NATURALLY human beings have a tendency of slouching themselves into the comfort zone and are a little apprehensive when someone tries to “disturb” them from those “comfortable pedestals.” In business such “cold comforts” are detrimental to organisational progress and productivity. Being comfortable in a situation causes an individual to develop certain assumptions which one tend to treat as facts to a point where he/she will believe something is true when in actual fact that something has very little basis in actual data.
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An executive coach helps those in decision making positions to challenge widely held assumptions and discern facts from opinion, something which is very critical in running organisations successfully. Such intervention by the executive coach helps expose certain erroneous assumptions before decision making occurs by testing the meaning being added, the conclusions drawn and beliefs formed. The question is; Is Zimbabwe ready for executive coaching?
Best case scenarios
Further afield, IBM has more than sixty certified coaches among its ranks. Scores of other major companies in the United States and Europe have made coaching a core part of executive development. The belief is that, under the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party can provide a focus that other forms of organisational support simply cannot. In the developed world, whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting high achievers. In these cases companies are using coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organisational leaders.
It is clear executive coaching has evolved into the mainstream fast where as in Zimbabwe it is still to take off at that pace. Given the great demand in the workplace for immediate results, coaching can be the remedy that the doctor has ordered for Zimbabwe. How? by providing feedback and guidance in real time, coaching develops leaders in the context of their current jobs, without removing them from their day-to-day responsibilities.
The two paradigms to coaching
Although both the organisation and the executive must be committed to coaching for it to be successful, the idea to engage a coach can originate from either HR or leadership development professionals or from executives themselves.
In the past, it has more often sprung from the organisational side. But given the growing track record of coaching as a tool for fast movers, world over we are beginning to see more executives choosing coaching as a proactive component of their professional life.
Executive coaching is not an end in itself
In spite of its apparently robust potential, the very act of taking on a coach will not help advance your career. In other words, don’t seek coaching just because other fast movers in the firm seem to be benefiting from it. Rather coaching is effective for executives who can say, “I want to get over there, but I’m not sure how to do it.” Evidence has shown that coaching works best when you know what you want to get done.
Perhaps, in spite of your outstanding track record, you haven’t yet gained the full interpersonal dexterity required of senior managers—for example, you’re not yet a black belt in the art of influence, which is so important in the modern networked organisation. Honing such a skill might be an appropriate goal for a coaching assignment.
Again, simply having a clear purpose won’t guarantee coaching value in fact one should be open to feedback and willing to create positive change. If not, coaching may not be the answer.
At what point should you engage a coach?
There are certain times when executives are most likely to benefit from coaching. Executives should seek coaching when they feel that a change in behaviour—either for themselves or their team members—can make a significant difference in the long-term success of the organisation. More specifically, some experts say, coaching can be particularly effective in times of change for an executive. That includes promotions, stretch assignments, and other new challenges. While you may be confident in your abilities to take on new tasks, you may feel that an independent sounding board would be beneficial in helping you achieve a new level of performance, especially if close confidants are now reporting to you. More so, you may recognise that succeeding in a new role requires skills that you have not needed to rely on in the past; a coach may help sharpen those skills, particularly when you need to do so in the shortest possible period. Please remember, coaching is not just for tackling new assignments. It can also play an invigorating role. Coaches can help executives develop new ways to attack old problems. Also when efforts to change yourself, your team, or your company have failed—you are frustrated or burned out—a coach can be the outside expert to help you get to the root cause and make fundamental changes. With the increasing demographic changes in the labour market, one increasingly common use of coaching for senior executives focuses on the challenges of managing younger workers, and on helping executives better understand and lead a new generation of employees whose work ethics and values are different.
Coaching engagements should be part of a larger initiative
Coaching works when it’s systematic and studies show that many organisations use coaching as an integrated part of a larger leadership development program. Increasingly, firms incorporate “360-degree” feedback, using the results to indicate areas in which an executive might benefit from working with a coach. Has your feedback revealed an area in which you would like to improve? Is it a +kill you need to refine in order to advance through the organization? Would you benefit from an outside perspective? The answers to these questions help gauge the potential value of coaching.
Coaching unique benefits
One of the big benefits of a coach is that they are not tied to the organization, your friends, or anyone else but they are tied to you only, so they support what you want and where you want to go.
Robert Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.