Executives need help in three main areas, says an expert. One reason that executive coaching has become popular is that it addresses—and remedies—the failures of traditional executive development, according to executive coaching expert Alan Weinstein.
Weinstein, a Vistage International chair and professor emeritus of the Whele School of Business at Canisius College in Buffalo, provides a roadmap to improve executive coaching in his new book, “Executive Coaching and the Process of Change: A Practitioner’s Guide.”
“Executive coaching is not just about closing gaps and creating tension,” says Weinstein. “Gaps exist for many reasons, and tension is an inevitable byproduct of the growth process, but an executive coach must be aware of both.”
According to Weinstein, there are three challenges an executive coach must help a coaching client overcome to properly undergo a change process:
1. Control. Most executive coaching clients have a strong need to control their workplace and their people. This should not be surprising. Successful executives learn to rely on themselves as the best way they know to accomplish goals and reduce the chances of failure. This is a mixed blessing. While it is true that success can be realized through control, it can also be inhibited by control.
“Executives who maintain control have a tendency to micro-manage,” says Weinstein. “This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy: by controlling work, an executive prevents his or her associates from engaging in challenging work and, at the same time, limits associate opportunities to grow into more responsible roles. Lack of opportunity for associates to learn and grow will reinforce their self-perception as unqualified for responsibility and therefore in need of control by executives. This scenario is a fertile area for remediation by executive coaching.”
2. Delegation. A concept related to control, delegation is a strategy to engage others in taking over both responsibility and authority. Executives who delegate successfully are able to take on more work. They are also able to lead at a higher level, overseeing projects without micro-managing the associates assigned to them. Effective delegation frees executives to explore strategic initiatives without being saddled with the activities that are performed by associates.
“A lack of trust in associates will limit delegation,” says Weinstein. “This may be due to the executive having a problem letting go. It may also be attributable to a real or perceived lack of talent among associates. In either case, the executive who lacks trust will engage in less delegation—which, in turn, will reduce his or her effectiveness.
3. Communication. Executives are not automatically great communicators. During executive coaching, the executive’s communication style needs to be addressed both for its content and context. The major content issues relate to creating gaps and tension through information acquired from assessments and coaching sessions and then asking probing questions that help the coach to create enough tension to motivate the executive coachee to action that will reduce the tension.
“The higher an executive ascends within an organization, the more strategic and less tactical he or she should become,” says Weinstein. “From a coaching perspective, helping them improve as effective communicators is critical.”
More free tips are available on the book’s free blog, www.ExecutiveCoachingandtheProcessofChange.com.