Written By Gary C. Harrell
Originally published 02 May 2017

Let’s begin this missive with one very plain thought: leaders need leaders. Even the best leaders among us are well-served to pursue outside counsel. And so, it is not uncommon for striving business professionals to seek the aid of a #mentor, advisor, or coach.

As we discussed in a recent missive, the world of executive #coaching has become a big #business. In fact, as a sector, executive coaching became a $1 Billion growth industry in 2014, and today, more and more organizations are working to pair their talented managers and team members with coaches, all in the common hope of spurring professional development, of improving performance and retention, and of bringing new ideas back into their organizations. So common has the practice of#executivecoaching become that nearly 6,000 individuals in North America, alone, identified themselves as “coaches” during a 2015 survey conducted by the International Coach Federation. Indeed, not to be outdone, as of 2016, even this consultancy offers AxSA Coaching Solutions for Business Professionals, a package of professional development tools and sessions designed for individuals, rather than for businesses. (We will talk more about that later.)

The goal of this missive is to unpack the murky industry that is executive coaching, in order to help would-be #clients of coaching services better understand what to expect. Rather than craft a long article, the best approach for disseminating this information is in Q&A segments – and so, let’s begin.

DOES COACHING REALLY WORK?
This is a perfectly legitimate question, particularly because hiring an executive coach can be a costly proposition. A would-be client is correct to pay attention to the value that any coach brings to the table. But as a whole, the industry flourishes for good reason. It gets results. According to a survey of 100 business executives, conducted by Manchester Review, executive coaching, where quantifiably tracked, produced double-digit improvements in areas like productivity, employee retention, quality, and organizational and professional development.

WHAT DO EXECUTIVE COACHES GENERALLY DO?
In the ideal engagement, the goal of an executive#coach is to leave the client better than he find him, while equipping the client with new tools for tackling the day-to-day world and meeting near- and long-term
objectives. In doing this, an executive coach would do the following:
• Identify and help the client to develop professional talents
• Act as a sounding board for ideas and concerns, while asking the type of probing questions that elicits thoughtful responses and actions
• Help the client to identify and address derailing behavior
• Evaluate and develop strategic career #goals and plans for #growth
• Coordinate priorities, help set goals, and develop measures for accountability
• Help the client to dissect and tackle difficult issues, both, at work and outside of work (Remember: one’s personal life does impact one’s professional performance.)

With all of that, coaches not only influence the behavior of the clients they engage. They also shape the client’s learning process, enabling the latter, in most cases, to think more objectively, creatively, and strategically.

WHERE DO EXECUTIVE COACHES COME FROM?
Finding an effective executive coach can be a challenging endeavor, particularly because the field is so ripe with individuals and groups claiming to provide such services. Executive #coaches come from a variety of sectors of the economy, such as#consulting, psychology, human resources, and the senior #management of disparate industries. Some even hail for the military and the world of sports and fitness. For would-be clients, it is important to know that an executive coach possesses both the acumen to lend the best advice. Therefore, knowledge and experience are both important.

To that end, coaches do not come cheaply. In fact, executive coaches – really good ones, more specifically – can charge clients anywhere from $200 per hour to as much as $3,500 per hour, as in the case of motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Consequently, it is important that a would-be client to get a good idea of what types of results can be expected, perhaps based upon the coach’s record, and have an understanding of the value to be delivered in the engagement.

IS THERE A PROCESS FOR EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COACHING?
There is no singular formula or approach for a successful coaching engagement. Nor should there be.

WHAT ARE THREE IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT EVERY COACHING RELATIONSHIP?
(1) This is not about feeling good. A client is spending a handsome sum of money for objective insight and professional development. He cannot and should not expect an effective executive coach to placate him or enable him.
(2) Measurable results are everything… Unfortunately, the majority of coaching engagements do not provide quantitative feedback on a client’s progress. This is unacceptable. By not establishing the right type of metrics, there may be no way to link the coaching to improvements in professional performance or the harnessing of new skills… And how else would you be able to decipher value?
(3) Coaching should not go on indefinitely. In fact, the goal should be to build specific, new skill sets and enable the client to become self-reliant. Therefore, clear goals and a timetable for the coaching engagement are useful.

WHAT IS THE AxSA WAY?
The AxSA Coaching Solutions for Business Professionals is this consultancy’s own executive-coaching service package. While each coaching engagement is tailored to the client, we adhere to the same overarching approach, in order to ensure consistent results:
• Assessment
• Baseline survey
• Focal points – setting goals and timetables
• Monitoring through client sessions
• Intermittent surveys – gauging ongoing improvements and milestones
• Closing survey
• Engagement feedback

To learn more about AxSA’s executive-coaching service package, please contact us directly.

WHEN DOES COACHING NOT WORK EFFECTIVELY?
Coaching is not right for everyone, and under certain circumstances, a coaching engagement can be doomed before it ever really begins. Here are a few factors that can lead to a failed coaching engagement:
• A client who is too rigid and unwilling to explore new ideas is not entirely #teachable. All of the advice in the world is of little consequence to the man who refuses to hear it, process it, and apply it.
• A client who does not enter the engagement in good faith, or who is not honest about his circumstances or progress, will make for a difficult person with which to work. #Pride and dishonesty can have no place in an effort to make one a better version of himself.
• A client who harbors a toxic or negative disposition is problematic. If consistent, these bad thoughts really sour one’s mindset, and whereas thoughts impact feelings, #beliefs, and actions, there is a chance that such thoughts will also woefully cause the coaching engagement to fail.
• A client who is unwilling to own shortcomings or mistakes, or who projects onto others, is dealing with the same pride and egotism as those who are unteachable.
• A client who is unwilling to commit to the process, whether due to fear or laziness or “a lack of time”, will passively doom even the best effort. They are not ready.
• And of course, if clear goals are not set forth in the coaching engagement, the effort by both parties, the coach and the client, is really for naught. It is important to aspire for something and know, quite succinctly, what that something happens to be.

If #results matter, then Paul William Bryant is surely one of the best examples of effective coaching we will ever know. Usually just referred to as “Bear”, Mr. Bryant served as the head coach of the football program at the University of Alabama for twenty-five years. Naturally, as a coach, “Bear” was expected to lead his teams to victory, but he delivered in spades, with phenomenal consistency – 323 regular-season wins, 13 conference championships, and 6 national championships. To this day, the legacy of#BearBryant has helped to cement the University of Alabama’s reputation as a juggernaut among its peers on the football field.

Interestingly enough, though, despite being one of the greatest tacticians of America’s favorite pastime, the coach remained humble. “I’m no miracle man,” he said. “I guarantee nothing but hard work.” Such words epitomize the mark of a great coach.

As in football, an effective executive coach does not promise to make a client great. He promises, instead, to present the assignments necessary for a client to make himself great. The executive coach, much like “Bear”, stresses the importance of self-actualization on the part of the client. That is, he works to get the client to discover and activate for himself new #talents and ways of thinking. He also acts as a beacon for the client who must make practical these new traits in his daily routine. And he serves as a sober voice of support as the client conditions himself into a better and more promising version of himself. The executive coach guides; the client initiates and carries out the work. And as the results become more and more evident, therein lies the value of an effective coaching engagement – significant, lasting, and positive change.

#FromTheAxSANotebook

Gary C. Harrell is the founder and Managing Principal of Axiom Strategy Advisors, LLC. For more information about the consultancy, please visitaxiomstrategyadvisors.com.

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