In this article light is thrown on what it is that the client brings to the executive coaching relationship and how they expect it to be tailored to their preferences. It is based on research completed for an MA in Coaching & Mentoring. The Executives involved in the research were all in senior leadership roles in large private sector organisations. At the time of the research they were all using executive coaching.
All the Executives identified qualities of themselves which, in their view, assisted in the development of the executive coaching relationship. The majority of participants were prepared to make a significant personal commitment to the executive coaching relationship in order to make it work. They felt that one of their key attributes was a preparedness to be open and honest and felt that their ability to be open with the coach was in itself an indication of the strength of the executive coaching relationship.
In addition to their openness and honesty, many of the Executives believed that their non-defensive attitude, a willingness to see new perspectives, and an acceptance that the executive coaching may at times be uncomfortable were important to the relationship. Self-awareness also emerged as a quality of the participants and it was perceived to enable them to be aware of their own strengths, weaknesses and situation.
All participants in the research were able to describe the individual characteristics they brought to the executive coaching relationship; however there was also a larger overall theme which emerged which was related to bringing the whole self to the executive coaching relationship and doing this in a way which meant taking a personal risk and revealing vulnerabilities. This was seen as the only way to address their executive coaching topics and to get the most out of their sessions. So it would seem from the point of view of coaching clients there is a need for a high level of personal investment for excutive coaching to be successful.
Tailored For the Client
Many Executives described how important it was for them that their coach tailored the executive coaching for them personally, and for their individual preferences. In some cases this meant that the participants wanted a coach who was very practical and did not keep offering management theories. In others there was an appreciation of the coach’s ability to produce simple and easy frameworks to understand aspects of for example leadership or organisational politics. As a result of this tailoring of the coaching the Executives felt that the relationship was one that was there for them personally. They found it was one relationship in their life where they did not have to feel guilty about being a bit selfish. In this sense they found the relationship with their coach as unique.
An Active Partnership
The executive coaching relationship was seen as a partnership where both parties had an active role to play for it to be successful. The Executives used metaphors to describe their view of the executive coaching relationship and two examples seemed to capture the essence of the way the relationship was seen. In one the coach and client were seen as two people sailing a boat across a bay. Both had a distinct role to play; one to navigate and the other to rig the sails. In the other example the Executive looked for a metaphor that captured a partnership doing something enjoyable, but which required him to push himself, and which had momentum. In this case the client was a runner and the coach was seen to be alongside on a bike providing support, encouragement and pushing participants to meet their potential.
This research seems to provide useful guidance for both executive coaches and clients alike. If you are considering working with an Executive Coach it appears critical that you are committed to executive coaching and the need to play an active role. Coaches need to make sure that clients are aware of the nature of the executive coaching relationship before an assignment commences. They also need to ensure that they are flexible and capable of tailoring their style to the particular preferences of their Client. Only by doing this will they be able to effectively support clients achieve their executive coaching objectives.
Key words; Executive Coaching relationship, Executive Coaching clients, Executive Coaching, Executive Coach, Executive Coaching Company, Executive Coaching Provider, Executive Coaching Services, Executive Coaching contract
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