It is no surprise – with the ever-changing work context and the socioeconomic impacts on organisations – that executives need to prioritise their time effectively. Leisurely meetings have become obsolete and are replaced with short, punchy, results-oriented decisions, matching the fast-paced environments that dominate business nowadays. To the sceptic, a 90-minute chat, that the executive has to pay for, with someone sometimes younger or less experienced is something that drops to the bottom of the list of priorities, yet to the executive reaping the rewards of a high-impact coaching session, this is not so at all.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey eloquently stated that creating a habit of taking time out to “sharpen the saw” goes a long way to becoming a more effective leader. What executive coaching does is create exactly this time for leaders to reflect, consider alternatives, and obtain a different perspective on challenging situations – thus providing a measure of intelligence which may otherwise have been overlooked. What is most interesting about the experience of coaching is that the shift in mindset is often exponential in relation to the 90 minutes spent per month.
According to Bossons, Kourdi and Sartain, authors of Coaching Essentials, some of the challenges that executives face, and which may be fruitfully worked through with a coach, include:
- Leadership, communication and engagement styles
- Managing complexity, change and ambiguity
- Developing resilience
- Leading teams
- Delivering results quickly
- Managing transition – new role, new team, new portfolio
The reasons why working with a coach is helpful include:
- Coaching challenges typical ways of thinking.
- Coaching, when done well, encourages creative problem solving by considering various perspectives.
- While considering a potential solution to a problem, other solution options are also considered and evaluated, thereby creating a more objective view on the way forward.
- Being guided by a coach who is objective but who is also supportive of one’s endeavours creates a space to explore alternatives that one may not otherwise have considered.
It sounds rosy, but this isn’t always the case. Coaching is a relatively new and yet to be regulated profession. Like with all new ventures, coaching standards range from excellent to poor. With that comes varied experiences of coaches: some swearing by the value gained, and others overtly ridiculing this so-called pseudo-profession. Attempts to regulate the profession are perceived in different lights – either negatively as an income-generating stream for the opportunist, or positively, where clear attempts to quality assure the standard of coaching are being made. Institutions like the International Coach Federation(ICF), International Institute of Coaching and Mentoring (IIC&M) (UK) and the English Coaching Management Committee (ECMC) (Europe) have put in place robust mechanisms to assess the quality of coaching offered, such as supervision of coaching, submission of academic papers (research papers, reflective assignments, studies), as well as the submission of coaching logs to demonstrate the experience gained, much like a trainee pilot logs flying hours.
Neuroscientists in recent years attest to the changes in brain function when one is challenged with self-discovery and taking ownership of a particular problem. Neuroimaging shows that brain cells in the cortices (where problem-solving, judgement, reasoning, analysis reside), rather than in the limbic brain (where sensory perception and the emotional centre that triggers fight or flight responses reside) exhibit electrical stimulation. Reasoning one’s course of action removes hindering emotions and makes for committed action, coaching being the enabling mechanism that enables this.
Coaching is not just for executives. It is for anyone looking to achieve a ground-breaking result in their careers or personal lives. We spend lots of money on houses, furniture, cars, and leisure activities, so why not invest in ourselves in a way that truly makes a marked difference?
In my book, The Mind Age™: Mastering Your Infinite Mind for Success for 2040 and Beyond, my research shows that, with the population growth expected to climb from 7,1 billion to approximately 9 billion by the year 2040, we will have run out of natural food, fuel and water resources, and space on the planet will come at a premium. Business magnates such as Branson, Gates and Musk know this already and have begun venturing into alternative energy and space colonisation – with the appeal of mining near-earth asteroids catching the attention of progressive energy providers.
Business is also challenged by the impact that technology is having on business models – automation is streamlining business performance and expediting the route to market, but also reducing the need for people in many industries. This is driving the need for more entrepreneurial thinking about how households can afford the future cost of living. As organisations increasingly reduce salaried employees and the contracting market presents a compelling value proposition in eliminating the need for office infrastructure and associated costs, people need to think hard about their own market offering to organisations, buyers of their products and services, and how well they differentiate themselves in what is becoming a much larger labour market force.
With this as the backdrop, executives increasingly need to consider the demands of business along with the challenges that the environment poses, and how – with these constraints – to stand out from the competition, dominate the market share in the sector in which the organisation operates, adopt ethical work practices, and build a solid brand. What better way to achieve this than with a thinking partner in the form of an executive coach!