Sunday, 13 May 2018

Executive Coaching

Personal reflections by me, of being coached, Coaching others and in supporting Coaching Interventions in organization.
We celebrated the International Coaching Week and I was invited as a panel member at the ICF, Bengaluru Chapter, 12 May, 2018. Here are some of the thoughts I shared.
1. How is coaching perceived either as an enabler or as a differentiator within the organisation given that there are several other forms of support / learning available?
a) A Coach provides presence as a container for what is moving within the client. It is a reflective space.
b) There are several interventions: Leadership Training, Projects, Mentoring, Counselling, Therapy, Skill building, Knowledge modules/Functional skills and all have their place. Some arguably, are more useful in developing Leadership/management skills, and especially at lower strata of the organization where mostly it is ‘doing the doing’ or even ‘managing the doing’, these other learning interventions are more important. Where leading the company or function, and where experience and knowledge is not at a discount, Executive Coaching can be a powerful potent tool. 
c) Just self- awareness by itself is not enough, you need Knowledge, business perspective and awareness of one’s value systems and beliefs, and also Authencity. 
d) Coaching to succeed is not an intervention by itself. It is a 1:1 supported self-reflection and where people have this ability, they can absolutely gain through Vipassana, Meditation, etc or even the path of spirituality. 
e) How we set up the Coaching process is crucial – no one needs to be pushed into it but sees it as an invitation to explore. Several years back employees felt they were fodder to ‘experiential programmes’ and resisted passively or actively. 
f) We’ve come a long way from yester years where coaching was perceived negatively – as someone who is ‘damaged goods’ (pardon my strong phrase). Today, Employee sees this as a signal that the company sees him as a valued asset, has higher expectation from him. And as coaching itself is moving away from Hybrid, and becoming more pristine, the client begins to take accountability for change and makes resultant commitment. 
g) In my 3 decades of experience in HR coaching clearly differentiates over assessment and development centers internal / external training programs. While short term bubble assignments including foreign exposure and actual internship are great perspective builders, I however contend that coaching specific to supporting leadership standards / performance is clearly a differentiated tool. I say this unabashedly, as my own internal value survey scores(NPS) has significantly changed and for 25+ DILT employees the value survey on manager effectiveness has also shown positive increase which is a clear ROI. Again, during my 2 ½ odd years as a coach having supported over a 100 clients (participants) I can attest personally to the power of coaching. As an aside, just the presence of the coach and the acknowledgement itself creates the movement.  
2. Why is coaching still tagged as an 'executive privilege' in many organisations?
a) Rightly speaking, coaching is expensive, relative to some other programs and has currently being used for the upper 10% of the organization. I am not sure it’s a privilege but an organizational necessity. One of colleagues at Diageo who has been recently coached was sent for a vacation for 5 days to an island in a previous organization he had worked for. Up until then, he had seen this gesture as the gold standard of being valued by his organization. Not any more He shared with me that an equivalent amount had been spent on him on coaching at Diageo and he felt that this was 5 lacs been put in his bank account with compound interest. 
b) Statistically, coaching is more at Leadership levels, recently across a slice of the HIPO’s especially those on pipeline for growth. 
c) Organisations are mitigating this, by providing Line managers as Coaches, but falling short of dedicated full time specialized coaches. In IT Companies, you have scrum leaders or black belts (GE) who are fully specialized. Here, we have to make a distinction between coaching (verb) by line managers with that of a Coach (noun) assigned to leaders. At Diageo, as part of the Amazing Manager’s Programme, one of the robust modules is Breakthrough Coaching. 
3. How are internal coaches perceived for their value vis a vis external coaches? What would be the synergy, harmony and differentiating need for internal Vs external coaches? 
a) All leaders must be able to direct create affiliation vision set pace be democratic and coach. These are part of the essential golf kit of a leader. However, external coaches, particularly with ICF credentials are experts and bring value in supporting senior leaders on their leadership journey. To summarize, the line manager needs to be a coach as one golf club in addition to many. The external coach is the expert. This is analogous to, an MBBS, GP doctor versus the specialist doctor. While an internal line manager can coach, an expert preferably external should be brought in.
b) Even if the organization has trained certified experienced coaches, there is still an issue: these coaches will have the respect but may not win the absolute trust. Especially, in the case of line manager who exercises judgement on performance as well, it would be impaired.
c) It’s quite possible for peers to give astute insights on internal political dynamics, even tips, like a Virat Kohli to a Shikar Dhawan, but that’s not coaching. Finally, the ‘confidentiality’ and personal sharing that is essential for true exploration may be impaired as the perception would be that it would ‘leak’ consciously or unconsciously. The Coach is ‘part of the same family’, while the external coach is viewed as being objective, professional and whose code of professional conduct would not allow to divulge confidential data. Regrettably, on the flip side some external coaches have taken refuge in this ‘confidentiality clause’ to avoid explaining impact and performance outcomes. It is critical Coach and Organisation have to enable perspective creation without recourse to be divulging confidential data.  
d) External coaches should not be left by themselves to coach. The performance of the Coach, the eco-system interfaces, and boundaries need to be well managed for external coaching to succeed. One cannot abdicate or delegate the leadership journey to external coaches. 
e) Chemistry of the Coach and Client, understanding of business perspective, and how the coaching is formatted within the larger talent agenda is critical for this to succeed.
In conclusion, and as closing comments, I’d like to close by saying, that executive coaching is one of the several learning interventions. Context makes a big difference to what learning interventions are ordered. Coaching is no silver bullet. Its needs the scaffolding necessary for it to succeed. It is not an intervention by itself, and by no account does it address issues of organization systems and systems theory which also impact organizational dynamics by elements of politics, boundaries, resources allocation and resource hoarding, etc and unconscious projective identification and unconscious bias that also needs to be understood and only through which organizational renewal is possible. 
Executive Coaching is in its heyday now, it’s well poised at this juncture and a powerful tool where organizations are working with this mindfully. No matter how seductive as coaching finds variations in Life Coaching, NLP Coaching, Mindfulness, Transpersonal Coaching and some forms, I must add, which appear to be fads, the primary linkage and purpose is to enable the client to unlock her potential to deliver the Business Performance. This primary task should not ever be lost. 


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Join me with your reflections, observations and perspectives. Please do share. Thanks, Steve