Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach: Use Your Knowledge, Experience, and Intuition to Help Leaders Excel

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Coaching is more than simply learning a process and set of skills. Exceptional coaches draw on their professional experience, knowledge of organizationally relevant topics, strong helping skills, coaching-specific competencies, and most important, their ability to use their own intuition in the service of the client. Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach is the first book that brings all of these elements together to guide readers in developing their own personal model of coaching.

The book begins with the foundation for executive coaching: definitions, competencies, and topics. Readers will examine the core content areas crucial in any coach's work, from engagement and goal setting to needs assessment, data gathering, feedback, and development planning--and then learn how to combine that knowledge with the unique perspective they bring to the table as individuals in order to achieve maximum coaching effectiveness.

Each chapter includes a case study that brings the practice of coaching to life. Tools include charts, development plans, contracts, and more, plus ongoing discussion of the role of coaching in organizational contexts.


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About the author (2011)


Our Journeys

We five authors came to executive coaching in ways similar to those who participate

in our coach training courses--fromorganizational psychology, consulting,

organization development, career counseling, and the personal

helping professions. At the time we began to coach there was no formal practice

of executive coaching. The need for individualized, just-in-time executive

development emerged in the 1980s, in the formof requests for help from

our human resources contacts. Taking a cue fromA Chorus Line, amusical of

that era, we responded with, "We can do that!" With very little definition or

guidance, we originally provided those individual development services

under various headings, such as developmental counseling, mental health

consultation, occupational clinical psychology, or retentionwork. By the early

1990s, however, executive coaching had become the preferred label, and

somewhat consistent expectations had been defined.

Although there was no training for executive coaches back then, there

were many streams of skill, knowledge, and practice that fueled and shaped

coaching work, including individual psychotherapy, leadership development

courses, organization development (OD), and human resources con-

sulting. At the same time, there were new ideas about management and

leadership that were synergistic with the increasing demand for executive

coaching. Managerial competencies beyond technical skills were gaining

prominence, including an emphasis on the manager as coach and developer

of talent. Approaches to leadership began focusing on soft skill areas such

as communication and interpersonal dynamics rather than formal authority

or command and control. Human resources practices were moving

beyond personnel administration to include sophisticated succession planning

systems and 360-degree feedback tools for individual development.

Consulting and training firms and executive education branches of business

schools were responding to, and advancing, these new ideas about leadership

and HR practices and incorporating them into management and executive

training experiences for clients.

Our early opportunities for executive coaching work evolved out of those

swirling applications. Under the prevailing zeitgeist, executive coaching coalesced

with a surprising degree of consistency around a confidential one-onone

relationship, informed by 360-degree and other assessments, organizationally

sponsored, and anchored in on-the-job action planning. Certainly

there were branded labels for coaching, reflecting a particular theoretical

model or the desire to be differentiated in the marketplace, but the rough

outlines of accepted executive coaching practice became clear quickly.

Supporting that clarity was the fact that coaching was not yet a term used for

services outside of organizational contexts. In otherwords, the termcoaching

had not yet ballooned to apply to personal, life, and career interventions.

By the early 1990s in the United States, coaching had become an accepted

option for executive development. Even those firms offering more traditional

classroomcourses sawcoaching as a complement to their efforts and grafted it

on. The Center for Creative Leadership was an early innovator in executive

development courses and used coaching to facilitate interpretation of assessment

feedback as a basis for individual development planning. In addition,

coaching found its way into increasingly sophisticated human resources practices.

Competency-driven human resource planning, performance management

systems, and action learning teams all triggered identification of leaders

who would benefit from individualized, accelerated development. As executives

and managers were selected for development, demand for coaching

grew. Coaches were screened, introduced to prospective clients, and offered

coaching opportunities, typically for six-month engagements.

In these early years, coaching qualifications were undefined, but some

were favored: affinity for the business enterprise; insight about organizational

life, especially at the top; the ability to engage executives one-on-one in a selfdiscovery

process; and organizational sponsormanagement. Industry-specific

knowledge, assessment tool facility, professional/human resources networks,

and consulting experience were also immediately useful. Experience as a professional

counselor and advanced training in psychology or other human service

fields added to credibility but were not required. Eventually, a parallel phenomenon

emerged as HR professionals began offering forms of coaching to

managers in their organizations, and the role of the internal coach was born.

The authors participated actively in the growth of executive coaching and

also were called upon to help improve its practices. Starting in the mid-1990s,

we supported the development and case supervision of less experienced executive

coaches. For all of us, these cases became very gratifying aspects of our

professional lives. We discovered we enjoyed, and were effective at, guiding

others in their coaching work. We also found a synergy between coaching the

coach and our own coaching practices: Our cases became opportunities to

extract lessons and provide examples, while the cases our students provided

drewus into broader coaching issues and considerations of howto train coaches,

whether they would be based inside their home organization (internal

coaches) or become independent coaches offering their services to a variety of

organizations (external coaches).

Key Principles from Our Executive Coach Training Programs

These experiences led us to deliver courses on executive coaching starting in

2002. Since then, we have refined and clarified our ideas about coaching and

how coaches learn. These insights are the basis for the design and content of

this book. A core idea is that executive coaching is a whole-person activity.

All coaches bring unique knowledge and experience to their practices, but in

a more profound way we bring our personalities, values, implicit beliefs

about adult growth, and our own individual styles of connecting with others.

Thus, this book does not advocate any specific coaching methodology but

rather helps you, the reader, define your own approach and model. We are

confident that becoming overtly aware of what you bring to executive coaching

will provide you with a richer foundation than training in a standardized


In creating this book, we have been very aware of the importance of

doing and applying, as well as learning and understanding. To the extent a

book allows, we have tried to capture the essence of an apprenticeship experience

rather than only providing guidelines. We have included numerous

examples of coaching casework. Every coaching topic is accompanied by a

detailed illustration from a case, and that case is further explored from the

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