In a recent blog post, Seven Characteristics of an Effective Executive Coach, I wrote about seven key characteristics of an effective coach that contribute to creating a good ‘fit’ between an executive coach and client. These characteristics include: being self-confident, a positive-thinker, goal oriented, assertive, having advanced interpersonal skills, being open-minded and flexible, and having a high degree of personal integrity. Equally important are coaching skills and competencies.
Executive coaching is as much an art as it is a science. First, it is a unique form of coaching that involves a three-way partnership between the leader, coach, and the organization. The coaching goals that are developed for the leader must align with the organization’s strategic and organizational objectives.
Second, an executive coach must have the ability to help a leader achieve his or her goals through the leader’s own process of discovery.
Third, an executive coach needs to be able to demonstrate competence in four disciplines to be most effective as a coach:
1. Human Behaviour and Psychological Knowledge: understands psychological theories and concepts relevant to the practice of executive coaching, including theories about: personality, motivation, adult development, learning styles, emotional intelligence, leadership, and personality assessment models, conflict resolution approaches, etc.
For example, leaders are adult learners who like to be self-directed, are goal oriented, bring experience to situations, are relevancy oriented, practical, and expect a high degree of respect. Setting up coaching engagements that honour these principles sets the foundation for success in a coaching relationship.
2. Business Skills: possesses knowledge of the business and public sectors and understands the business and organizational contexts in which a client is operating. These skills include strategic planning and execution, economics, marketing, finance, information technology, management, budgeting, governance, etc. For example, an executive coach with business expertise can aid a leader in developing business-related competencies.
3. Organizational Behaviour Knowledge: understands organizational structures, systems, and processes and has skills in organizational assessment and design, leadership models, models of learning organizations, systems theory, change management, human resource planning, development and succession, and talent management.
For example, an executive coach who knows the type of culture of the organization in which the leader is leading will help provide a context and understanding that can aid the leader in developing strategies for change, learning or improvement.
4. Coaching Theory and Action Expertise: is knowledgeable of current theories, research, and practices in the field of executive coaching, the seven overarching principles for executive coaches, the coaching process, underlying principles of and approaches to different types of coaching, and evolving trends in the practice of executive coaching.
For example, leadership development tops the list as a key need for hiring a coach, while a recent trend in coaching shows an increasing demand for developing ‘executive presence.’