Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, said that the best advice he ever received was to get a career coach – and he is not the only one who thinks so. Leaders across the world are recognising the value of a career coach in navigating their careers and adapting to the evolving business challenges they face. But what is it about executive coaching that makes it such a priceless resource, and what should you look for in a coach?
The Power of Quality Coaching
When starting out in a leadership role, there will often be a plethora of information coming at you from multiple angles. A good leader needs to assume operational responsibility and provide input into strategy and direction, whilst getting to grips with the company culture and people. In these situations (with such a complex web of data to contend with), career coaching can be a valuable tool to help accelerate the learning curve and further leadership development.
One of the biggest barriers to achieving good outcomes at a senior leadership level is unconscious bias. Executive coaching arms leaders with the ability to keep an open mind and identify key areas that could become problematic in the future. An effective executive coach builds self-awareness, allowing leaders to analyse their environment from a more objective point-of-view to better understand how they are perceived, as well as opportunities for improvement.
Similarly, a competent executive coach can help a new leader to overcome internal limitations, leverage their gifts and, ultimately, maximise their potential. They will work collaboratively with the individual to create a targeted development plan that utilises resources such as stakeholder interviews and personalised assessments to achieve specific goals.
Finally, with so much responsibility resting on their shoulders, many leaders will attest that life at an executive level can feel lonely at times. A coach not only serves as a sounding board, but someone who will challenge, encourage and provide confidence and empathy when a leader needs it most.
What to Look for When Engaging a Coach?
It goes without saying, but the key to improving your leadership skills is to find a coach with whom you have the right kind of chemistry – an effective coach should provide an impartial voice, whilst maintaining a relationship based on trust and a positive rapport. It’s important to gauge not only a person’s experience, but their energy and the value they can add to your career. It is also vital that leaders understand their own needs when engaging either a mentor or coach.
Whilst there is no universal formula for an effective executive coach, these qualities will help to identify a coach that will be a solid investment:
- Credentials – These days, anyone can call themselves a coach, so look out for people with training or qualifications to back up their claims. Coaches with credentials from the International Coach Federation (or an accredited school), will have graduated from a strictly-regulated curriculum and are required to continue their professional development throughout their career.
- Proven skills and experience – A quality coach is more than just a support person; they should be able to highlight the specific skills they possess that will benefit their clients. Similarly, they should have their own journey and track record of success. The best coaches are continually pursuing their own growth, and can provide examples of successful outcomes from both their own lives and those of their clients.
- A transparent process – Look for executive coaches that are clear about their process right from the start, detailing exactly how they will help to overcome challenges and apply new skills in the workplace. This process should include both self-assessment and feedback obtained from third-party sources, such as colleagues and managers, to identify behavioural patterns and areas for improvement.
Whether you’re in need of guidance around a new leadership role or are focussed on improving your executive leadership skills, it might be time to think about bringing in an executive coach – it’ll be well worth the investment!
OnTalent’s expert Career Management Services team supports leaders at all stages of their careers and provides a great resource for those looking to boost their on-the-job effectiveness. Get in touch with the executive recruitment experts at OnTalent to find out what we can do for you, and to find out more about our executive coaching and Career Management Services.