Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why You Need an Executive Coach

Guest post by Bonnie Marcus:

I earned my certification as an executive coach in 2006. At that time most people still assumed that coaching was done primarily in sports not business. Coaching for executives was a relatively unknown field and untapped resource. When companies hired a coach for an executive then, it was primarily because that executive needed some assistance to improve their leadership and management skills; that they weren’t meeting the expectations of their position. Coaching, therefore, had a stigma and was not considered a coveted asset.
Now, almost a decade later, there has been a shift in perception and subsequent use of executive coaches. Most individuals and companies hire coaches to improve performance, but also to provide executives with the guidance and support to take their leadership to the next level. Executive coaching gives individuals a distinct advantage in a competitive ever-changing environment by helping them increase their influence and effectiveness as leaders; enhance their political savvy.
Executive coaches assist leaders with gaining a better understanding of their strengths to build influence across the organization.  Betsy Myers, founding director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, writes in her book, Take the Lead, that “Leadership isn’t something you can put on like a suit of clothes or generate by copying someone else. Leadership is about who you genuinely are. Successful leaders are those who are conscious of their behavior and the impact it has on the people around them.” Leveraging authenticity through self-awareness not only nurtures confidence, it also reinforces credibility with key stakeholders and sets an example for everyone in the organization to follow. This self-awareness is a reality check that is not easily accomplished without the honest, objective feedback of a good coach.
Coaches contribute an objective perspective on the political landscape of the corporate culture which is essential for the survival and success of any executive. In order to be an effective leader, it is critical to understand the dynamics and to stay tuned to the fluctuations in the workplace. It’s easy to lose focus on the politics in order to accomplish the necessary tasks for one’s job. A coach provides a road map to navigate the complexities of the organization and to establish the accountability required to stay focused on the politics and relationship building.  This ongoing attention to the work environment protects executives from potential power plays that can rob them of their power or position. The information gathered with a coach from a regular assessment of the politics helps to identify potential allies to champion important initiatives as well as to determine possible barriers to success.
Consistent with nurturing political savvy, a coach partners with the executive to manage their reputation internally and across the industry. Understanding how best to position and advocate for their leadership, their team, their organization, and their mission is a political skill. Communicating their vision and motivating others to take action is essential for effective leadership, and a coach will help craft the right message and delivery.
Finally having a coach as a career partner helps executives cope with ongoing stress. Today’s frenetic business environment requires its leaders to be resilient. The fast pace and constant pressure of workplace culture calls for the ability to not only make quick decisions but change direction with a minute’s notice. That culture, along with the desire to maintain some balance in life despite constant distractions and requirements of the job, creates a pressure cooker of stress. An executive’s energy can easily be depleted, their effectiveness challenged especially when their stress is not managed. The coach is there to advise their client of potential stress triggers as well as the optimal method to manage the pressure of their position.
In summary, executive coaching today goes beyond the traditional approach of performance improvement. A coach provides a great advantage to an individual seeking to improve their influence and effectiveness. By hiring executive coaches for support, an organization benefits from having leadership that is well positioned to move the organization forward and be competitive in today’s marketplace.
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., is the President of Women’s Success Coaching, where she helps professional women advance their careers. She is the author of THE POLITICS OF PROMOTION: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley).  You can connect with her at

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