Executive Coaching





Leadership coaching is now the management model of choice in nearly half of all the Fortune 1000 Corporations in North America. That number is growing each year as advanced models of systemic managerial coaching take hold.

Today’s executives are faced with mounting leadership issues as they attempt to navigate their way through unprecedented global change.  The issues they face are multiple, yet unique to the 21st Century:  the generational shift of an aging workforce, shareholder demands, increased corporate accountability and the demographics of personnel with a whole new set of attitudes, values and beliefs.  Together, these create a difficult blend of push-pulls, which leaders must negotiate through on a daily basis. It is this soup of complex expectations that keep many executives up nights, and keep team meetings tense.  Today, more than ever, executives require a personal coach.

The world is ready!

Leadership coaching can be likened to the managerial equivalent of the early days of the PC:  the first national banks to fully computerize their data systems and fully train their personnel had a big leg up on all the rest.  It’s the same thing with executive coaching.  With more than 40 percent of the world’s Fortune 1000 corporations starting to go down this “skill-set” road towards managerial coaching approaches, the trend is not about to stop any time soon. 

The rising popularity of leadership coaching can also be attributed to technology advances over the past few decades which has produced quantum leaps in productivity increases.  Gradually, this shift has created relationship gaps between corporations and their top executives, which is urgently moving them to develop productive ways for business and executives to work together as a new source of economic value.

In most cases, organizations supplement their current leadership training programs with situational coaching, starting with one sector or layer, testing the approach slowly.  Many are using 360’s for feedback, and then continuing, experiment by experiment.  A good example of an effective approach using 360’s is the exemplary coaching of Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins, heads of Dell Computers.  As described in the May 2004 edition of the Harvard Business Review, executive coaching helped to revolutionize Dell’s corporate culture and achieve industry-leading results.

Leadership training supported by situational coaching primarily assists leaders to design a high level capacity for visionary thinking, as well as the “soft skills” skill-sets to organize strong relationships with their direct reports and working teams.

The Solution Focused Approach:  A Connection with Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (“EI”) relates to flexibility, planning, communication and relationship skills that can be necessary to influence and energize employees and adapt to rapid change.  Although tools such as objective assessments and candid feedback can be essential to executives’ development in these areas, they are still not widely practiced because candor generates emotion, and emotion can be scary.

EI can be developed through skillful internal dialogue habits.  It is always the context that sets the quality and kind of internal self-talk that people find themselves listening to.  We live inside of these internal conversations and for most people, context is random and therefore internal dialogue is beyond their own control and ‘moods happen’.

Solution focused coaching is about shifting that pattern.  We shift it radically when we provide simple, contextual tools for approaching a job with the appropriate internal talk that leads to creativity, power, and success.  With these tools, internal dialogue and leadership abilities can be redesigned quickly so that people show up in their power to embody effective leadership. They show up in their capacity to listen well.  What would a carpenter be without measuring stick?  If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat the world like a nail!”

This approach assists managers to set a powerful context for doing any job.  To do this, most people benefit from having a regular coaching meeting, (say once a week for 30 minutes, by phone).  This is necessary because most individuals have not learned how to design an internal, integral, “coach position” for many of life's ‘jobs’.  Secondly, we cannot see our own ‘blind spots’ in our interactions with others.  Solution focused approaches from a skillful coach move us beyond roadblocks.

As coaching managers, we assist others through continual conversations and contracts to link together the most effective time conversations, relationship conversations, and the most effective environmental practices to the job at hand.  We create the most powerful, detailed action movies seeing ourselves as masterful leaders with the key capabilities we need in current contexts.  Coaches assist to clarify motivation where it counts so that we set out to learn what needs to be learned as quickly as possible.  We link these to our professional frames and teamwork values.  We do it habitually and often, with little "fuss or muss" and we all get to experience the awesome authenticity involved.

Payoffs skyrocket when we start approaching our working relationships this way by using simple coaching models that "true us" to our focus like a carpenter's leveling tool.  We can achieve real mastery developing the kind of leadership that might be called ‘mastery of context.’  It allows us to develop relaxed team relationships and precision leadership, situation by situation.  It also develops our capacity to do deft, diplomatic and powerful presentations on the spot.”

 What’s in it for me??

Coaching skills add a lot to our abilities to approach daily life with balance, even temper, and even playfulness.  Leaders can count on solution focused coaching tools to enhance their own creativity, as well as that of their team.  Team facilitation workshops in corporate environments are especially useful where team awareness of coaching skills can make or break a project.

Solution focused managerial coaching produces significant productivity increases because it provides simple yet powerful systemic tools to augment corporate "EI" in a well-structured way.  It is particularly effective because it puts the abilities in the hands of individual leaders and teams to design their own coaching results.  Students take control of best practices at the organizational and operational levels.  They discover leadership development tools, team effectiveness tools, and project initiative tools.  All these approaches are designed to empower internal conversation so that effective leadership conversation follows hand-in-hand.

Successful Implementation

Best results happen when coaching programs are systemic, starting from the top leadership rung and applied with the chief executive officers taking part.  Results move quickly when the coaching teams are cohesive, each working with the same tools and following a strategic direction that allows the corporation’s top players to participate willingly in leadership 360’s.  It's a wonderful thing for players to see real performance change happening in their own boss. People on multiple levels become inspired quickly!

Corporate coaching leaders need to know their business well and follow an integrated coaching model developed for creating positive culture change.  Solution focused technologies can be especially powerful for this because

they combine rigorous training in “flow states” (recent brain-mind technologies), accelerated learning tools, NLP performance technologies, simple and superior assessment technologies such as 360’s, and creativity skill-sets that truly develop emotional intelligence.  Good corporate coaches are wizards at system thinking and can help teams move initiatives ahead by understanding the organization’s whole cultural system by asking multiple questions and soliciting different points of view. 

Skill-based coach training is essential for managerial effectiveness in these turbulent times.  While it accelerates emotional intelligence and effective workplace communication, it also unleashes untapped creativity and innovation, which causes motivation and commitment to soar.  This adds up to billions of dollars annually to the bottom lines or organizations choosing to take the coaching plunge.

By Marilyn Atkinson, PhD

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