While executive and leadership coaching share many features with the coaching that managers provide for their employees, there is at least one critical difference. As a manager, you are responsible and accountable for the outcome of what your employee does or does not do. As an executive coach, I’m responsible and accountable for the improvement of the executive, but not for their total work output.
While responsibility for the outcomes might be different, the coaching process that we engage is fundamentally the same. For this purpose, clients and managers alike have found great value in understanding our unique, dynamic, and applied definition of coaching.
Coaching is a collaborative relationship that accelerates results and learning through trust and curiosity.
“Collaborative relationship,” as it implies, indicates that the relationship flows both ways. Coach and coachee are equally investing effort, attention, and energy into the process. My most telling sign that coaching is not happening is that I’m exhausted. Fatigue indicates that I’m either pushing or pulling too hard, but in either case it means that I am expending all my energy and the coachee is, at best, absorbing, if not downright wasting it.
“Accelerates results” literally means that things happen faster. Coaching is intended to speed up the outcomes for which the coachee is responsible. Coaching results vary from task and job competency, to relationship mastery, to political acumen, to emotional intelligence, to strategic thinking.
“Accelerates learning” holds a very special place in the coaching process. While results and outcomes might speed up, it is not sufficient for a person to do things faster, unless they also learn how to think more creatively, more independently, more strategically, and more globally. Effective coaching enables the coachee to develop their capacity for judgment and for decision-making, as well as their ability to get things done. More than one client has commented that coaching increases trial with fewer errors.
Trust is a fundamental issue to an effective coaching relationship. In the absence of trust you and I will be defended, guarded, careful and selective around one another. Trust in this environment is specific. This is not a question of whether or not I trust you to watch my children for the weekend. If you’re my coach, I’m asking myself, “do I believe you have my best interest at heart.” When I believe that you know my best interest and that you are making efforts to promote it, I will then be open, honest, and collaborative with you.
Curiosity is a multipurpose tool in the coaching relationship. As a pick it allows us to chip away at the surface of problems and develop a deeper understanding of the situation, the person, and the desired outcomes. As a magnifying glass, it allows us to focus the mind – questions direct our thinking, inquiry, and creative problem-solving.
Equipped with this definition, even with little or no training in coaching skills, you can now affect more coaching in you management role. By simply posting this definition on your desk, when you find yourself in a coaching moment, ask yourself, “am I collaborating with this person to help them accelerate results and learning through trust and curiosity?”
And, should you like to engage with a coach or bring in training on effective coaching, please contact us. Good luck!