How to reap the rewards of executive coaching

by 29 Jul 2009

There's no time, place or patience for mediocrity in business. And as benchmarks are raised, so too is the blood pressure of leaders when faced with possible threats to their company's profile, profit, and productivity - and today's volatile times are proving to be no exception. But when it comes to people, those companies who put the wind in the sails of their staff, and not an anchor on their tails can largely attribute their results to the critical role executive coaching plays. This is how.

Executive coaching is a vital source of external energy and enthusiasm that is often lost when internal challenges run high and resources run low. Coaching offers an opportunity to develop clarity in work habits and skills practices, and provides invaluable insights that highlight gaps, clarifies expectations and does not compromise the individual in any way.

However, in order to reap the rewards and benefits of executive coaching, it is important that both the coach and the coachee have a full understanding of the process, commitments and the outcomes which including the following criteria:

First and foremost, to get benefits from executive coaching, a skilled professional must demonstrate they are a trusted external thinking partner and outside confidante who is able to suspend judgement, provide challenging conversations, questions and options and enable people to achieve their best while at times providing salient feedback.  

It is not about ego, and not for those expecting to give or have a 'quick fix'. Additionally, it is not a role for those who are impatient, want to give advice, get frustrated easily or are unable to adapt their coaching style to different personalities with seemingly 'closed minds'. 

In addition, the following five keys will assist in getting benefits, or at the very least set up a contract that will minimise risk when initiating a coaching program.

To ensure a company will benefit from a coaching program, it requires:

  1.  A mutual agreement that both parties respect each other, and feel comfortable working together in a confidential and committed program over time.
  2.  An agreement that an issue, concern or problem exists and that the coachee is comfortable with being coached in a process that in some instances may take some time and/or uncover other areas of vulnerability or growth and potential. It may also be an agreement that the coachee wants to go to a more superior level of performance and requires guidance and support. 
  3. It is a series of in depth discussions and actions - enabling a person to fully engage in the process of discovery and development without the fear of recrimination, intimidation or embarrassment at any level, and without bias of any kind.
  4. The coachee must be open to listening, responding, participating and importantly demonstrating with evidence what they are doing to implement new strategies and ideas. The coachee must be open to comment without being defensive. If appropriate the coachee can bring in their immediate manager to assist in giving real time feedback on how things are progressing.
  5. Both parties must nominate at the earliest possible time if they feel the process may not be working and that another course of action or intervention may be necessary.

Provided the above criteria is in place it is also important that the following key questions must also be considered by the coachee in determining whether they are right for the process. These questions include:

  1. Do they want to work with this person or have they been nominated?
  2. What is their understanding of coaching and does it match that of the organisation or the coach?
  3. What are they hoping to achieve in the coaching process?
  4. What are their expectations of the process and how will they measure their return on the investment
  5. What will they do if they find this approach is not for them?
  6. What support, if any, do they want from the coach in between sessions, and has this been discussed?

By establishing a clear set of expectations and outcomes prior to beginning a coaching program, both the coach and the coachee are ensuring their work and outcomes are more successful, enjoyable and rewarding.

Successful coaching programs provide important experiences that are often quite profound and revealing for the coachee. There are often defining moments of learning and awareness or 'AHA' moments that happen in the silences, and it is these moments that make a significant difference in the behaviours and outcomes that follow. Quite simply just being given permission to pause, reflect, stand back and find solutions without having others fill the gaps is a great gift that executive coaching provides.

About the author

Ricky Nowak CSP is director of Confident Communicationsis, a member of the International Coaching Federation, and an executive coach for the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She establishes coaching programs for organisations. For more information phone: 03 9500 9886 or