I recently asked a client what considerations went into his decision to choose us for Executive Coaching. With over two decades at the helm of large companies, this leader is as rock-solid as they come. This led me to want to better understand his perspective. His response was both insightful and revealing:
“As a CEO there is always pressure to be in charge and in control. Sometimes you make decisions that are well thought out, but you can still have some doubts. It was important for me to find someone who would empathize and allow me to express myself fully without judgement. My key criteria was to find someone who I could be comfortable with being vulnerable and unguarded.”
After listening carefully to his explanation, two things stood out for me. First, leaders have more demands and responsibility than ever before. This doesn’t just apply to Presidents of large organizations, it applies to Mid Managers, High Potentials and Entrepreneurs. As Bob Dylan once said, “You gunna have to serve someone”. We all have access to more information and we make more decision now than ever before, and we all have pressure on us to “Get It Right”. No matter what your position is, we are all human, we are all susceptible to errors, distractions, emotions and indecision. When we have responsibility for clients, revenue or employees, the stakes are high to “Get It Right”. Having a second set of eyes on issues, having access to an independent perspective, and having someone help us think through our positions in three dimensions can be invaluable.
The second thing that impressed me about these comments was how personal this decision was. This leader wanted to align with someone that they could feel comfortable with during those inevitable moments when they needed to be unguarded and vulnerable. Despite what the biggest, toughest and most driven leaders might portray, the truth is they all go through moments when they need to drop their shields and egos and wrestle with tough, personal issues. It isn’t always as easy as it may look.
We are all unique. When it comes to food, it takes the right combination and permutation of ingredients to create that awesome recipe that appeals to our unique tastes. Likewise, it takes the right mix of personal characteristics that will fit best with each of us as a Coach. Knowing that we will lean on our Coach when the stakes are huge and when we need the most self reflection, we need to Trust our Coach to an extraordinary degree.
Choosing a Coach is an incredibly personal decision and the stakes are high. Based partly on these two insights, we strongly recommend that companies, Talent Management departments and HR Leaders design their Leadership Development programs to allow choice. Two to three “Chemistry Interviews” should be conducted for every leader who feels that Coaching will benefit them. Their selection will likely come down to their intuition or gut feel, yet this is where feelings of Trust come from. Coaches get this and support this.
Having someone that you can turn to, that you trust, value and respect can make the difference between an enjoyable career and a lonely one filled with second guessing and assaults on confidence. Selecting the right Coach can have a significant positive impact on the most influential people in your organization. This, in turn, raises the bar for the entire organization. Take time, be selective and find the best fit.
Terry is a an Executive Coach with Canada’s premier Leadership Development firm, Envision Group. Terry’s background is in Organizational Psychology and Sales Leadership. His passion is helping business leaders achieve greater levels of personal and organizational succes