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Articles     by The The Growth Connection
© Copyright The Growth Connection Pty. Ltd. 1999-2012

 

Executive Coaching
by Sandra O'Neill

For me, one of the highlights of the 1997 International Career Development Conference, Imogen Wareing and myself attended, in San Jose, California was a seminar delivered by Robert Oberlander, Ph.D. from Lee Hecht Harrison. It was entitled "Leader or Loser: Executive Coaching, A Critical Difference".

Individual coaching and mentoring is becoming an accepted development pathway in many organisations. Why? Robert said the rationale can come from the circumstance of:

  • executives having management gaps, limited experience or limited managerial education, and/or
  • organisations having limited time to coach and mentor, growing too rapidly or promoting people too fast for their true knowledge/skills to keep up; not taking time to reflect, set vision or direction.

The structure of a typical executive coaching program usually is much like this:

  • conduct needs analysis to determine what the problems are, from both the company's and the individual's perspective
  • conduct psychological assessment of the individual (including the use of MBTI and 360 degree feedback mechanisms)
  • agree the learning/coaching objectives and contract a program for achieving them
  • implement coaching (usually over 6 months)

Robert used a number of models to explain corporate mentality and its effect on individuals, building trust, creating a healthy organisation through empowerment and a three-part dynamic empowering system.

However, there were three key things he said which have stuck in my mind and which, I think, encapsulate the value of executive coaching:

  1. It is entirely possible for the mental health of a whole company to drop en masse from the optimum, self-actualised level ("great company, great job, we're all having fun"), down through four lower phases, which roughly equate to Maslow's Hierarchy, to as low as the survival level (heavy stress, anger and a negative/neurotic atmosphere.) Once this happens, however, going back up through the hierarchy cannot be done en masse: rather it is a matter of individuals, one at a time finding their own recommitment to the organisation.
  2. All good actions, including those made in a business environment are based on quality reflection. Today's businesses, however tend to bias their reward systems in favour of action-oriented people, the ones who visibly, tangibly "get things done". As a result, many senior executives have lost (or never developed) their inward analysis skills, and need help to become more reflective, in order to see what they don't see now.
  3. Traditional management training, by the nature of its classroom-based style, must be generic. This means that the different issues faced by individual managers are rarely addressed in enough depth; managers find they cannot immediately use the learning for solving their own problems.

Usually they need to re-think the theory and develop an appropriate application, which is relevant to their own situation - and this takes time they do not have! A more streamlined, targeted approach to their specific needs is required.

Executive coaching is an admirable tool because it takes cognisance of exactly these three constraints experienced by today's busy executives. It builds an objective, challenging, helpful and confidential relationship where senior people can build or repolish the skills that were overlooked, lost or tarnished on their climb up the corporate ladder.


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