If you go back 20 years, executive coaching was largely unheard of. But recently it has gained a lot of momentum and popularity. And for very good reasons.
But what actually is executive coaching, and why is it such a highly regarded tool?
We caught up with Kelly Barlow, former People Director at Stagecoach, who is now an Executive Coach to shed some light.
What is executive coaching?
Coaching is about supporting somebody to achieve something.
We all know great athletes have coaches to help to improve their performance, so why should it be any different with executives? Some of the worlds best CEO’s will have used executive coaching.
Coaching helps individuals to set goals, identify challenges and areas for improvement, and to gain confidence in their abilities to succeed.
With 20 years as a HR Director in the transport sector, Kelly has procured a lot of executive coaching. And having been sat on both sides of the table has helped her to identify what you want in a coach and what you don’t want in a coach, and there really is really wide range available to you.
Selecting the right coach for the individual and the organisation, is crucial to its success.
When is it most useful for organisations or individuals to consider bringing in an executive coach?
For the organisation there are three main times that a coach may be useful:
- If there is a talent development programme in place, with tailored development for individuals on that programme.
- If the company is undergoing restructuring. You may consider some outplacement support and career coaching to employees who are leaving the business. Or coaching could be beneficial to individuals staying within the organisation who you are looking to promote.
- If there are some performance issues. Coaching could be identified as a way of helping individuals to overcome some of their challenges.
From an individual point of view:
- You could be looking to improve performance in a certain area and may need some help in terms of growing confidence to overcome some barriers that are in the way.
- Might be in a career transition and you’re not quite sure which direction to go in and looking for some support making those changes.
For both the organisation and the individual, coaching is particularly useful for those taking a step up, especially those stepping up into a boardroom position for the first time. You may be ready for the jump, but just need that added layer of support to make that transition, whilst performing in that role.
This is something we have seen that a lot in recent years with organisations looking to improve levels of diversity. Often that requires bringing people into boardrooms that haven’t had that experience previously and one of the tools used to aid this progression is coaching.
Executive coaching for outplacement support.
Given the current situation, we are seeing a lot of companies restructuring and planning some levels of redundancies over the next few months.
We have been increasingly been approached by clients about outplacement support. How can coaching be used for outplacement support?
A question that Kelly is asked a lot is, “why would I invest in someone that is leaving?”
We all strive to be good employers, and the ones that do it particularly well are the ones that do it in good times as well as bad times.
If you treat the people well that are leaving you, it will have a lasting effect on both the team that are left behind and those that are leaving.
Executive coaching as part of an outplacement support package doesn’t have to be a significant investment.
It is typically made up of 2-3 sessions covering some practical things like interviewing techniques, what it’s like to look for a job in the current climate, and working with them on some of their personal challenges. Building their confidence about their future job, and their own personal resilience.
Outplacement support can really help to provide some tips to help individuals to manage themselves at what could be an incredibly challenging and difficult time.
How does Executive Coaching work?
Outside of outplacement support, a regular programme of executive coaching is a supportive process which typically lasts 6-8 months. If people think that it is a “quick fix”, it isn’t.
It starts with an initial goal setting meeting to determine what they want to achieve. This is followed by a series of around 6 sessions that are 2 hours in length spread over 6-8 months, with a review session at the end to discuss life after coaching.
In terms of what the individual needs to do; they need to absolutely show up and be an active participant. Its very much about getting the individual to do something that they want to achieve.
It’s an honest appraisal of themselves and the challenges they face. Which is why picking the right coach for you is really important because it is quite an intimate relationship which is built on trust and confidentiality.
What are the main benefits?
The main benefits to the organisation are –
- It will improve the performance of your people. Coaching is tailored personal development that will fit well with your own internal talent programme.
- It’s a very cost-effective way of developing your talent because you can be very specific with about what the goals and objectives are.
- It drives 360 degree feedback and you can start to really be specific about the areas for improvement.
The benefits for the individual are –
- In a world where everyone is constantly on the go, it provides time to reflect, gain a new perspective, and think about issues or future challenges.
- Coaching introduces different tools and techniques to help people understand themselves better and develop themselves professionally.
How do you measure its effectiveness?
It’s really important that coaching is more than just a “coffee chat”.
Anyone procuring coaching wants value for money and sustainable change – whether that’s the individual buying it for themselves or the organisation sponsoring someone to do it. So measuring effectiveness is really important.
Agree goals at the start of the programme and review those goals continually throughout the process. Then have a review session at the end to identify what has changed. What is different as a result.
360-degree feedback is a great tool for measuring the effectiveness of the coaching. Clients should evaluate themselves at the start and towards the end to measure the performance improvement.
It’s important, that even though the coaching may take place in an informal style, there is a formal process behind the coaching which is fundamental to getting sustainable change.
Kelly works with a wide range of clients across a host of different industries and at different points in their career. To get in touch with Kelly, pop her a message on her LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-barlow-a7a2692b/
We work alongside Kelly for our outplacement support package which encompasses – CV writing, interview skills, LinkedIn training, email writing, profiling and assessments, how to use job boards, understanding the job market, building your personal brand, engaging with recruiters, personal well-being and resilience, and career coaching, the latter of which Kelly provides as part of our service.