Why is Executive Coaching an Enabling Service?
When you do Strategic – Intentional Organization Design you have to get many people working together constructively during the design and execution processes. Leaders have to adapt and change, and this is difficult to do. Coaching can help. Here is how I approach coaching:
The Basic Questions & Steps
Step One: Clarify & Commit to Performance & Contribution Expectations:
One of the most basic questions in organizations is “How do we manage performance and contribution?” The first hurdle in coaching is to help individuals determine how they are expected to perform and contribute and to come to the point where they are either willing to commit to do so or choose to leave their contribution role or the organization.
But there is another component to the equation. Members of an organization need to search within themselves and their lives to determine what they want to contribute.
A Peter Drucker Quote helps to illuminate this aspect of the issue:
What Should I Contribute?
Throughout history, the great majority of people never had to ask the question, “What should I contribute?” They were told what to contribute, and their tasks were dictated either by the work itself – as it was for the peasant or artisan – or by a master or mistress – as it was for domestic servants.
. . . [T]here is no return to the old answer of doing what you are told or assigned to do. Knowledge workers in particular have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before:
What should my contribution be?
To answer it, they must address three distinct elements:
What does the situation require?
Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done?
What results have to be achieved to make a difference?
Peter F. Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” Harvard Business Review, January 2005
If we want full engagement and the offering of discretionary effort and initiative both the organization and the individual perspectives must be balanced and negotiated to arrive at a shared mindset and agreement that all are committed to keep.
Step Two: Create & Execute a Performance & Contribution Plan:
Once the person being coached is clear about organizational and personal expectations and commitment, the “How do I do it?” question takes center stage and leads to the creation and execution of a performance and contribution plan.
Step Three: Monitor Actual Performance & Contribution & Give Constructive Feedback:
The only way to lock performance and contribution in is to give constructive, clear, unambiguous feedback on an ongoing basis.
Most of my coaching engagements are in conjunction with strategy formulation, intentional organization design, change leadership, or assessment of what works projects. What that means is that the coaching agenda is usually driven by an organizational improvement agenda in which the person being coached plays a key role.
I also work with people in a freestanding engagement setting. However, in order to have a successful coaching engagement in that setting there needs to be clarity about the organizational context in which the person being coached is expected to perform.
The underlying theme is that I do not do therapy. I do coaching. Coaching within an organizational context.
Also, I generally do not use psychological testing in my coaching approach. There are some paper and pencil exercises that I sometimes use, but testing is not a central element of my approach. If there are individual psychological or family dynamics issues that must be sorted out, a referral to the company Employee Assistance Program is the appropriate route to follow. This can be done before coaching or simultaneous with coaching.
Often in a coaching relationship it becomes necessary to help the individual work to create constructive relationships with colleagues on the job. In some of those cases doing conflict resolution or relationship building with a colleague or even a group of colleagues may be appropriate.
Coaching situations usually fall into one of three categories:
- The person has a performance and contribution problem to work through. In other words, there are specific issues of work performance, documented behavioral incidents, 360 feedback data, performance appraisal data, or other sources of data that clearly indicate the need for coaching.
- The person has a new role that requires different thinking, behavior, and contribution.
- The person has a passion to get better or realizes there is a need before anyone else points it out to them.
I have worked with people in each of these situations. If the person is seen as having a problem to work through, it is essential that they be given that feedback clearly, directly, and openly from their leaders and internal and external customers. It is not a time to be subtle, opaque, or obscure. People are often defensive and in denial when they receive feedback. Hence, it is important to be direct, specific, and repetitive about the issues and the consequences of not making improvement.