Five Truths about Executive Development Coaching

Boards of Directors are increasingly holding CEOs accountable to serve as development coaches to their successors. It is no longer acceptable for the CEO to simply hire an outsider to do her/his work. Chances are that if the CEO does not have the motivation and skill to coach potential successors, they either have, or will have, limited credibility with their Boards. And their executive teams will not perform to their potential. This issue is placing CEOs at risk if they do not step up.
Executive Development Coaching is about optimizing the thinking of leaders. Even if you are not a product of the 60’s or 70’s, most of us respond to someone telling us what to do with a question such as, “Why”. Like Socrates, if the coach uses the power of asking the right question, in the right manner, at the right time, possibilities are explored, options are thoughtfully discussed and decisions regarding next steps are understood.  Coaching should produce a shared view of goals, current reality, options, actions and measures of success. Thinking and independence is optimized through questions.
Executive Development Coaching is not appropriate in every situation. Coaching works best when someone is motivated and has the potential to discover and own their judgment, while welcoming the challenge of the coach to help in the discovery process. Coaching for correcting performance or behavioral issues is very different than executive business coaching, and at times requires a much more directive response.
Regardless of past success, we can all benefit from Executive Development Coaching. Leadership demands continued learning and improvement. Board chairs and most executive leaders are not really good at development coaching, as they learned the old model of either positive or corrective coaching-feedback. Having said that, it is a skill that is highly amenable to development. The closer one gets to the top, the lonelier it can be.
Careful selection of Executive Development Coaches is essential. There is a tremendous variation of capability in the market. If you are interested but do not know exactly what you or your organization needs, engage someone to help to pinpoint the need and help you to select the best coaching resources.