Monday, August 3, 2009

Executives Coaching

It may not be obvious, but CEOs must sometimes act as coaches to those who report to them. Surely, the same applies to anyone in an executive position.

According to Marshall Goldsmith many CEOs refrain from coaching because they feel that the people reporting to them-- their reports-- already know their jobs so well that it would demean them to imagine that they need guidance or encouragement. Especially from someone who might have less expertise in their area of responsibility. Link here.

That would be like saying that some athletes are so good that they do not need coaching. Yet, we know that the greater the athlete the more seriously he takes the coaching he receives. And he may even receive great coaching from someone who has far less ability than he does.

A mediocre player might be a great coach, while a great player might be a mediocre coach.

Goldsmith wants CEOs to learn how to coach. His first rule is worth close attention, especially for this blog: "...while successful people tend to resist negative feedback about the past, they almost always respond well to positive suggestions for the future."

This means that coaching is antithetical to many traditional forms of psychotherapy, which emphasize negative feedback about the past.

Thanks to Freud, much therapy has involved analyzing the patient's resistance to the therapist's negative and insulting interpretations about his past history.

Freud believed that these patients were resisting the truth and that their resistances had to be broken. Goldsmith, however, is saying that resistance to negative comments is normal in successful people.

After all, these people did not get where they are by belaboring the past. They succeeded by looking to the future. You cannot do both at the same time.

People who are less successful might be more apt to focus on the past-- sometimes they insist on it-- but that is not the solution. It is the problem. In those cases it is important for a coach to keep his or her client firmly focused on the future.

Goldsmith recommends that CEOs have quarterly coaching sessions. And he offers some good suggestions for how these meetings should be organized.

They must focus on the future, not the past. They should involve dialogue, not lecturing and dictating.

Also, the CEO should listen carefully to his report's ideas, should take them seriously, and should try to implement them.

This last is important. It is better to try to find what is good and worthy of implementation in an idea than to waste time trying to argue about why it is wrong.

A good CEO/coach should offer positive recognition for achievements; should solicit good news; and should provide the bases for moving forward. Even when things have gone wrong, he should not belabor the past but should try to work out the steps that need to be taken to improve performance in the future.

1 comment:

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