A senior VP in an organization asked me if I would coach one of his Directors. The Director has spent five years in her position and now is being offered coaching as a way to improve her leadership skills. In over a decade of coaching I have learned to sniff out good coaching candidates, and everything in me signaled this is not a strong candidate.
This Director is bright but inattentive to details, she is ambitious politically savvy but not attuned to strong relationships, and she is strategic but easily plays favorites in her department. She has great strengths for the job, and great liabilities in her leadership. I don’t believe coaching is her best resource. I believe she needs real counseling and disciplining from the CEO. And I told the VP as much.
My experience is that a company – for profit, non-profit, or public agency – is NOT a democracy. Rules clearly emanate from the senior leaders. Direction is dictated by the executives. Consequences and rewards are meted out by senior executives. People of good ideas cannot simply implement their will by voting them into action. Along with power and authority executives of organizations are the chief stewards of the Culture.
Culture is the energy of an organization. Culture is the spirit of a company. Culture is the language, rituals, stories, and attitudes of the people who work together. And while each person in the organization contributes to the culture, the executives in general and CEO in particular contribute the most.
What emerged in the conversation is not that the Director receive leadership coaching. What emerged is that the CEO and the other executives participate in coaching. And why should they be coached? Not because they are not brilliant in their jobs, but because they are the stewards of the culture. The culture influences how and what work gets done. When the executives make better decisions, the entire organization improves. Period.