The executive coaching profession has gone through many changes since gaining wide acceptance almost two decades ago. Treated first with some suspicion, as an intervention specifically geared for ‘ill-performing’ executives, it gained broader acceptance as we had to tackle new and complex challenges e.g. the globalisation of services in the early 2000s, the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, and the uneven growth (and sometimes bust) we have witnessed in large emerging economies.
All of these presented executives with many new challenges, for which we discovered a textbook has not been not written. We needed to think through these challenges, with a beginners’ mindset. These were in many respects dilemmas (and so we have touched on the power of dilemmas in our Weekly Growth Inspiration
, a while back.).
But what have these changes done to shape the role of the executive coach today? Certainly, the content of coaching has changed somewhat. We reach out to our coaches with questions about doubt and resilience, of sense-making new societal dynamics, and sometimes, simply for support, on the road to a ‘new normal’. Coaches have become closer to us, as we opened our hearts and minds, to a skilled observer to our life’s dilemmas, our unanswered questions and attempts to make sense of a rapidly changing reality.
At their essence, executive coaches remain trusted partners – who can challenge us to seek a new,
often broader perspective, who play back to us our own narratives and so help us listen with greater intent, to what we must voice, and who are our accountability partners in ventures which are sometimes mere ideas, sometimes only partly in form, and which rest on many assumptions, often untested. They help us de-risk our own thinking and our decision-making processes.
They are no longer pure facilitators of a process, completely detached – but can bring context, new insights and tools to the table, helping us to place pieces of information into new forms. If I could use an analogy from our work in innovation, the best executive coaches help us to make connections which we wouldn’t have made ourselves. They help us make new connections, in which we become more adept, fast followers of discrete ideas, they help us build a map to our imagined destinations – whether a new business aspiration, a new product idea or a shift in one’s life balance – and in the times of the Great Resignation, there are many of these to explore…
As an executive coach myself, it is a privilege when invited to help executives to make these connections and having several executive coaches to draw on, all with their contextual knowledge and tools, I can more effectively sense-make. This has and remains invaluable, especially in these emergent times. These are the many gifts that executive coaching can bring into our lives. Sometimes all it takes is one
question, well-timed, which causes us to pause and become curious – and we take the first step into the journey of exploration.
Have a good weekend everyone!