Does the title of this post intrigue you? Does it attract you because you suspect it might shed light on this somewhat intangible and elusive ’product’ that has mushroomed into the corporate and business world over the last decade? I know there are many executive coaching naysayers, or even aspirant wanna-be’s, who are waiting for the big truth to be revealed – how do a group of change agents manage to sell conversation for a living, and more, appear to be financially successful at it, in some instances, more so that any helping profession before them?
Because this stuff works. And that is my truth. And it works because, ironically, there are many truths.
The executive truth
Karo is a well-educated and ambitious women in her late thirties. After many years in the health sector, she has become disillusioned with the industry. She is experiencing a values clash with her co-workers and a strong need to re-align her focus. Karo is not having a mental breakdown, she’s not in need of a therapist, or a counselor. She does not need to change (although she is changing, despite herself, such is the evolution of the person over the course of a life journey). She is not wanting art therapy, weekend retreats or short courses for self-discovery. What she is in need of is conversation. Deep, meaningful conversation. She wants to express herself, get it off her chest, clarify her thoughts, figure out her way forward. Having this conversation with her mother, lover, boss or buddy brings a sometimes unwelcome set of challenges; their good advise, or their worst fears, become more obstacles to Karo finding her own truth. Enter, the executive coach and the profound power of the attentive thinking space.
Being listened to, being deeply heard, is a mysterious and potent drug. Under it’s influence we are invited to travel the length and breadth of our personal truths, and back again, gently challenged by our coach to test our own realities. And to be asked a question that invites deeper exploration, ah, the feeling of euphoria when we grasp our inner answers! Karo’s truths are not mine, they are not Dan’s, or Bongi’s or Hashmat’s, or any of my other executive clients. Each person, as individual as their own fingerprints, is the interpreter of his or her own truth. As coach, I am not an adviser – that would imply that I know better – rather, I am a conduit for facilitating self-generated insight and self-generated advise.
What does all of this have to do with business? Why would Karo’s organization invest their good money so that she might get stuff off her chest? Surely their only concern is seeing Karo deliver more this year than the year before? Because, when Karo finds her truth, when she – clearer-headed and calm – steps into her power, her energetic influence is like a contagion. If the organization is smart enough to nurture it, it can have a positive, ripple effect on those around her. Particularly if the coaching has been successful in delivering it’s most important by-product; Karo’s enhanced ability to listen to others in the same way.
Practically speaking, the organization also gets to keep someone they might have otherwise lost, retain the expertise, and save thousands on new recruitment fees. Conversely, if through the coaching process the organization looses Karo to resignation, they have made a solid investment into the life of an individual who has moved through and graduated from the ranks.
While executive coaching may be governed by corporate protocol that insists that goals and milestones are noted and monitored, my truth suggests that this is the least important part of the role. That’s what corporate and department visions and strategies are there for. Executives know what they need to do to deliver, and a coach is not a boss or a demanding stake holder. But, until the boss or stakeholder is able to hold the space for deep and meaningful exploration of personal truth, then the truth is that executive coaching is one of the most truthful investments in its people that executives and organizations can make.
What is your truth about executive coaching?