Coaching leaders and executives is essential. A trusted and objective executive coach “who can be at least a good sounding board, helps a leader decisively” (Klein). But no challenges are as complex, as at the top. Executive coaching can be a very different experience when working with senior male executives as opposed to junior high potentials (Hi-Po) or female leaders. High-potentials (Hi-Po) often engage with coaching because they see it as a positive recognition of their success. For them executive coaching is increasingly useful, highly rated and very satisfactory process and a great contributor to their leadership development. This is enabled when organisational culture values and supports leadership development, learning and where leadership development is more contextual, integrated and where leadership goals and development are linked to organisational goals and success. In my experience motivating women and building their strengths and confidence and their transition into leadership positions was very rewarding. In general, working with leaders who are really motivated, make sincere effort and who believe that this change will help them become better leaders has been a great experience for me as a coach.

On the other hand, senior leaders might not be as enthusiastic about engaging with coaching if they do not truly understand or believe in it or see it as a waste of time and money if it is not purposefully and strategically applied. Or, they may have had bad coaching experience in the past where it grew beyond healthy coaching boundaries, added considerably to business costs if unnecessarily prolonged. Finally, if the organisations only use coaching for remedial issues. For these reasons coaches need to be aware of a possible stigma associated with being assigned a coach and the executives resistance to coaching that stems from it.

Having courage for honest feedback and authority to challenge when a leader is more senior or when gender dynamics get in the way was another challenge I faced when coaching executives. “The chief executive of a large organisation may seek certain experience and background from his or her coach” (West and Milan). Thus, when working with senior leaders it was key for me to document my experience as a senior advisor for organisational development as an add on to my coaching practice. This helped demonstrate my credibility as a coach at this level. Finally, some leaders will follow an executive coaching agenda (often around leadership models or competency frameworks), others will resist an agenda not their own. Therefore, it is important that the executive coaches stay flexible and choose what best works in their practice with consideration for client’s different professional and personal contexts.

Written by Patrycja Orzeszyna © 2019 ZenCoaching.eu. All rights reserved. 

To find out more about ZenCoaching practice and schedule an exploratory coaching session with me please follow the link.