Dale Kurow Executive Coach
“My time spent with Dale was absolutely instrumental to the growth of my leadership skills. Let me be on record that this document does not do justice to the profound effect that Dale had on me and will have on me for the rest of my managing life.”

Jonathan Lederer, VP, Sales, Popkin Software,
New York City

Do You Need An Executive Coach?

Recently, I had an exploratory conversation with a potential client who was seeking an executive coach. When I asked what she wanted to gain from executive coaching, her reply was "I want my boss to tell me what to do."

My conversation with this potential client, and the obvious need for clarification of the purpose and process of executive coaching, was the catalyst for writing this article.

Here are the questions that arose:

When should you hire an executive coach?

How does executive coaching work?

Are there any instances when executive coaching is not appropriate?

How do you know when you need an executive coach?

When should you hire an executive coach?

If you've just undertaken a new, larger role in your company, whether it expands your areas of responsibility, or you are required to manage a much larger staff.

If you have started a new job, in a new company, and want to formulate a plan for success. Expectations are high; you will be expected to make an immediate impact and demonstrate that you can build good relationships inside and outside the company.

If you've been praised for your technical and/or creative abilities, but your boss and/or latest performance appraisal cite issues of insensitivity towards others, lack of emotional intelligence, or the need to polish your "communication" skills.

If you have a pattern of behavior that former and current bosses have noted and this pattern seems to follow you from job to job.

If you need to decide between conflicting job and career priorities and want to develop and execute a plan to accommodate both.

How does executive coaching work?

Executive coaching is a perk, whether you pay for it yourself, or it is paid by your employer. Most progressive companies use coaching as a developmental tool for valuable employees.

First and foremost, you need to work with a coach you feel comfortable with, someone who has a style that matches yours, someone who "gets" you. The coach becomes your trusted partner. Like a good suit, the fit is of utmost importance. Use your intuition to guide you in the selection process.

During the initial coaching sessions, you work together to set goals and develop a plan to reach those goals. The plan might consist of taking an assessment, to get a baseline reading on your approach to management tasks.

The discussion of real-world, real-time examples of workplace issues that you are facing is an important aspect of the process. These issues could even be instances where you felt your response to a question or problem could have been more effective. In discussing the example, your coach would ask questions that help you develop an alternative approach when faced with a similar situation in the future.

If your company is providing you with an executive coach, the initial discussions also include your boss, who will help to set objectives. The coach will share your progress with your boss periodically during the coaching engagement, but only in generic terms, never in detail. The best outcomes occur when your boss is fully engaged in the process and provides feedback to both you and your coach. To be clear, your coach only touches base with your boss when the company is funding the coaching.

More information about executive coaching, and how it works, can be found on my website at: http://www.dalekurow.com/executive-coaching.

Are there any instances when executive coaching is nor appropriate?

Executive coaching should not be used as a disciplinary tool. If you've received a poor performance appraisal the specific issues noted in the appraisal need to be addressed by your boss.

Executive coaches are not meant to be messengers who deliver bad news, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for a weak manager/boss.

Executive coaching does not "fix" a person. It draws upon a person's strengths, and depending upon the client's flexibility and openness to change, can have a lasting positive behavioral impact.

Executive coaches are not the intermediary between you and your boss. You need to be clear on what your boss's priorities are in order to be effective. If you are not, then a one-on-one discussion with your boss is the first step.

Do not expect your boss to tell you what to do. You need to have an open conversation with your boss to voice your concerns and offer solutions. At the executive level you will be expected to think creatively and independently and bring solutions and suggestions to the table.

You need an executive coach if:

You are confused about your next step after being passed over for a promotion.

You've inherited a staff or department with employee relation's problems and have minimum experience and/or training in handling thorny employee issues.

You've set stretch goals for your life and/or career, have an interesting job, outside interests and a good family life, but want a plan to reach the next level.

You've recently been promoted to the executive suite and realize you need more sophisticated political skills than you currently possess.

You will surely be tested as you climb the corporate ladder. No one achieves success or secures a senior position without making mistakes and encountering colleagues with more experience and savvy. Hiring the right coach can have a huge positive impact on your career. Specifically, your executive coach can help you navigate treacherous corporate waters and help you learn lasting lessons that will span your entire career.
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Dale Kurow, Career & Executive Coach, 175 W. 76th St., New York, NY 10023