Despite perceptions that coaching only belongs in the sporting world, successful executives count coaching as one of the crucial tools in their professional development armoury.
CEOs and executives work hard to get to where they are. Years of dedication and long hours often result in business executives having a broad range of skills and knowledge. However, Avril Henry, leadership consultant and executive coach, feels there is always room for improvement.
“Coaching is about continuous improvement,” Henry stated. “If you look at Tiger Woods, even when he was the best golfer in the world, he had a coach.”
The necessity of coaching to broaden one’s horizon is often misunderstood and underestimated in the business world, but Henry argues this is a double-standard. “If we understand the value of coaching in sport – even when you are the best in the world – why wouldn’t we do the same for business?”
Executive coaching functions in much the same way as personal fitness coaching, with highly-skilled coaches working closely with their clients, targeting specific areas (such as communication), and working to generate immediate results.
“Coaching is very targeted,” Henry explained. “Our focus is on building relationships, as well as communicating to people different things they have done in the past.”
While Henry stressed the importance of senior executive courses at business schools, she highlighted that the skills gained there often cannot be implemented in the short term, while one-on-one, targeted coaching provides skills that executives can implement straight away, allowing for a checked passage of development.
Although often equated with mentoring, coaching couldn’t be more different in the business world. While mentoring implies long-lasting relationships that involve the sharing of experience and knowledge, coaching should be short-term, and focus on specific skills relevant to one’s organisation and role.
“Normally in a coaching scenario you wouldn’t be working on more than three things at a time, because if you are, that is too much,” Henry said.
Initially dismissed as a HR trend, executive coaching has endured throughout the years, and has recently increased in importance. Henry believes it will continue to be an important development tool for executives. “If we want to keep abreast of a constantly changing world that is being driven by technology and globalisation, we have to have our minds open to new ways of working and thinking, and new ways of learning,” she said.
Have you had an executive coach? What did you think of the experience?