Coaches and Leadership

Executive coaching has become big business. After all, if athletes and singers need coaches, so do we.  In fact, Price Waterhouse Coopers, in a 2008 study for the International Federation of Coaches, suggests that the worldwide market for executive coaches is approximately $1.5 Billion USD.

I recently read a great article on coaching in the New Yorker Magazine.   It made me think differently about coaching.

Traditional coaching in sports or voice is different from what has been practiced in the business world. The coach has three functions:  to prepare the participant before the event; to observe during the event and to debrief after the event.  In the business world coaches often use steps one and three, but rarely are they present for the actual event.

And this, I think, it the failing of most executive coaching.  It’s hard to debrief an event or situation when the only information that the coach has is the point of view of the person being coached.  By our very nature, we have a tendency to see the world from a biased perspective.  We even have a name for it “perceptual defense”, that is, we perceive a situation in order to defend our own self-image.

Perhaps it is time to change our model of coaching. If we’re really interested in improving our performance, then we need to be prepared to experience greater scrutiny. Which isn’t easy for most of us, including our leaders. One of the stickiest problem we face is the stubborn lack of productivity improvement in white-collar work. Perhaps better coaching might be part of the solution.

I’d love to hear about your coaching experiences, both coaching and being coached. How could the experience have been more effective?


6 replies »

  1. My coaching experience involved a writing exercise and several tests, as well as meeting with my coach. I really wanted to be developed as a leader in my church, but this particular coach has a hard time seeing me as a leader in the first place, let alone helping me become a better one.

    Fortunately, I knew these biases going into the situation. But I am still a bit discouraged. I took the DiSC test in this process, and came up with the Objective Thinker pattern, which happens to be low in the Dominance and Influence categories, and high in Compliance. Needless to say, this confirmed to my coach that I am not a real leader, though many look to me in reality for direction and leadership in our non-profit organization. Can you offer any insight or suggestions?

    • I’m not convinced dominance is the key to leadership, and I’m really not convinced that these psychometric tests are the most useful. People who are low in dominance can be good leaders. In fact, that is what servant leadership is all about, having humility, putting the needs of others ahead of self and having a clear vision. In fact, those who are too dominant can actually discourage followers from engaging. Rather than think of dominance and influence, think of how you can engage the passions and efforts of others towards a goal that you all agree upon. Leaders come in all shapes and forms, not just the extraverted, charismatic, opinionated, dominant white guy. You can learn how to quietly influence others. My recomendation is to read Joseph Badarracco’s book Leading Quietly. You might find it helpful. Good luck. Colleen

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