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Coaching Identifies Opportunities
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by Vic Settergren

“You need a COACH!”

Not so long ago, getting this message from your boss might have clearly informed you (and probably those around you) that there is something broken and you need to fix it – now!

In today’s business world, both domestic and international, being assigned a business or executive coach has become recognition that this person is valued by the business, is driving a critical mission and is demonstrating potential for significant growth in the company. Some even regard it as symbol of status in their organization. Providing a coach, after all, is a business investment in a key business asset.

Consider your own career. What circumstances have you encountered where you could have benefited from an independent sounding board, someone who has seen and helped others in similar situations and can help you clarify your perceptions, conclusions and decisions?

Employees often rise in an organization because of their ability and motivation to drive results – but as they rise, new tools will be required for success. Some have established success, but the industry, customer preferences or even the employees have changed so that level of success is diminishing. For the best leaders to continually evolve, they need to develop new capabilities to create and communicate vision, build relationships around that vision and work through others to deliver on it – all while developing people and keeping them committed.

To remain trusted and effective over time, coaches must practice certain values. The most important of these values is confidentiality with their client. This is a critical factor in establishing the relationship necessary to have frank and direct conversations to become that trusted confidant to the client. Without the freedom to openly discuss thoughts, perceptions and options, a coaching effort is destined to be ineffective. Even though the business may be paying for the coach, boundaries must be established between the coach and client over what can be shared with the business.

Internal coaches, often reporting to HR, have some advantage in that they understand the business and can coach as part of an organizational strategy to drive leadership alignment or strategy. External coaches may not know the specific business or even have deep experience with the industry. However, coaching is not the same as mentoring and so in most cases, it is not required for the coach to be familiar with the specifics of the business or technologies that the leader will face. Rather, they help the leader broaden his or her thinking and make connections that lead to personal insights about choices, options and capabilities. Their value comes from the depth of the questions they raise. Recent data suggests that, especially at the executive level, there is inherently a higher degree of trust with external coaches because they do not have strong relationships or potential conflicts of interest inside the company.

While I seldom take on an internal client as a business coach, I do work as an internal coach with succession candidates to accelerate their development for executive level roles. Using a set of self-assessment feedback tools as methods to develop baseline self awareness, I work with each candidate to help build a multiyear development plan.

If an external coach would be helpful in that development, I will identify those coaches with specific areas of expertise to support a given leader or executive’s development needs. The client, coach and I review the client’s development plan and assessment data to establish a six-month coaching strategy to support the client in exploring new approaches and opportunities for growth within that plan.

There are a number of great coaches in the Tucson area, although coaching by phone or teleconference is also becoming much more common, so location is not as restrictive. Once you find a coach that you believe can meet your needs, check references carefully. Unless I am familiar with their work, I look for someone who has an International Coaching Federation accreditation certifying their education, experience and qualification through logged coaching hours and testing of that coach.

The Southern Arizona Chapter of the International Coaching Federation can provide recommendations for a certified coach that meets your organization’s specific needs at www.icfsaz.com. Click the “Find a Local ICFSAZ Coach” tab or call 505-1555.

Vic Settergren is director of global talent development at Raytheon Missile Systems, responsible for its leadership and executive coaching program. He is a professional certified coach, member of the Greater Tucson Leadership governing board and member the Southern Arizona Chapter of the International Coaching Federation.

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