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January 6, 2012

Executive Coaching

by marcobuchbinder

I will be covering the topic of “self development” across a number of posts given its importance in shaping our personal and professional lives.

Think about it…if professional athletes and teams have coaches, shouldn’t executives have them, too? We are after all, technically speaking, also considered “professional,” aren’t we?

Broadly speaking, executive coaches work with their clients in areas that are critical to growing an executive’s career. While executive coaches cover a variety of areas, almost always they will help hone their client’s career path, communication skills, executive presence, strategic thinking and conflict resolution skills, while also helping an executive during career transitions.

I have and continue to benefit from coaching. It has made a significant influence on both my professional and personal lives, and I have noticed the greatest influence in self-awareness, work/life balance, career planning, influencing others and in identifying strengths and weaknesses.

It is for this reason that I have often wondered why more companies don’t leverage executive coaching to further advance its leaders.

Here are some of the reasons from my point of view– From a company perspective: high costs (though the benefits could dramatically outweigh these costs), lack of awareness and the assumption that A-players don’t need coaching. From an executive perspective (similar to above): high costs (if the company is not willing to reimburse individuals) and the time commitment.

It’s important to overcome these reasons for not doing executive coaching because it can prove to be invaluable to an individual’s professional career. But, it is equally important to seek out a coach that fits. To avoid wasting valuable time, it helps to know the difference between a good coach and a great coach.

Here is the key difference: the better coaches first spend time understanding who you are as a person (as opposed to who you are as an executive). These coaches take the time to understand for example, your childhood upbringing, relationships with parents and siblings, your culture and lifestyle and any significant life events that may have influenced your personality. So, though not always required, I do believe strongly that you should disclose personal information, to the extent that it helps your executive coach fully understand who you are.

My advice: seriously consider getting a coach and take time to find the right one. Ultimately, your executive coach and you will form a partnership of sorts. My executive coach, Penny Webb of Familias & Co. in London, and I first met in 2004 and we continue to speak at least once a month. She is an integral part in helping pave my career path and her insight has been invaluable.

I hope each of you will take the time to develop a long-term relationship with an executive coach who can help guide you throughout your career. After all, who else will help you uncover your blind spots? Who is going to help you navigate your career path? Who will help you implement a plan that addresses priority areas? Most importantly, who will keep you “honest” and “accountable” to meeting your career objectives?

If you have experience working with an executive coach, I invite you to share your story with others below.

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