by Cathy Lange
Cathy Lange, who leads HCA's leadership coaching practice, identifies five situations where an individual can find particular value in being coached.
1. Big things change. Even the most seasoned leaders can get rattled or lost when organizations undergo significant change. There may be a strategic change of direction. A new market might be targeted. A major reorganization disrupts the status quo. When that change is relatively quick, executives may find coaching helps them provide the steady leadership that's imperative. "A coach can help a leader focus on the key issues and address the most acute organizational vulnerabilities." One example Lange experienced first-hand was the executive who needed to develop new people for a fast growing organization. She was no longer able to micro-manage situations but instead had to learn how to communicate clearly her expectations to multiple tiers of managers. If that weren't enough, she also had to find an effective, face-saving exit strategy for a long-time and well-loved executive.
2. High performers in specialized areas or individual contributors move to new leadership roles. Many businesses have elevated outstanding sales personnel, financial executives or technical personnel to broader managerial positions where they risk floundering. When an outstanding employee flies solo or within a small group successfully for so long, the transition to management, where delegation and motivational skills become more important, requires a new skill set. "The transition can be tough, but it isn't impossible," Lange says. "Many of the skills that individuals may have used with clients or specialized audiences simply need to be adapted to work within the organizational team. There is often also a need to learn how the politics of business is played."
3. Specific, required skills were never learned. Lange says a typical example is when executives with technical expertise who have related most of their career to machines and systems suddenly are required to speak publicly or interact with clients and partners. They may need to learn to listen effectively. In one engagement, Lange coached an executive who previously had development responsibilities but suddenly was tasked with thinking strategically and developing new people for the organization. "Much of the assignment involved helping him take risks and overcome confidence issues," Lange says.
4. Dysfunctional behaviors threaten to derail a career. Not everyone can be Steve Jobs, who may have succeeded despite certain leadership shortcomings. "If you treat people poorly, lack empathy or don't handle stress well, you may find yourself stuck with no place to go but sideways - or worse," Lange says. Often in this case, the organization sees the potential in the employee and believes the investment in coaching is worth it. But Lange says it never works unless the individual is willing to change.
5. Sounding board required. They say it's lonely at the top for a reason. "Often top executives simply cannot get feedback or don't trust what they're hearing," says HCA Coach Mary Helms. The isolation can cause inertia. A coach can not only listen effectively and provide feedback, but has tools, such as the 360, that encourage anonymous feedback.
Leadership coaching is sometimes called executive coaching. What's key to remember is that it's not only for the C-level suite. Even mid-level managers identified as 'high potential" benefit from a coaching assignment. "When rising stars shine brightly, a smart organization will make the investment necessary to groom them for the future," Lange says.
To learn more about Human Capital Advisors, visit their website, or email Cathy Lange.