One of the great things about executive and leadership coaching is how easy it is to learn. This is especially true for members of the Center for Executive Coaching, because our members generally are seasoned professionals who come to us with a track record of success in leadership, developing other people, or in related disciplines like psychology.
Here are two examples.
One: You can learn the foundations of leading a coaching session after we review six solid practice coaching conversations together.
After doing this for almost two decades, we have developed a process to help you develop the keys to leading an effective executive coaching session with just six solid practice sessions. Each practice session ideally takes place one week apart, and is about 25-30 minutes long with another coach in our program or, even better, a colleague of your choosing. We show you what you need to do to open a session, close the session, and how to lead the client to a valuable outcome in between. Each session builds on the next, and each session develops your own awareness and ability to point out what you need to do to keep moving forward. Meanwhile, in between sessions, you have plenty of resources in our member area that helps you improve.
One key to success in this process is that we show you how to focus on how the client defines value and results. It surprises us that so many other coach training programs don’t talk about the client, value, or results very much. They are too in love with theory, pushing out the latest new age or pseudo-scientific craze, or on insisting that coaches only ask never-ending questions that frustrate high-end clients. We take a much more efficient and practical approach. By discovering the results the client seeks, and focusing our coaching conversations on helping the client achieve those results and get value, our coaching sessions tend to be much more practical, efficient, and have more impact.
Now, this process is only a tiny sliver of our program. Your curriculum includes dozens of methods and toolkits to help clients get results when they face different challenges, approaches to assessing the client in different situations, ways to structure engagements, discussions about challenges that come up with difficult clients and organizations, ethical dilemmas, and much more. At the same time, every single coach can always improve and keep getting better. However, thanks to the quality of people who come to our program and to this process, we can give you a solid foundation very quickly.
Two: You will laugh when you discover how easy it is to structure coaching engagements with clients
We don’t know of any other coach training program that goes beyond how to coach a client in a single session. That makes no sense. Executive coaching engagements last anywhere from 6 to 18 months, and business coaching engagements can last 24 months to start. You should know how to structure these engagements.
Fortunately, scoping out executive coaching engagements is much easier than scoping out consulting, engineering or really any other professional service.
Here are two examples from recent members. First, a coach came to me asking how to structure a coaching engagement with the President of an organization who was facing these issues: a board that was too large and dysfunctions; a founder who wouldn’t give up control of the organization; lack of a succession plan despite an aging executive team, and lack of leaders to replace members of the team; and lack of a clear strategic plan other than what was in the head of the founder. He was struggling with how to put all of these pieces in a coherent proposal for coaching. Note that this member was a former HR executive. He was spending his time thinking like an HR executive, trying to sort through how he would solve all of these problems if he were head of HR in this organization.
Second, a coach was working with the leader of a government agency that was facing conflict among and within three constituencies. His own executive team was not in agreement about the direction of the agency. At the same time, his team was in conflict both with the unionized work force as well as with a large consulting group that was coming in and making recommendations. He wanted coaching support to resolve all of these conflicts. The coach — a former consultant — was spending hours trying to unravel all of these conflicts and come up with a detailed plan of work for the client. He was stuck, because he couldn’t figure out the best approach.
When I asked each of these coaches just two questions about their role and the proposal, they started laughing. They realized that they were thinking too much like the former executives and consultants that they had been, and not enough like coaches. Can you guess the shift that these two had to make?
It’s easy. Instead of solving the client’s problem, they just had to coach the client through the issues. Their clients are smart, already-effective people. These issues are not rocket science. What they require is the will to demonstrate effective leadership, a sounding board to choose the right approach, and perhaps some skill development if appropriate. That’s where executive coaching comes in. Both of these coaches simply need to structure a simple engagement in which they work one-on-one with their respective clients. It is up to the client to sort out the issues and determine the path forward. The coach is there as a sounding board for the right strategy and someone to ask great questions, share observations, hold the client accountable to achieve his aspirations, and make sure that the client is ready to have the high-stakes conversations required to make things happen. Of course, there might be some assessment work up front in both cases, but nothing too complex; in our program, we show you how to keep the assessment phase simple and related to the goals of the engagement.
In both cases, the coaches didn’t need a massive proposal with the answers in them. They just needed a two-page understanding about how the coaching engagement will work. That’s how I do it, and it works every time — with small and large client organizations alike.
One reason why coaching is so much fun — aside from the impact you can have with clients, the flexible lifestyle you can lead, and the fascinating issues — is that it is simple and elegant. It is easy to learn how to have powerful coaching conversations, and it is the easiest of all professional services to scope out with clients.
You will laugh when you discover this for yourself. If you want to get into a great profession and learn how to do it in a fast and practical way, join the Center for Executive Coaching’s certification program today. You will be so glad you did!