Friday, 18 February 2011

Executive Coaches are Different

I read a blog this week which talked about what to look for in an Executive Coach.  Many buyers and potential recipients of coaching are ignorant of what to look in an Executive Coach let alone what best practice looks like, so I do welcome such efforts.

The blog provided a good introduction and covered areas not obvious to the uninitiated such as professional Codes of Ethics.  Not sure what these are?  Download the EMCC’s Code of Ethics here which all of its members must adhere to.

My single issue with the guide though was the advice to seek an Executive Coach with a Psychology qualification.

Now let me confess that my chosen education and career paths have never led me to a Psychology qualification.  However, this doesn’t affect my ability to coach executives.  Indeed, there are many successful if not industry leading coaches without any Psychology qualifications.

What this does help reveal though is the different backgrounds of Executive Coaches and the potential for inherent biases.

Who becomes an Executive Coach?
The majority of Executive Coaches come from three quite different backgrounds each of which will inform and influence their practice:

As Executive Coaches, they will develop their practice over time but for most their overlap with the other disciplines will not be extensive... 
  • What opportunities would lead to a qualified psychologist gaining experience in Executive Management and then choosing to become an Executive Coach[4]?
  • How many Executive Managers are credible practioners in the Learning & Development space and work as Executive Coaches[3]?
  • Having developed a career in HR how much study of psychology would you have undertaken before choosing to become Executive Coach choose to undertake [2]?
Of course there are examples of individuals who span these disciplines as Executive Coaches but rarely will you find an Executive Coach that spans all three [1].

Valuing Difference
By only selecting Executive Coaches with Psychology qualifications you ignore a range of excellent Executive Coaches with a different type of expertise and commercial background.  Not only could this be without good reason, but you will potentially get a certain type of Executive Coach or coaching approach. 

For coaching as an industry as well as for the benefits of our clients it's important that we value the different perspectives, experiences and practices that an Executive Coach can bring.

We all have an interest in human behaviour.  We all want to ensure competence and good practice.  However, we don't all want or need to be the same.  Especially our clients.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Prepare to Stretch Yourself!

Learning requires us to experience what we do not already comprehend. In the workplace, we naturally learn in small increments as we fulfil our roles. However, to create a shift in learning and ability often requires us to stretch our known skills into the unknown.

Taking on such a challenge requires support, trust, encouragement and a willingness to take that step into the unknown. Often the best results come when that journey is shared.

Learning is a shared journey
Throughout our childhood we were constantly stretched by our parents and teachers. Whether it was being encouraged to take our first steps, reading more difficult stories or achieving higher grades.

Although it was our own knowledge and abilities that were being stretched, the challenge was shared with those responsible for overseeing our development. Sometimes this challenge was a joyful exploration. Other times we resisted and were encouraged, cajoled or pushed into stretching ourselves.

When we didn't have this support we felt it and probably didn't succeed as easily if at all.

Now we are adults we are more responsible and independent in our actions. However, we often forget that our learning has been a product of shared journeys with people we trust, stretching and challenging us along the way.

I know from my own experience as well as my work as a coach the impact such support can have when being asked to perform a new role or take on a stretching objective.

Prepare to Stretch Yourself
If we know what has worked throughout the most intensive period of learning in our lives (our childhood) then shouldn't that guide how we prepare ourselves in the workplace?

As a manager stretching your team are you prepared to share that journey and stretch yourself? How will you provide the necessary encouragement, coaching or motivation that may be required? How will you respond when someone tries but fails? How will you celebrate their achievements?

As an individual being stretched, how are you preparing yourself? Who will provide you with the support you need? How do you see this opportunity to learn? With support, how committed are you to the challenge?

Prepare to stretch yourself or others by ensuring it is a shared experience where support is abundant and judgement is not. Just look at how much we've achieved through being stretched in this way in the past. Why should it be any different now?