A Future in Executive Coaching
Organizations recognize the value of on-the-job developmental relationships as important sources of managerial learning and career development. These relationships can be informal or formal and can take various forms, including one-on-one mentoring, peer coaching, team coaching and executive coaching. As one type of formal developmental relationship, executive coaching can be defined as a short term relationship between an executive and a consultant that is created to achieve specific, mutually agreed upon performance goals.
An Industrial Organizational Psychologist (I/O psychologist) is one example of a trained professional who can render executive coaching. Executive Coaching involves a coaching professional working environment with a client to reach a specific goal in organization development as well. There are foundational theories that can be related to executive coaching and I/O psychology. As an Executive coach one is expected to be highly competent in order to guide another effectively.
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Proficiency in areas such as: listening, creativity, trust, background in psychology, and business experience can greatly add value to the skills of an executive coach. Becoming an executive coach can be a tedious process which requires the ability to evaluate one’s own current efficiency and take steps towards greatly enhancing them so that personal skills as an executive coach can be seen as an asset to all organizations. A Future in Executive Coaching Executive development is an important aspect of all organizations.
Executive coaching is one of the recent approaches to executive development. Coaching is distinct from other forms of training in that it focuses on the method of learning. Under a coaching model, it is believed “that the more an individual is involved in identifying problems, in working out and applying solutions for them and reviewing the results, the more complete and long lasting the learning is. This form of self-learning tends to bring about learning with a deeper understanding than learning that is taught”(Redshaw, 2000. p. 106).
Coaching is best described as facilitating. The coach encourages the learner to learn for themselves as well as acquire new job competencies, the learner on the other hand gradually develops new and more effective learning skills while becoming a proactive learner that is capable of learning from almost any experience encountered (Redshaw, 2000, p. 107). Executive coaching is defined as a helping relationship that has been formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility within an organization, and a consultant (Thach & Heinselman, 1999).
Executive coaching has also been defined as an intensive, short-term process that helps executives address behavior or issues that are impeding their own job effectiveness (Koonce, 1994). Often a wide variety of behavioral techniques and methods are used to assist the client in achieving a mutually identified set of goals to improve his or her professional performance and organization effectiveness within a formally defined coaching agreement.
According to Thach and Heinselman (1999) executive coaches that are deemed to be the most beneficial should have experience coaching executives, and experience with using and debriefing multiple 360 instruments. Selected coaches must also be familiar with development in the given industry and be able to be tough and confrontational in a supportive way, lastly they must respect and support confidentiality (p. 38). Industrial- Organizational psychology is the study of human cognition and behavior of an employee at work.
The mission of the psychologist in this field has a dual capacity, to improve employee well-being and organizational effectiveness through research and practice. The role every manager must fill in the workplace is leadership. Managers often make the mistake of assuming that because they are the managers, they are also the leaders and that their associates will automatically follow. In reality, position only denotes title, not leadership. To be an effective leader, the manager must influence his associates in a positive way to reach the goals of the organization.
Industrial/ Organizational (I/O) psychology has increasingly embraced the concept of executive coaching over the past 10 years. It has significantly impacted building leaders in organizations. Although some of the psychologists tend to have differing views from one another. At one end of the spectrum, according to Berman and Bradt (2006) some have argued that only psychologists should set standards for executive coaching, or that psychoanalytic training is uniquely beneficial in the oaching endeavor. Others however have argued more reasonably that psychologists are particularly familiar with theories and methods regarding individual behavior change, and are skilled in managing relationships in which self-reflection and self-improvement are central. I/O psychologists believe that knowledge, understanding and experience in the business world are essential to the delivery of effective coaching and consulting in most coaching assignments.
They also believe that coaching differs from organizational or management consulting in that it focuses on the individual leader and his or her team, emphasizing an action-oriented rather than an experiential approach, and focuses on what are often called soft-side skills (Berman & Bradt, 2006). Foundational Theories There are numerous psychological theories that are used to explain and predict a wide variety of behaviors. Theories provide a framework for understanding human behavior, thoughts, and development.
By having a broad base of understanding about the how’s and why’s of human behavior, we can better understand ourselves and others. Theories are dynamic and always changing. As new discoveries are made, theories are modified and adapted to account for new information. Executive coaching can greatly be attributed to relevant theories such as control theory, personality theory and cognitive behavior theory. These theories have helped to shape and mold executive coaching into its well organized discipline that many practice today. Further evaluation of these three theories and their link to executive coaching is in order.
Control Theory Control Theory is a scientifically based approach to teach in a very practical way “how” and “why” people operate, and how we are internally motivated. Control theory is a tool for understanding that each of us has a very specific picture in our head of how we want our world to be. It is important to know and understand that none of us see the world exactly the same way. The psychological control theory (CT) according to Gregory, Beck and Carr (2011) states that, people attempts to control the state of some variable by regulating their own behavior.
This process of behavioral regulation begins with the comparison of some level of performance to information collected from and individual’s surroundings (i. e. goal vs. feedback). In executive coaching setting goals and initiating feedback is a vital role. Consider the purpose of effective coaching is to help client’s learn to better regulate their own behavior in order to achieve desired outcomes within the organization. Therefore any success in the workplace can be linked in part to the executive’s ability to monitor and regulate his or her own behavior (Gregory et al. , 2011). Personality Theory
There are many different theories of personality. So it is important to understand exactly what personality is. Personality is made up of characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that make a person unique (Mccormick & Burch, 2008). Personality is thought to remain consistent throughout one’s life. A personality-based approach to coaching can have an important contribution in assessing and facilitating behavioral change. This is primarily because personality provides an important indicator of one’s susceptibility for certain behavior within particular situations (Mccormick & Burch, 2008).
Personality focused coaching establishes the idea that an assessment of personality can be an excellent place to start coaching. It is also important to evaluate coaching in traits for neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. However personality focused coaching does not seek to “change” personality but rather be used as an understanding of the coach’s personality to facilitate change in certain leadership situations (Mccormick & Burch, 2008).
When coaching for neuroticism the coach can help the executive to: remain calm in emotional situations; stay composed and be slow to anger in conflict; diffuse ease of discouragement and teach methods on how not to show discouragement in trying times; prevent displaying embarrassment when given compliments or having jokes told against them; resisting the urge to express negative emotion in an impulsive manner, and learn how to handle stress effectively (Mccormick & Burch, 2008).
When coaching for extraversion the coach can help the executive to: remember people names and show genuine warmth and concern for individuals; learn conversational skills and gregariousness; learn how to express their views forcefully and be assertive; show high levels of energy and activity; create excitement and enthusiasm with his or her team, and learn to be optimistic and show positive emotions (Mccormick & Burch, 2008). When oaching for openness to experience the coach can encourage the executive to: read widely and build a broad intellectual awareness; seek out variety and try new things in many areas of the business, and value a wide range of emotions in themselves and others (Mccormick & Burch, 2008). When coaching for agreeableness the coach can encourage the executive to foster in: compassion for others; friendliness and unity to cooperate with others outside of the team, and promote cooperation instead of competition and conflict among the organization (Mccormick & Burch, 2008).
When coaching for conscientiousness the coach can encourage the executive to overcome: feeling unprepared for presentations or corporate events; being unorganized or unmethodical; procrastination, and being easily distracted or too hasty in their work (Mccormick & Burch, 2008). Cognitive Behavior Theory Cognitive Behavior Theory (CBT) focuses on stopping negative automatic thoughts that are associated with fear and stress. CBT seeks to replace these fears with more rational thoughts and eliminate stress. Often times executives are thought to exhibit Type A behavior from the surmountable stress that they face during day to day operations.
This category of behavior is associated with very serious negative health effects. In terms of managing high levels of stress and negative side effects cognitive behavioral techniques offer superior efficacy (Ducharme, 2004). The techniques of CBT are what make it especially fundamental to executive coaching. Techniques such as cognitive reframing and systematic desensitization are successful at developing executives in areas that are of value (Ducharme, 2004). Improvement can be seen in modification of interaction styles, improvement of listening skills and improvement in public speaking.
The cognitive behavior theory offers much strength in the field of executive coaching. Executive coaching in itself is commonly focused on skill development such as learning to deal with change, clarifying goals, or improving listening skills (Ducharme, 2004). It is in these situations that the CBT will prove to be a valuable tool. Although many of these skills can be gained through training programs, workshops and books, it is the personalized nature of executive coaching that increases the likelihood of success as well as the likelihood of sustained behavior hange (Ducharme, 2004). There are however limitations of CBT that are centered on its simplicity. According to Ducharme (2004) the simplicity can be seen as a strength and limitation. Mainly the limitation is due to the somewhat mechanical and seemingly unsophisticated view that is presented by the cognitive behavioral orientation. Proficiencies for Executive Coaching Proficiency is important in many careers. Ensuring that one possesses the expected knowledge, skills and abilities to be effective in the job position is an aspect that many organizations deem as imperative.
To be effective in executive coaching there are direct proficiencies that an individual must have that can directly influence them and their clients. These proficiencies often include: Listening- because the coach must be able to listen carefully, ask insightful questions, and raise alternatives (Berman & Bradt, 2006). Creativity- because the executive coach must be a creative problem-solver, able to bring disparate ideas, knowledge, and insight to bear on problems, including personnel issues, alliance building, and efforts to increase power and authority (Berman & Bradt, 2006).
Being creative and dynamic are the quintessential ingredients to survival in the global marketplace (Richard, 2003). While companies need and appreciate intelligence data about their position in the marketplace, the growth challenges still remain with generating new services, products, and processes; developing creative ways to finance them; and responding creatively to human relations issues. Creativity in business pushes the frontiers of the problem-solving model from generating options to selecting options and trying them out on simulators (Richard, 2003).
A supporter of creativity described successful coaching as stimulating the client to think, feel, and explore new ideas and behaviors. This catalytic role of coaching is fostered by the skillful interjection of strategic questions by the coach (Richard, 2003). Trust- according to Alvey and Barclay (2007) the client is more willing to disclose honest feelings and thoughts to the coach when trust was established, trust reinforces organization support.
The consultant according to Rudisill, Edwards, and Hershberger (2004) provides the attention, empathy, positive regard, support, encouragement, and acceptance to allow the executive a new experience in the discussion process. The consultant helps the executive understand the problem and make sense of her or his experience. Given the isolation of the executive, the confidant relationship provides much-needed social support. A variety of studies have found an association between measures of interpersonal relationships and morbidity, mortality, and coping with chronic diseases (Rudisill, J.
R. , Edwards, J. M. , & Hershberger, P. J. 2004). As a social support intervention, the confidant relationship can be viewed as enriching an impoverished social network, reinforcing desirable behaviors in the client, providing expertise and experiential knowledge, helping provide continuing support needs, providing appropriate dosage in times of social need, and creating a hospitable social psychological context for support.
Background in psychology- because the executive coach must be able to translate theory into practice, giving specific direction to the executive based on a thorough knowledge of personality, social behavior, group theory and systems theory as well as what is known about the organization and the individual (Berman & Bradt, 2006). According to Brotman, Liberi, and Wasylyshyn (1998) this grounding enables coaches to identify behavior patterns in clients that erode leadership effectiveness, to convert insights into behavior change, and to be absolutely honest in appraising the client’s behavior in relation to the organization and the situation.
Business experience- because the executive coach must have enough business experience and knowledge to be able to understand the issues that need to be considered. An understanding of both general systems theory and organizational systems is critical (Berman & Bradt, 2006). Business experience can be a valuable asset when it comes to providing others with guidance on effective leadership and organizational skills. Becoming an Executive Coach
As a learner in Industrial/ Organizational psychology I am well on my way to possessing many of the proficiencies discussed previously. However there are other areas that an individual needs to be dexterous in to be considered a successful executive coach. According to Brotman, Liberi, and Wasylyshyn (1998) there are no licenses, credentials, or professional designations in the field of executive coaching therefore it is up to the client to set guidelines to identify competent, ethical executive coaches.
Brotman et al. (1998) identified twelve competencies for the effective executive coach: approachability, self-knowledge, comfort around top management, intellectual horsepower, compassion, interpersonal savvy, creativity, listening, customer focus, political savvy, integrity, trust and the ability to deal with inconsistency. With years of experience in diverse leadership positions this learner has had ample time to cultivate these proficiencies.
It is with a thorough self-analysis and outside training that this learner is able to identify all twelve competencies within herself. The personal self-evaluation coupled with education in active listening skills and pursuit of a Master’s degree in Psychology can all prove to guide this learner towards a successful future in executive coaching. Naturally, only highly skilled and experienced personnel who have spent years in the industry in the field of Human Resource management are able to take up an executive coaching career.
Highly experienced executives who have proven their courage in management and business administration can make great executive coaches, but it must not be forgotten that they also need to be driven by the urge to extend their expertise to others in the industry. A professional executive coach always does his or her homework, collects important resource material and comes up with presentation techniques that deliver the underlying message of the whole activity effectively. Executive coaching professionals are required to hold somewhere from a Master’s degree to a Doctorate in the discipline that they will be covering in the training programs.
Executive coaches may need to hold a teaching license as well and relevant professional certifications could add value to their chances of selection in different organizations. Since there are no universally accepted certifications for executive coaching. Nor are there standard definitions of coaching or regulations governing good practice. Anybody can claim to be a coach, and more people from many fields, particularly MBAs, are becoming coaches. Getting started in the field of executive coaching requires some additional learning for any psychologist.
No one specialty in psychology may fully prepare someone to do executive coaching (Beckhard, 1997). For instance if one has a background in clinical psychology than it would be imperative to get experience with organizational behavior as well as business context training, while those in the industrial-organizational psychology field would need an understanding of clinical and developmental issues. However, according to Beckhard (1997) executive coaching is not the place for psychologists with no particular interest in business.
One would need to have some passion, respect and understanding for business and organizations. The coach needs to understand the demands of the leadership roles from first-line supervision, middle management and top executives (Beckhard, 1997). It is recommended that becoming involved with organizations that have a stake in coaching such as the American Psychological Association (APA), Society of Consulting Psychology and Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology can strengthen skills and knowledge of executive coaching.
It has also been suggested to become acquainted with business professionals, to understand their mindset, learn from them and make networking contacts (Brotman, Liberi, & Wasylyshyn, 1998). There isn’t one particular way to go about becoming an executive coach, but there are definitely requirements that every coach should have. One of the most important requirements is to have hands-on experience that has been supervised by a seasoned coach who can provide evaluation and feedback.
Guidance can also be provided through interning at large corporations under several industrial-organizational psychologists. As the executive coach career progress it is essential to keep up to date with the latest techniques and findings in both psychology and business. Some words of inspiration given by Brotman and colleagues (1998) for psychologists who may want to explore the field of executive coaching, “coaching is more than just a business opportunity for psychologist it’s an opportunity for psychology to help humanize the workplace at a time when it has become very Darwinian” (p. 5). A personal approach for this learner will include finishing my degree, while getting as much practical experience as I can through internships and shadowing others in the industry. I will continue to work in my current job to gain in-depth knowledge of the business aspect while networking with others in the business field to gain an informative perspective. I will also continue to research current trends and techniques in business and psychology that may prove to be useful in an executive coaching career.
One can only hope to have a huge impact in the world of business by creating confident leaders who are able to not only run an effective organization or team but also become the type of executive that is respected by subordinates and peers. As an executive coach this learner would like to assist executives in balancing work and their personal lifestyles, help women executives break the glass ceiling, develop new initiatives for their organization and most importantly become a great leader. Conclusion Executive coaching can be an essential component to increasing organizational and individual effectiveness.
It also takes significance from the field of industrial-organizational psychology by being provided with theoretical and psychology based findings and techniques that can be helpful in executive coaching. The theories of control, personality and cognitive-behavior provide the foundational basis for coaching so that clients can be evaluated on all aspects. Entering the field of executive coaching can be a tedious task however not impossible. Executive coaching does require an advanced degree and full competence in the business and coaching aspect.
The path towards executive coaching can include securing an advanced degree in a related field, learning more of the ins and outs of the career through hands on practical experience, and staying abreast of psychology and business advances. Executive coaching can prove to be a successful and rewarding career to those who are business minded and results driven.
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