Some Insights on Executive Coaching

Coaching refers to the activity of a coach in developing the abilities of coaches or clients. Coaching tends to focus on the achievement by coaches of a goal or specific skill.

Methodologies for coaching are positioned away from the directive or the facilitative, and rest on accompanying clients within a dialog that will allow emerging patterns and solutions to surface. Coaching lies out of the scale between mentoring and training on one end, and psychotherapy and counseling at the other.

There are many applications of coaching ranging from sport, to business, to niches such as divorce or motivational speaking. Sessions may be one-on-one either or in a group setting, in-person or over the telephone, or by mail, or via IRC. It may include supervised practice such as in shadow coaching, and often in team or organizational coaching. Team coaching also applies to structured systems in organizations much like in sports.

Today, coaching is a recognized discipline used by many professionals engaged in human development focused on achieving results. However, as a distinct profession, it is relatively new (since 1990) and self-regulating (except for international professional associations). No independent supervisory board evaluates most practicing coaches and most are privately owned businesses. Some associations accredit various coaching schools as well as individual coaches, except the IAC and ECI which only certify individuals. According to coach credentialing expert, Dr. Rey Carr, in North America the term accreditation only applies to organizations, and certification applies to individuals; whereas in European countries “accreditation” can mean either organizations or individuals.

The first use of the term coaching to mean an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who “carries” a student through an exam. The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1831.

Historically the evolution of coaching has been influenced by and enhanced through by many other fields of study including those of personal development, adult education, psychology (sports, clinical, developmental, organizational, social and industrial) and other organizational or leadership theories and practices. Since the mid 1990’s, coaching has developed into a more independent discipline and professional associations such as the International Coach Federation have helped develop a set of training standards (Davidson & Gasiorowski, 2006).

Instructing, coaching and mentoring differ. Instructors disseminate knowledge. Coaches help clients build skills. Mentors shape men tee attitudes. Alternately, instructors train to immediate tasks, coaches accompany achievements, and mentors provide whole-life shaping.

There are many definitions of coaching, mentoring and various styles of line management and training. The position is complicated by the perceived overlapping between many of these activities. A more succinct definition positions coaching as follows:

  • Managing is making sure people do what they know how to do.
  • Training is teaching people to do what they don’t know how to do.
  • Mentoring is showing people how the people who are really good at doing something do it.
  • Coaching none of these – it is helping to identify the skills and capabilities that are within the person, and enabling them to use them to the best of their ability – and by that increasing the independence within the individual, and reducing reliance”.

Business Coaching
In organisations today, coaching refers to a method of personal development or human resource development (HRD). This field of coaching is becoming a distinct area of practice for individuals and in organizations. Although the role of coach has changed over time, some examples of research papers on business coaching show that between the late 1930s and the late 1960s, some forms of internal coaching in organizations were already informally present; i.e. managers (or supervisors) also acted as coaches to their staff (cf. Zeus & Skiffington, 2002; Grant, 2003a; 2006). Gorby (1937) specified how older employees were trained to coach new employees regarding methods of waste reduction. A casual business practice of coaching is the act of providing positive support and positive feedback while offering occasional advice to an individual or group in order to help them recognize ways in which they can improve the effectiveness of their business. Coaching is an excellent way to attain a certain work behavior that will improve leadership, employee accountability, teamwork, sales, communication, goal setting, strategic planning and more. It can be provided in a number of ways, including one-on-one, group coaching sessions and large scale organizational work. Not to be confused with [seminars]. Many corporations are instilling the practice of 360 degree consulting before providing coaching, which permits employees to utilize their own life or professional experiences in a positive way to create team participation attitudes even with superiors. Professional Business Coaches are too often called in when a business is perceived to be performing badly when many healthier businesses recognize the benefits of business coaching even when the organization is successful. Business coaches often specialize in different practice areas such as executive coaching, corporate coaching and leadership coaching.

At least three organizations, the International Coach Federation (ICF), the International Coaching Council (ICC) and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) provide a membership-based association for professionals involved in business coaching. The ICF, ICC and WABC also provide accrediting systems for business coach training programs. The ICF currently has over 15 000 members worldwide, ICC currently has over 1,500 members from over 50 countries. The ICF and WABC have created international accreditation programs for business coach training providers and international certification programs for business coaches that are designed exclusively for business coach trainers and coaches, built around business coaching competencies and conferred by a business coach association.

Business coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring involves a developmental relationship between a more experienced “mentor” and a less experienced partner, and typically involves sharing of advice. A business coach can act as a mentor given that he or she has adequate expertise and experience. However, mentoring is not a form of business coaching. A good business coach need not have specific business expertise and experience in the same field as the person receiving the coaching in order to provide quality business coaching services. Business coaching needs to be more structured and formal than mentoring.

Business coaches often help businesses grow by creating and following a structured, strategic plan to achieve agreed upon goals. Multiple organizations train professionals to offer business coaching to business owners who may not be able to afford large coaching firm prices.

Coaching is not a practice restricted to external experts or providers. Many organizations expect their senior leaders and middle managers to coach their team members toward higher levels of performance, increased job satisfaction, personal growth, and career development. Those that do back up their expectations with training in coaching skills, access to feedback tools, and/or specific coaching behaviors described in their leadership competency models. Few link coaching activities to compensation, however, resulting in less coaching by managers.

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