Summary of Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach by Michael Frisch, Robert Lee, Karen L. Metzger, Jeremy Robinson and Judy Rosemarin

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach by Michael Frisch, Robert Lee, Karen L. Metzger, Jeremy Robinson and Judy Rosemarin

Being successful in the corporate world is no easy feat. It takes hard work, determination and an incredible skill set. But even if you possess these characteristics, you sometimes need guidance and support. So, who should you go to? This is where executive coaches come in. They are who they are due to their immense professional experience and their skills. 

Executive coaches provide the much-needed guidance that executives need and they are well trusted due to their track record. But what does it take to be an exceptional executive coach? Let’s find out.

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • Coaching styles are usually based on experience
  • Establishing positive and productive relationships
  • Putting plans into action
  • Dealing with senior leaders need extra consideration
  • Coaching has to come to an end at some point

Key lesson one: Coaching styles are usually based on experience

Starting a career as a coach is completely different to starting any other new job. There are no manuals or examples of how you should go about working with executives or with guiding them on their journey of self-discovery. This is because your coaching style is dependent entirely on you and your personal experiences. Inevitably, this will lead to your own unique style of coaching known as your personal model of coaching.  

The journey to developing your personal coaching style begins with a  bit of self-reflection. You need to know the type of person you are, the skills you possess and the strategies and ideas you would like to use. Aim to write these down so that you can always check that you are doing what you set out to do and also make changes if need be. In addition, once you begin coaching you should also aim to make notes about your observations about your style. Your strengths, weaknesses and how you establish relationships with clients are all useful information to be able to refer to in future. You will also be able to determine which strategies and techniques work and which ones should be discarded. 

This continuous reflection will enable you to see what makes you different from other coaches and thus helps you establish your personal model of coaching. It is not a quick process and you should not try to rush it either. This will be the foundation that you build your entire coaching career on. Over time, you will gain more experience and confidence with each executive that you work with and this continuous reflection will help you evolve into an exceptional coach.

Key lesson two: Establishing positive and productive relationships

Once you begin coaching, you will fast realise that one of the most important things is for everyone involved to remain truly engaged and invested during the coaching process. Thus, a few things must be anticipated at the outset. You need to know who you will be working with and any possible challenges that might come up while working together. Your coaching contract also needs to be agreed upon from the start. It should include the planned steps for the coaching process, the estimated time frame to achieve them, the frequency of coaching sessions and any confidentiality agreements that are needed. Doing this before coaching begins gives everyone a clear path and sets the tone going forward. Expectations are set and thus, there should be no misunderstandings later on. 

Typically, there are three parties that are involved in the contract. They are the coach, the client and sponsors which usually refer to the client’s manager or HR representative. All three parties should be able to make changes to the contract so that it ends up being exactly what they want it to be and with everyone in agreement. This means that all three parties are thus aligned and share the same vision for coaching. You, as the coach, also have the added advantage of being able to keep sponsors engaged in the coaching process. Sometimes, sponsors are there to initiate coaching and then want no added part in the process. You have the ability to keep them engaged. 

Once the contract has been sorted, you then have to work on building a relationship with your client. If you want the coaching to go well and be productive, you have to have a positive relationship with your client. No matter your coaching style, relationships between client and coach should have trust, honesty, care and credibility. Trust comes in the confidentiality between the two and honesty enables conversations about the observations made to be constructive. The care refers to your empathy as a coach and credibility comes from the way you carry yourself and your professional experience. 

You also have to ensure that you know your client well. As a coach, you have to be able to know your clients better than they know themselves and this requires a bit of work. You should be prepared to collect both qualitative and quantitative data. This will help you determine your client’s character as well as how they are perceived at work. Client’s will sometimes battle to give you the answers you seek purely because they lack sufficient self-insight. Thus, you can collect data to get a better picture. Quantitative data can be collected through self-assessment done by the client or 360-degree questionnaires which can be completed by colleagues and managers. Qualitative data can be collected through personal observations made by others and by yourself. To collect qualitative data you will need to conduct interviews that allow you to question colleagues of your client’s about their interactions and what observations they made. They will be able to give you information about what your client needs to work on and what they excel at. The data that you collect will therefore assist you in gaining a better understanding of your client.

It is also important that you prepare for each of your sessions to maintain a positive and productive relationship. The preparation for each session must allow for you to be open with your client, give room for response and also invoke a feeling of progress. This is not an easy thing to do, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. In addition, you should also try to identify session goals for both yourself and your client. This will help you stay focused on what you want to achieve. You should also set an agenda for each session will also help maintain the relationship you have with your client. Ask your client how they have been, what the last coaching session made them think or do and what they would like to go over in the current session. By both of you working together to set an agenda for the session your client will feel that you value their input and also trust that they know what you guys need to work on. This acts as further motivation for your client and will also boost your confidence as a coach. 

Key lesson three: Putting plans into action

Once you have built a relationship with your client and have all the relevant information, it will start to become apparent where changes should be made. Therefore, you begin the next stage which is development planning. This is when you start setting goals. These goals will change as coaching continues and as needed. They will begin as goals from felt needs that are brought forward by sponsors or clients. The goals then develop into negotiated goals as you begin to explore the client’s history, feedback and self-insight before becoming designed objectives. These are the ultimate goals that the client will aim to achieve. 

When drawing up a development plan, there are main elements that need to be included. These are a brief statement about the entire coaching process, the strengths of the client, each designed objective agreed upon and ways to act upon the objectives. This makes the development plan concise, with a clear purpose and can be easily understood by sponsors as well. 

Key lesson four: Dealing with senior leaders need extra consideration

Coaches often face challenges when dealing with senior leaders. This is mostly because when someone is already quite successful, they don’t exactly want to hear about what they could do better. Thus, coaches need to have exceptional skills and flexibility when dealing with these senior leaders. 

Senior leaders are often set in their ways and reluctant to change. Therefore, patience is crucial when dealing with them. They will resist at first and also question your credibility much more than your other clients. One strategy to employ is motivational interviewing. This can ease senior leaders into coaching and make changes seem less threatening to their success. Motivational interviewing entails asking the client open questions in order to explore current conditions and what change would mean to them. In this manner, you will be able to tell what is making them most hesitant whilst getting them to feel more comfortable with the concept of change. 

There might be the added challenge of a senior leader thinking of you as a consultant. They might look for your advice outside of sessions because they believe that you have been hired to help them. It is important for you to help them make the distinction between the two. If they do seek counsel, instead of telling them what to do rather point out the development potential they are faced with. This will encourage them to find their own solution while you will be still supporting their growth.

Key lesson five: Coaching has to come to an end at some point

Coaching cannot continue forever. You should openly discuss this with your client as they should know what to expect when the coaching comes to an end. Of course, you cannot predict the exact date the coaching will end and it is possible that it can even change if both you and the client feel that it needs to continue. However, the client needs to know what the end is going to look like so that they are not blindsided by their last session. 

Knowing that coaching is going to end also gives the client tangible goals to reach. The last session together can be used to reflect upon the entire process, It is also important for you to reflect on the experience for your own growth as a coach. After coaching has ended, you can also provide sponsors and clients to provide feedback about the process and if they are satisfied with the results. 

The true evaluation of the coaching comes when all parties involved consider four things. The reactions of the clients and sponsors to results, the learning of the client, the behavioural changes which can be seen by colleagues and the organizational results which measure benefits made by the organization.

The key takeaway from Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach is:

Everyone has their own unique coaching style but that does not mean that one is better than the other. No matter what your personal style is, as long as you follow the important steps of engaging everyone involved, maintaining a positive relationship with your client and doing the work involved to collect the data necessary to know your client; you have what it takes to be an exceptional coach.

How can I implement the lessons learned in becoming an Exceptional Executive coach:

Do not skimp on collecting quantitative and qualitative data on your client. It is time-consuming but you will gain valuable insight that will help you in your coaching sessions. It will also give your client new perspective as they will be able to see what they need to work on which is not always clear to them.

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