One of the key ingredients in Executive Coaching success takes place before the coaching even starts.
The Contracting Stage
In the contracting stage the client, the boss and the coach agree the objectives for the coaching that is going to take place. Very often this is the first time there has been an open and transparent conversation between the boss and the client on the area for development. For some reason the more senior the level in the organisation the less it seems that people discuss development needs – perhaps because they may be perceived as weaknesses rather than opportunities for improvement?
Why Does Contracting Turbo Charge Coaching?
I have been involved in many contracting sessions and in every case they have helped get the coaching off to a flying start. Equally where the boss has not been involved in contracting for some reason the coaching can get very bogged down. I would not start a coaching assignment these days unless the boss has been involved in a contracting discussion.
These are the key reasons (in my view) that contracting is a crucial success ingredient in Executive Coaching:
- Client and boss have an open and constructive discussion about development needs
- The fact that coaching is linked to the discussion signals the boss’s willingness to invest in the client’s development
- The coach can ensure, in an independent manner, that there is absolute clarity about what needs to change for the coaching to be successful
- The client has the opportunity to challenge the coaching objectives and amend them
- There are clear success criteria in place so the client knows they have achieved the development objectives
- The client is motivated to change because it is clear that the coaching objectives are important to the boss
- The motivation to change gives the client the energy to do some of the difficult work required in effective coaching
- Because of the process for reviewing the achievement of coaching objectives the client and boss talk to each other at least twice more over the period of the coaching (in the middle and at the end)
You would be right if you are sitting there saying to yourself – ‘there’s no rocket science involved here’. What you would be missing is that this kind of positive developmental discussion, accompanied by coaching, happens fairly rarely at senior levels in an organisation. For some reason MDs and CEOs tend to steer clear of constructive developmental discussions with their immediate team of reports. They will say well done, but where they have a concern they seem to let it grow and then deal with it by moving the member of the team on elsewhere. I could be wrong this is just a personal observation.
In those companies that use Executive Coaching the process provides a facilitated and safe framework for a positive development conversation to take place. This works to enhance the performance of even the most senior executives.
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