in-demand financial manager. But here is also the place where you can be a success in spite of some gaps in your behaviour or personal makeup. That’s why you want to go “there.” There can be a better place.”
The role of corporate CEOs and fellow C-suite executives will always be the centre of attention for stakeholders. The C-suite members get the media coverage whether it is negative or positive, earn the fat bonuses and salaries that generate talking points, gather top perks, and often pay the price with the loss of their jobs and even their reputations. It is worth a few more articles in this series to dwell on learning in the C-suite because of the weight of responsibility on the shoulders of top executives. In last week’s article, I prescribed five ways to enhance leadership in the C-suite: reflection, feedback, blending the three Q’s of IQ, EQ and PQ (political quotient), learning and listening. This article highlights getting executive coaching and acting on coaching feedback as two imperatives for top level leaders.
Getting executive coaching
There is an obvious difficulty that executives face in coping with each day’s business and still finding time for reflection. This difficulty leads us to the support mechanism known as executive coaching. Executive coaching enables a leader to partner with a coach to address specific challenges of learning and behaviour for personal and organizational benefit. It provides a base of accountability, confidentiality and change for the executive who seems to be busy 24-7-365.
Many global organizations have recognized the immense value to their top leaders of stepping into the quietness of coaching sessions and coming out positively transformed.
These organizations invest in coaching interventions and some of them have departments dedicated to the application of coaching across board. Coaching also allows executives to develop authenticity by discussing the real issues that confront them as leaders as well as the impact on their organizations. With coaching, the executive can break down walls of ego and pretense which might exist in the typical corporate setting.
Coaching partnerships are usually focused on behavioural and organizational skills. Research by Diane Koutu and Carol Kauffman published in Harvard Business Review indicates top three reasons why executive coaches are hired.
They are to develop high potentials or facilitate transition, act as a sounding board and address derailing behaviours. Other themes that can be addressed in a coaching relationship comprise emotional intelligence, strategic communication, managing relationships, developing teamwork, empowering people, managing across cultures (especially in multinational companies), board interactions, political savvy, managing change, and improving strategy execution.
Acting on coaching feedback
Knowing what to do is less of a challenge than doing what is known. Executive coaching delivers feedback through assessments and one-on-one conversations. The feedback is not always nice to hear if one is not mentally framed to receive it as positive instead of adverse. In receiving and acting on feedback, an executive is empowered to shift from limiting behaviours and enhance already productive ones. Acknowledgement of the need for change increases the possibility of translating knowledge into change.
The starting point is always the admission of weakness which can be altered for good. In this regard, Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s top executive coaches notes that successful people can become even more successful by understanding how “minor” workplace foibles can erode accumulated goodwill and lead to crisis situations. He identifies twenty transactional flaws which include not listening, making destructive comments, information, failing to give proper recognition, passing the buck, and refusing to express regret.
Results from coaching emerge not just from the professional skills of an executive coach but the commitment of the executive to positively alter established behaviours or scenarios. Steve Berglas suggests to leaders receiving coaching that by “making “Cui bono?” (for whose benefit?) the mantra you bring to assessment sessions with your coach, you can learn to accept that any and all feedback from him or her is intended to be helpful, not hurtful.”
Coaching is a means of addressing behavioural and business gaps and enabling executives use them for future benefit as they act on change. I have had the privilege in working as a coach and witnessing leaders act on feedback, generate new behaviours and obtain better business results such as improving sales.
To enhance leadership in organizations, leaders in the C-suite require a mindset of continuous learning. This learning mode is supported by executive coaching and acting on coaching feedback. As leaders commit themselves to new learning, they become better leaders and improve organizational capacity to meet objectives.