At LWF, our executive coaching model incorporates practical experience, psychological research and business acumen. One of our team, Cara Wade, PhD, recently shared her insights. As a vice president and executive consultant, she also serves as lead assessor for LWF’s leadership assessments.
Q: How does an executive coaching engagement typically begin?
Cara: We follow a three-phase approach. Executive coaching usually starts from a self-focused perspective: “What impact do I want to have? What are my intentions?” If you are our coachee, we begin by helping you align your impact with your intentions, working from the fundamental premise that all people have positive intentions. We teach that behaviors are the variables that are flexible; you can choose a different behavior. The most important goal is connecting your intentions and your impact. That’s the first phase: Align.
Q: What’s next?
Cara: As the coaching engagement progresses, after you achieve alignment, your intentions and goals may grow. For example, instead of just being a good coach to your team, you may expand your intentions to become a premier developer of people across the organization. That’s the second phase: Aspire.
The third phase – Transform – is when the focus really moves outward. As the coachee, you realize you’re just a tool to transform the world around you – helping colleagues and the business do better. This phase provides the most transformation and growth in coaching, because your entire network is positively impacted.
Q: How can executives best impact different personalities on their team?
Cara: Self-awareness is one of the first skills we teach in the Align phase: becoming observant on your impact and flexible with your behavior. One-size-fits-all rarely works because everyone comes to the interaction with their own ‘baggage’ and intentions.
People can get stuck in this step when they’re not having the impact they want.
Let’s say your intention is to be a task master, so you focus on project lists during your one-on-one meetings with subordinates. If one of your team is still under-performing, he may need more of a relationship-oriented approach and encouragement.
Q: How does “Executive Coaching” differ from “Coaching”?
Cara: The processes are very similar, regardless of level, but the needs are certainly different. For first-time managers, coaching tends to be more programmatic and not as intensive. They are learning the skills needed to do their jobs, often with many people around them willing to give them advice.
If you’re an executive, the adage “It’s lonely at the top” often rings true. As you rise within an organization, there are fewer and fewer people around to give you direct feedback or serve as a sounding board. The complexity, intensity and pressure also increase with each promotion – you’re juggling multiple priorities and the expectations of multiple stakeholders.
Executives realize they are unlikely to always make the perfectly correct decision; they’re often choosing between the lesser of two possible mistakes. That realization is a big mental shift. You may not have the best options, but you always have a choice. We help coachees learn to make the best of challenging situations while moving toward increasingly better options.
Q: How long does a typical executive coaching engagement last?
Cara: Each executive coaching engagement is different; the average duration is six months. Most begin by evaluating the coachee’s current impact on the team and organization. Acquiring this “knowledge of results” is accomplished by a 360-degree feedback process, which may include interviews, observations and written assessments. This feedback influences the individualized development plan the coach and executive work through during monthly or bi-monthly meetings. The coach also stays in close touch with the coachee’s HR stakeholder or direct supervisor (if appropriate) to assess progress.
For more information about executive coaching, please contact Cara Wade, Ph.D., at 214-260-8001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.