Why is it that the best athletes always seek out the best sports coaches? Isn’t their natural ability enough to take them to the top? The short answer is no, it isn’t. That is not to say that natural ability isn’t extremely important in sports, but that ability has to be refined, nurtured, and properly channelled for the athlete to reach his or her maximum potential. After all, a flawless diamond pulled out of the ground still needs to be cut and polished before it is considered perfect.
The same concept applies to the mastery of business leadership. Executives may have all the necessary leadership qualities, and constantly produce outstanding results, but it takes refinement from outside professionals to help those executives realise their full potential. Fortunately, this is a fact with which executives are becoming increasingly at ease.
A decade ago, executive coaching had somewhat of a bad reputation amongst executives. This is because they perceived the suggestion of outside assistance to be indicative of the fact that they were somehow ineffective in their leadership positions. This, of course, was never the case. Executive coaching has always been about taking individuals who show extraordinary leadership qualities and boosting their strengths with a view to helping them reach their maximum efficiency. Fortunately, this understanding of executive coaching is becoming widespread, and executives are now far more open to self-betterment than they perhaps were in the past.
Indeed, executives and leaders from small, family-owned businesses to major corporations are actively seeking out executive coaching because of its potential to increase business growth. But, before we explore how executive coaching can help your business grow, let us first look at the specifics of this external guidance that is quickly becoming integral to business achievement.
What, Exactly, is Executive Coaching?
Executive coaching refers to the process undergone by company executives and business coaches. It is important to note that the process is undergone by both, as executive coaching is a very interactive procedure, and far from the dictatorship that some executive still imagine it to be. Together, the executive and the coach work through a process designed to maximise the strengths of the executive and boost his or her weaknesses. This process is created through the dialogue shared between the executive and the coach, ensuring that the executive receives a personalised strategy based on the areas which require focus.
How Can Executive Coaching Help Businesses Grow?
Executive coaching is not necessarily aimed at the business itself, so its goals won’t be aimed at business growth outright. That being said, an improved leader will have an unavoidable growth effect on the business. If the great leaders of history have taught us only one, valuable lesson, it is that strong leadership can accomplish anything. Thus, an executive undergoing coaching will achieve business growth through the following factors:
- Diagnosis of Success
The great Michelangelo famously said, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” This is true for certain business leaders, who feel that their businesses are doing well while, in reality, they are performing at less than their full potential.
Success in business is not merely about money and power. Executive coaching allows for the metrics of a particular executive’s definition of success to be diagnosed and, if necessary, recalibrated. Through setting goals for success ever higher, executives will learn a great deal about their own potential for success, and, through this, take the business to greater heights.
- Affirmation of Priorities
Different personalities have different leadership styles. And, while tenacity is often a beneficial trait in leaders, if overly developed it can border on stubbornness, which can be detrimental to a leader and a business. Tenacity in chasing priorities is certainly commendable. However, an unwillingness to relent on chasing those priorities when they are clearly not benefitting the business might be the precise culprit of a stagnant growth period.
Executive coaching helps executives revisit their priorities, and provides fresh insight onto how to realise them. A shift in priorities might be the necessary factor for further business growth, which the executive will have the tools to helm.
- Adaptation of Leadership Approaches
One of the keys to successful leadership is effective delegation, but many executives can misunderstand this factor. Some leaders feel that it is their job to spearhead each and every idea, and always be the most knowledgeable person in the meeting. This can work for some situations, but it is often unnecessary. Moreover, this approach can appear condescending and succeed only in dividing what should be a unified team.
Executive coaching can help a leader delegate through questioning. By asking the team about the current issues the company is facing, as well as their thoughts on the best ways to approach those issues, a leader can successfully motivate the team and create an alliance, which will certainly help company growth.
- Prediction of Change, both short and long term
In business, nothing is certain except change. You don’t have to look too far to see how the business landspace is ever-changing whether that is the print industry shrinking due to the shift in digital media or law or just about anything else. However, some business leaders seem to be able to predict future shifts and manage to steer their companies around these hurdles as if by magic. However, as we all know, magic isn’t real – it’s just an illusion. The business leaders who appear to be able to predict the future actually possess a sense of foresight based on experience and know-how.
Executive coaching can teach executives to develop this sense of foresight. For example, take businesses which are affected by seasonable demand for their products or services much more than others, such as toys during Christmas. After all, it is completely possible to predict the trajectory of a moving object from inside it – a few freak speed-bumps aside. Through coaching, executives will develop the ability to predict possible future change based on the factors visible from within the company, such as poor planning, product issues, or staff insufficiencies.
Leadership in its simplest form entails pointing a crowd in the right direction and walking ahead. While business leadership can be more complicated than this, it’s never good to over-complicate procedures as this practice can obscure the business’s main goals.
Executive coaching can help with simplification, which places more emphasis on leadership itself and less on the duties required to fill this position. By improving his or her leadership ability, an executive can complete tasks without being overcome by them, and a leader valuing simplicity will thus have a streamlining effect on the company he or she is leading.
The Link between Executive Growth and Business Growth
As mentioned, the above factors are aimed at executive growth, but have a knock-on effect. One of the fundamental principles behind executive coaching regards the idea that growth in a leader translates into business growth. This is not just a theory, it has been proved.
A 2011 survey set out to discover if there was indeed a link between excellent leadership and business growth. The study compared a database detailing company growth with one detailing executive performance, and the findings were conclusive. It was revealed that only one percent of the executives studied scored highly on the study’s scoring metrics, and that all of those executives were at the helm of companies which were experiencing major growth.
The important conclusion to be drawn from this study is that a single executive can have a significant impact on the growth of a company. With the right skill-set, an executive can actively move a business forward, inspiring motivation through the ranks of employees. Another important factor here is that the skill-set of influential executives is not necessarily a natural endowment.
To return to the sports reference made earlier, no athletes reach the pinnacle of their sports without excellent coaching. Talent is often a requisite, but it is never absolutely sufficient. Similarly, it is possible for every executive to be as influential as the one percent identified in the study. With the right coaching, executives can refine their most valuable qualities and strengthen the qualities which are perhaps underdeveloped. This executive growth can then be directly responsible for company growth.
How to Choose an Executive Coach
Executives are not interchangeable pieces of equipment, so there is no single manual for coaching one. The style of coaching suited to each executive depends on factors like personality and strengths, and should be approached differently each time. This is why it is important to decide on an executive coach that suits the candidate well.
However, there are certain additions to a coach’s CV that should always feature. These are:
- Qualifications: Executive coaches need to have a thorough understanding of modern business practices in order to properly guide and develop executives. In addition to this, a solid grounding in behavioural sciences is certainly beneficial. A degree in business science is important, and training in behavioural science is certainly complimentary.
- Experience: As executives will know from building a solid staff of employees, experience counts. Theoretical knowledge of business practices is definitely important, but the ability to apply them to practical situations based on past experience is the difference between a good coach and a great one.
Planting the Seeds for Growth
Sustained growth should be one of the fundamental objectives of any business. But, instead of bringing in outside assistance to promote growth directly, it is far more beneficial to equip executives with the skills necessary to stimulate long-term growth. Executive coaching can do this, and is thus the best way to ensure that a business not only grows in the short-term, but continues to grow.
This article was contributed by Shirish Agarwal from Flow20, who offer web design, SEO and other digital marketing solutions.