Individual executive coaching means one-to-one attention, private and confidential.
Coaching means helping to identify the skills and capabilities that are within the person, and enabling them to use them to the best of their ability. It means opening up new perspectives, finding new ways, and identifying dangers. Coaching is not therapy, as in fixing something that is broken; coaching opens the way to greater success for those of recognised capability (this is in the context of my practice—there are other forms and applications of coaching).
Coaching works: every person I have individually coached in recent years has been promoted or achieved other specifically stated objectives (such as selling a company, or standing out as a persuasive presenter).
Coaching pursues the goals of the coachee (where training pursues the goals of the organisation). A typical executive coaching program begins by clarifying these goals, establishing alignment of these with the goals of the organisation, and then developing a strategy to achieve them. This usually requires some logical analysis to reconcile goals, strategies and existing behaviour, thus identifying changes that should be made. The coachee then executes on the strategy, with support from the coach.
As with any strategy, we look for opportunities, challenges, resources, danger zones, assumptions, and more. Always we find strengths that are under-appreciated or under-utilised; usually we find some blindspots.
Coaching is not training. We do not set up a fixed schedule of subject matter to be channelled into the mind of the coachee. Rather, we explore the coachee’s own world and the challenges and projects that are underway or planned, and apply frameworks, methodologies or tactics as applicable and most helpful in the present environment.
I favour practical wisdom supported by theory, not vice versa (see phronesis and sophia). My strength is experience, understanding of that experience in the context of the theory, and the ability to transfer this experience and understanding to another person as a practical learning experience.
I prefer the Socratic Method, i.e. I favour structured questioning over telling. This classical method stimulates the coachee to develop their own reasoning on an issue, rather than conform to mine. My job in this is to keep the coachee on track and to maintain logical rigour.
I advise. There are often things that I am confident can help the coachee, from experience or theory, that may take too long to reach through questioning. Some coaches never ‘tell’, but I believe the coachee has the brain-space to take in and apply a certain amount of external advice, when it is relevant and well supported logically, scientifically and/or by self-evidence. For example, I have enormous experience public speaking (business, professional, multilingual) and obviously I have insights invaluable to a CEO in a challenging situation; or, many years in business in Japan have given me local knowledge useful to newcomers.
To advise I tell stories, demonstrate, illustrate, explain or use other teaching devices that I have learned over many years of training, managing, leading and coaching. I seldom just ‘tell’—it doesn’t work very well.
I also mentor. Corporations have a much flatter structure than they used to, and there is just less of the Boss to go around; there is less of the time and focus that senior people used to spend on promising subordinates. Coaching helps to compensate.
I am often a mirror. It is lonely at the top—if you are there you know what I mean, and why—and sometimes you need another trusted mind to help develop thoughts and intuitions.
The mechanics: Usually we work together over a year or so—for example monthly—usually face-to-face at your office, with shorter remote sessions by telephone or video. There are alternative arrangements—talk to me.
Some etymological trivia: A coach is a type of carriage originating in the town of Koch in Hungary. The word ‘coach’ in the educational context originated in Oxford around 1830, and was a little derisive, referring to a professional helper who was a ‘carriage’ that carried a weak student through the examinations. (I suppose a ‘stage coach’ would be for drama students…)