Workplace coaching is arranged for top end managers as India Inc. struggles to fight the talent war, and overnight create an army of top end managers and CEOs to take on the multifold growth in the industry. Therefore professionals who are capable are taking up assignments as corporate coaches, after retirement from top positions.
Companies are mostly supporting and using coaches to help high performers achieve critical tasks, thinking various alternatives to win the race in the competition, and develop their potential. The idea is to cut short the long gestation period that turns a high-performer into a leader of stature. Sometimes the coaches are also called in to help an executive overcome a weakness. Outsiders, professional executive coaches with a history of high performance and experience in management and HR, are fast becoming the preferred choice for companies to be appointed as coaches.
An outsider, without any vested interest in the organization is in a better position to be accepted by the top managers and more effective as they can stay neutral, but at the same time ask tough questions without ruffling egos. Companies want things to happen very fast. Multinational companies like P&G, Unilever, and GE and some Indian companies like Aditya Birla Group, Godrej Industries, L&T and Mahindra and Mahindra, among others now have coaches working with some of their high potential managers.
An outside coach is hired by the company to help realize a high performer’s true potential. Coaching is needed by and meant for high performers. It is expected that the high performers or top end managers or executives will continuously impart on the job advice or training to their immediate subordinates. Let us now continue with top end managers’ coaching.
The first condition to be met before the learning process starts is that the executive or the top manager must be willing to learn. Only when that condition is met a CEO Coach is willing to teach.
How does the coach work in practice?
The coach works for a period of time decided in advance by him and the top management. It could be 6-12 meetings depending on the high performing manager’s readiness to change, and each meeting sets some milestones in terms of the changes they hope to achieve. The coach first helps to bring about a change in knowledge, then encourages the executive to apply that knowledge so that he or she becomes more skillful. The coach then encourages the student, through appropriate appreciation & recognition and discouragement so the skill is converted into an attitude.
Many executives need help in managing their emotions, because emotions spread easily across teams and organizations affecting the productivity and the environment. Executives also need help especially in their ability to understand what’s said and what is left unsaid. Coaches begin work like doctors and start with a diagnosis. Interviews with team members and bosses (often many times), and psychometric tests are part of their work to begin with. Coaches attend meetings, observing their executives at work, all done in a very transparent manner. People around them are very positive because they see the executive making an effort to improve.
The coach then analyzes the executive’s strengths and weaknesses and focuses on the top 2/3 issues on which the coach would like to work on. India Inc are retaining eminent professionals who are superannuated from reputed MNCs to develop and make their CEOs / Executives to enable them to adopt the right strategies. 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. 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 methodology of the executive is using his strengths.
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 the first few assignments but later became a friend.
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 look into their strengths and find a solution. The 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 the immediate subordinate or an assistant to the executive to ensure that a proper environment is created for the executive to convert his/her attitude changes to a strategically required behavior.
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 the CEO or the Executive.