The economy is in the tank right now, and managing costs will be a key ingredient to companies' survival and growth. And even though an AON 2008 consulting survey discovered that 58 percent of all organizations are faced with leadership shortages, many of those same organizations are cutting the executive development budget to help in the cost-cutting category.
Before you do that, think twice and think hard. Taking development away from your executives may not be the wisest move. Leading in difficult times is a special skill, and a key leader can benefit from executive one-on-one coaching that teaches him how to navigate the storm.
Effective Executive Coaching
Though already-on-staff personnel can use the coach's external perspective, an added benefit is this one-on-one time frees the boss, who's often the mentor when there's no coach, to put her energies to other assignments. The effective coach works with leaders (both those who're in high gear or those who're getting into trouble) to do the following:
- Recalibrate their success metrics
- Polish their leadership styles
- Realign their priorities
- Lead teams more powerfully
- Navigate for the uncertain future
The coach crafts a program personally tailored to the individual; measurable and agreed-upon by both the boss and/or board of directors; and fits the goals of the organization, especially during times of intense change and ambiguity.
New-to-the-company staff leaders can also benefit from coaching. A staff leader can use the coach to help him do the following:
- Clarify new boss expectations
- Build all-important peer and cross functional relationships
- Understand the cultural and political nuances
- Assess what has worked in the past that can be integrated into the new environment
One-on-One Coaching Model
In either case, the coaching relationship will enhance the skills that are required to lead or manage in changing and difficult times. Investing in this kind of talent development is a long-term strategy decision and one that can be justified in the one-on-one coaching model, which looks like this:
- Coach meets with the manager and HR to discuss candidate goals and reach an agreement on targets.
- Coach meets with candidate to gather personal history and career data and reach an agreement on goals and engagement expectations.
- The assessment process begins, using various instruments and 360 feedback from employees that work closely with the candidate.
- Feedback is collected and analyzed to determine assets and liabilities and presented to the candidate.
- Candidate creates a behaviorally specific developmental plan and determines the desired outcomes that include input from a manager and/or an HR contact.
- Plan is implemented to include time frames and appropriate tools.
- Coach works with candidate to integrate the new behaviors with regular one-on-one sessions.
- Coach reassesses the close-working employees, evaluates and reports input and incremental shifts. Engagement closes or extends with revised objectives.
Selecting a Coach
Selecting the appropriate coach means finding one who best fits a candidate. While personalities may vary, an effective professional should have the following qualifications:
- Industry experience and exposure to senior staff issues and concerns
- Graduate level education in business management or the behavioral sciences
- Exposure and/or certification in a variety of assessment tools (and the ability to give feedback)
- Five-plus years of corporate coaching
- Broad exposure and expertise in organizational change
When the going gets tough, the tough should use executive development to help meet goals, rather than eliminate the opportunity. A coach can reinforce necessary skills for both the existing and new personnel required to move the organization forward, and the coaching engagement is directly related to helping leaders move forward and manage successfully in tough times.
Roy J. Blitzer (Palo Alto, Calif.) is an executive coach and career management counselor with more than 30 years' business management experience. An adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco, San Jose State University, and Menlo College, he sits on the board of directors for the Institute of Social Responsibility and the Institute for Effective School Leadership. He is also the author of five books including Hire Me Inc., Hire Me Inc. Interviews, and Hire Me Inc. Resume and Cover Letters, available from Entrepreneur Press, and sold by all major booksellers.