Are you considering embarking on a career as an executive coach? Do you have to incorporate coaching into your current role? Richard Andrews, Associate Coach at Right Management shares his views on what it takes to excel as an executive coach.
What it Takes to be an Executive Coach
Coaching may be defined as a collaborative partnership between the coach and a client, which empowers the client to become more self-aware, learn and improve performance. It is not training; the coach facilitates the client’s development. Executive coaching takes place in a corporate context and organisational objectives are at the forefront, along with the individual’s.
I divide what it takes to be an executive coach into four areas.
The first area is the qualities that the coach brings to the coaching relationship. To build a strong and effective partnership, the coach must, above all, be empathic. She must be able to understand and identify with the thoughts and feelings of the client, without judging. As a result, the client will feel comfortable working with the coach and rapid progress can be made. Whilst the coach is working in a non-judgemental way, he must also be objective, helping the client to stand back and consider the situation from an external perspective, perhaps forming a more realistic view of what is actually going on. The final quality I consider is self-confidence. To be effective, the coach needs the confidence to remain empathic whilst not colluding, to challenge robustly without feeling vulnerable.
These qualities are supported by a range of skills, the second category. Perhaps the most important is the ability to listen actively; the coach must not just listen to the client, she must accurately summarise and reflect what the client has said, so that the client feels heard and empathy can be built. The coach also needs the expertise to ask insightful, usually open, questions, to explore and clarify the situation and allow the client to develop a fuller, more conscious, understanding of what is going on. The final competence relates to challenge; it can be difficult to frame a challenge in a way that is both robust and effective, without alienating the client. Building this competence is a vital requirement for the coach.
The third area is an understanding and awareness of the system in which the client is operating. This is particularly important for work in the corporate world, where business goals are crucial to the coaching. It does not necessarily mean that the coach has direct experience of the client’s industry, although this may be helpful, but he must have a good grasp of corporate complexities and paradox, in order to know the right kind of questions to ask, both at the goal-setting stage and as the coaching programme continues.
Underpinning the other three areas is training and development. Like any other professional the coach should be appropriately qualified and carry out meaningful amounts of relevant CPD. She should also receive regular supervision to shine a light on practice and highlight development areas.
In this short article, I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of this complex subject. Qualities such as empathy, supported by skills like active listening and embraced by organisational insights, the whole enhanced by CPD; that is what it takes to be an executive coach.