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09.16.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

3 Ways You Can Benefit from Executive Coaching

There are dozens and dozens of ways that leaders and managers benefit from executive coaching. In fact, if you’re someone in such a role, I can’t think of a better gift to yourself. In working with many high level executive leaders, I’ve come to realize that the very best understand the benefits of executive coaching.

It’s not difficult to understand why.

The person at the top has a unique challenge. While he may seem to have all the power, the executive leader also bears the burden of heavy responsibility. With that power and responsibility comes a level of isolation. Yes, every leader has an executive team wrapped around his duties and responsibilities. Still, there are moments when even the most qualified leader feels overwhelmed by a sense of all that is required.

I’ve seen both men and women stumble and fall under the weight of such power and responsibility. I’ve also seen the wisest leaders reach out for some level of coaching or support.

Wise leaders understand they need a safe space to work through their choices and challenges.

Executive coaching creates the space for a leader to have the freedom to explore new options.

It is a process of discovery; it’s important to note that the executive coach is not charged with the duty of advising. A coach understands that the answers lie within the client. The role of a coach, therefore, is to listen, support, and posit the hard questions.

What I love about this process of discovery, is that the solutions emerge from a combination of what the client knows and what he does not yet realize; the coach’s job is to create space for these solutions to arise.

Here are just a few of the benefits of an Executive Coaching relationship:

1. Safe Strategic Think Tank

How a leader makes sense of his environment is important to how he makes key decisions, how he influences followers, and how he moves the organization forward. Most leaders in today’s market are forced to make sense of constant change. Products and services are continually evolving and with that evolution comes the need for better systems and processes. What worked yesterday may not work today. Whether you’re in an executive level position or in the role of middle-management, the people on your team will undoubtedly add yet another level of complexity to your duties and responsibilities.

All this being said, leaders sometimes need a safe place to strategically think out loud. If you are struggling with some new vision or direction for the organization, it’s often difficult, perhaps even unwise, to share your uncertainty with your colleagues or subordinates.

The coaching relationship is designed to fill that gap. Having the freedom to discuss sensitive issues in a confidential setting with someone who has no political agenda can be extremely useful in helping a leader resolve complex issues.

2. Maximization of Key Strengths

I have never met a leader who was fully aware of his own strengths. Of course, many leaders have a sense of their skills and capabilities, but I find that too many miss the shinning star that lies within. The reason for this is that, as human beings, we tend to take for granted that which comes easy.

The coaching relationship creates space for open and honest revelation such that the coach begins to see the significant strengths that lie within the leader—strengths that the leader cannot see for herself. A skilled coach then knows how to position future questions such that the leader begins to discover for herself the significant strengths and attributes that lie at the very core of who she is.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

I am in the process of redesigning my website and my Curriculum Vitae. Since I haven’t explored my career path in quite some time, I contracted without an outside expert to help me redesign and update the CV.

We had a 45-minute “coaching” call to review my previous history. The expert asked me questions about my career that I had never even considered. The end result was that I came away with a much deeper understanding of my strengths because, through his questioning, he helped me see my work in a deeper context. I am simply too close to my own experience to see the level of what I’ve done without another level of expertise.

The executive coaching relationship is just one other way to fully embrace your strengths as a leader. The result is a leader who is more fully empowered to achieve his daily responsibilities.

3. A Clearly Defined Growing Edge

Successful leaders are far better at knowing their weaknesses than their strengths. Part of the reason they are successful is that they have very high self-expectations. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are sometimes perfectionistic over achievers who can be extremely hard on themselves.

One of the things I absolutely love about my work is that I can help leaders see themselves from a developmental perspective. Leaders transition through life stages that impact their ability to lead.

Opportunities for growth occur along this path, and as you grow into a new stage, you might experience a sense of unease or uncertainty. For some, this period of transition causes doubt, frustration, a desire to change positions, and even fear.

Coaching is an amazing opportunity to learn more about your specific stage of development and where you are positioned for a growing edge. Think of this process like shedding old skin and taking on the new. With an experienced coach, you might be surprised to learn that such a period of growth and transition is an exciting time to move into better ways of living and leading.

If you have ever worked with an executive coach, I’d love to hear about one of your greatest learning experiences.

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Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. September 16, 2014