Problems faced by Executive Coaches

India Inc are retaining eminent professionals who are superannuated from reputed MNCs to develop and make their CEOs/ Executives decision-enable for adopting the right strategy in their direction of the corporate. They are called ‘Executive coaches’ who loosely work on a principle of Socratic questioning but instead of discussing logic or philosophy, the student (the CEO to be coached) is questioned on his work style and behavior. The first set of questions is about exploring an executive’s strengths.

Executives at that level of CEO do not need skills but change comes from reflection. Who am I? What do I want to be?

A lot of personal change comes from being aware and creating feedback loops for your own self. Self awareness for the executive is the first step.

The next round of questions goes deeper. The executives are probed on the options where one can use strengths to move towards the goal. If so the strategy or methodology the executive is using his strengths.

After that, it is on to obstacles. “As you discover options where can you get stuck? How to deal with the hindrances when they crop up? Next, the executive is probed on the possible counter measures that can be developed.

Coaches say it’s about helping the person identify the solution and helping him develop a framework to find solutions. It is important that they never prescribe anything, nor do they make the executive dependent on them. They are just around to guide a journey of self-discovery.

Most people find it easier to talk through the problem than think through the issue themselves. Then the coaches try and connect with their strengths. Making them tap into their strengths and leverage it better. Coaches’ work has to focus on what they need to do to make it work.

Executives are encouraged to find their way forward, reflect on their actions and the resulting implications. The Coach then talks to supervisor of the executive to ensure that a proper environment is created for the student to convert his/her attitude changes to behavior.

Sometimes rarely this does not work. One executive coach narrates one such incident. He was brought in the CEO of the company to work with an executive having problems, but when he worked closely with the executive he found out the boss was ill tempered, and foul mouthed.

He spits when he speaks in anger, and that is very often. The executive lamented that his glasses cloud when his boss comes near to him and shouts. The executive coach met the boss and found him impossible to work with and unwilling to change; his advise to the manager was change the boss.

It was a case of patient recommending a healthy person to doctor. But such incidents are exceptions rather than the rule.

The most usual type of problem Coaches encounter is the executive’s own ego. In CEO cases, ego is sky-high. And in some cases ego comes dressed as humility.

But coaches learn to deal with that. One Coach worked with one particular pesky CEO of an American company who bombarded him with questions; he seemed unable to digest the fact that he was being coached by an Indian, and was acting difficult in first few assignments but later became a friend.

The person should use you as a mirror. In course of time, he begins to understand how ego is coming in way. And different layers of his persona have to be peeled like an onion before you get to his real persona. Peeled or not, it seems as if Indian executives have caught on to the great Indian tradition of private tuitions.