Methodology of ‘coaching’ executives

Coaches need to guide right from CEO, CFO, CIO to senior level managers having high potential and can be entrusted with more important assignments in due course.

”Behavior under observation” is a technique, coaches use attending meetings, observing their executives at work, all done in a very transparent manner. A coach found people around them are very positive because they see the executive making an effort to improve himself, so they give feedback very sincerely.

Once coaches have analyzed the executive’s strengths and weaknesses, they zero in on the top 2/3 issues they will work on. Coaches try and delve into a client’s mind and try and find a link between day to day problems and the big themes.

They loosely work on a principle of Socratic questioning – but instead of discussing logic or philosophy, the student is questioned on his work style and behavior. The first set of questions is about exploring an executive’s strengths.

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. “What are the options where one can use strengths to move towards the goal? How is the executive using his strengths?”

After that, it’s 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’s important that they never prescribe anything, nor do they make the executive dependent on them. They’re 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 we try and connect with their strengths. Making them tap into their strengths and leverage it better. Coach’s work has to focus on what he needs 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, but rarely, this doesn’t work.

One such incident is a coach was brought in by 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.

The boss spits when he speaks in anger, and that’s very often. The executive lamented that his glasses cloud when the boss comes near him and shouts. The 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 problems 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, and one coach worked with one particular irritating CEO of an American company who bombarded him with questions; he seemed unable to digest the fact he was being coached by an Indian, and was acting difficult in first few assignments but later became a friend.

The person should use a coach as a mirror. In course of time, the CEO begins to understand how ego is coming in way. And different layers of his persona have to be peeled like an onion before a coach 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.