ECI: Be­yond the mas­ter ap­pren­tice re­la­tion­ship

Im­prov­ing ex­ec­u­tive per­for­mance and build­ing out­stand­ing teams is a some­times dif­fi­cult, but al­ways a re­ward­ing prospect, Busi­ness First speaks with Ex­ec­u­tive Coach­ing In­ter­na­tional’s (ECI) founder David Gwynne and Chris Corneil about the best way to tack

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Im­prov­ing ex­ec­u­tive per­for­mance and build­ing out­stand­ing teams is a some­times dif­fi­cult, but al­ways a re­ward­ing prospect

Eci founders David Gwynne and Chris Corneil have dif­fer­ent back­grounds, but com­ple­men­tary skills.

Gwynne be­gan his work­ing life as an in­dus­trial psy­chol­o­gist be­fore tak­ing a role as head of strat­egy im­ple­men­ta­tion for a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional con­sult­ing firm and sub­se­quently es­tab­lish­ing his own man­age­ment con­sult­ing busi­ness. He has worked for one of Aus­tralia’s largest pri­vately owned con­glom­er­ates as an Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, driv­ing a busi­ness im­prove­ment pro­gram. He has also led a fi­nan­cial ser­vices busi­ness.

Corneil was most re­cently the Aus­tralasian CEO of a large fi­nan­cial or­gan­i­sa­tion com­pris­ing a $25 bil­lion as­set man­age­ment busi­ness and in his 30 years in busi­ness has come to un­der­stand the value in bal­anc­ing EQ, with IQ and man­age­ment ex­per­tise to get the best out of busi­nesses and their lead­ers.

“I’ve spent about 25 years in the in­vest­ment man­age­ment in­dus­try,” Corneil says. “I’ve had a se­ries of ex­ec­u­tive roles, in­clud­ing as CEO of a large fi­nan­cial firm for a num­ber of years. I’ve been for­tu­nate to have worked with two ex­ec­u­tive coaches dur­ing my ca­reer so I’ve ac­tu­ally drunk the KoolAid and been on the other side of the ta­ble. In fact, that’s where I first met David – he was my first ex­ec­u­tive coach more than ten years ago.”

To­day they work with a range of very ex­pe­ri­enced coaches who have helped forge eci’s rep­u­ta­tion.

As per the eci web­site, eci ap­proaches its ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing prac­tice by un­der­stand­ing the vast ar­ray of cul­tural and busi­ness chal­lenges that ex­ec­u­tives face, we es­tab­lish be­spoke coach­ing pro­grams and goals around: Lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, ef­fec­tive­ness and achiev­ing busi­ness out­comes Per­sonal and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment dur­ing pe­ri­ods of dis­rup­tion

Ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing has be­come an enor­mously sat­u­rated mar­ket.

So how does a com­pany in this sec­tor stand out?

It is a ques­tion eci posed to its clients last year.

“The an­swers they gave were that we were highly per­son­alised, that we con­veyed, demon­strated and main­tained high lev­els of trust and that our ap­proach and our peo­ple showed the ut­most in­tegrity,” Gwynne says. “We build rap­port quickly, and more im­por­tantly, we pro­duce the re­sults that the or­gan­i­sa­tions want to see and what they’re pay­ing for.”

The key re­ally is to demon­strate a track record of suc­cess­ful re­sults. Of be­ing able to de­velop a pro­gram of sig­nif­i­cant progress within an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“At the end of the day we ex­pect to see that or­gan­i­sa­tions are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress hav­ing in­vested in ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing. The ben­e­fits are both tan­gi­ble and in­tan­gi­ble,” Corneil says.

Eci be­lieve the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of coach­ing are the busi­ness re­sults – more ef­fec­tive busi­ness out­comes. The in­tan­gi­ble are the way peo­ple feel.

“Clients reg­u­larly say to our coaches, ‘lis­ten I’m re­ally un­der the pump, I’m so in­cred­i­bly busy, but I’m re­ally glad I came here for this meet­ing to­day’. Or they fin­ish the meet­ing and say, ‘that was a great meet­ing’. Clients leave meet­ings with their coaches more fo­cussed on the high im­pact things they can do to de­liver bet­ter busi­ness re­sults.

“These are the sorts of in­tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter they’ve been work­ing through our coach­ing process. That gives all of us an enor­mous sense of ful­fil­ment in what we are do­ing and in­di­cates we are hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact.”

A be­spoke coach­ing pro­gram is de­vel­oped for each client eci works with. Gwynne says these pro­grams are de­vel­oped with a num­ber of di­men­sions in mind.

“I like to start with the macro-di­men­sion: where the world is and where or­gan­i­sa­tions and

“Clients leave meet­ings with their coaches more fo­cussed on the high im­pact things they can do to de­liver bet­ter busi­ness re­sults.”

their lead­ers find them­selves. As ex­ec­u­tive coaches we have to come in with a good world-view around the forces of change, and how that im­pacts on or­ga­ni­za­tions and the peo­ple in them.

“An or­gan­i­sa­tion faces all sorts of strate­gic chal­lenges that you need to un­der­stand. You need to un­der­stand where the or­gan­i­sa­tion sits and what the dy­namic en­vi­ron­ment it’s in, whether it be govern­ment or pri­vate sec­tor.

The other di­men­sion is to un­der­stand the cul­ture of that or­gan­i­sa­tion and where it has changed. So we spend time work­ing with the or­ga­ni­za­tion to un­der­stand its cul­ture. We then use a tai­lored, cus­tomised feed­back process to get very gran­u­lar about what change is nec­es­sary for that in­di­vid­ual or that part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. You have to get through a lot of back­story and you need to get down to the very specifics: what we need to do in next three months, six months, and so on. This early work en­sures we are coach­ing in the ar­eas that will help the ex­ec­u­tive to have the great­est im­pact within their or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

The prob­lem is ev­ery leader is dif­fer­ent and each one see the cul­tural de­vel­op­ment and busi­ness growth dif­fer­ently, but Corneil re­it­er­ates Gwynne’s point that no mat­ter what the dif­fer­ences are, coach­ing suc­cess comes down to un­der­stand­ing the is­sues fac­ing a busi­ness.

The value of eci is the diver­sity and range of pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence of its coaches who have lived these is­sues them­selves.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to us that our coaches have sat in the hot seats of our clients, what­ever level that is. So they know from first hand ex­pe­ri­ence what it’s like: the pres­sures, the am­bi­gu­i­ties that ex­ist, and the speed with which busi­ness moves to­day.”

Eci coaches work with lead­ers to help them pause and re­flect on things that aren’t work­ing well and things that can be done bet­ter.

“That forced re­flec­tion which leads to a plan, which leads to ac­tion, is in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful for all

ex­ec­u­tives, and es­pe­cially se­nior ex­ec­u­tives. That’s where we see ex­ec­u­tives re­ally mov­ing the dial and mov­ing their or­gan­i­sa­tions for­ward,” Corneil says.

The back­grounds of the eci coaches means they have the con­tent and the horse­power to deal with the is­sues, the am­bi­gu­i­ties, the pres­sures, and the macro-dy­nam­ics of their clients.

“More sub­tly, I think best prac­tice in coach­ing is to be highly adapt­able, highly con­tex­tual and to be able to deal with what­ever shows up on the day,” Gwynne says. “The ex­ec­u­tive could ar­rive with a busi­ness prob­lem, a per­sonal prob­lem or both; it can change in­tra-meet­ing. So the coach needs to be able to be adapt­able and flex­i­ble and deal with the con­text in the mar­ket, the or­gan­i­sa­tion, the speed of busi­ness, the flat­ten­ing of the world. There are forces com­ing from all dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions and coaches need to be able to adapt and work with their clients to work through all that, and not be rigid and dog­matic.

Corneil adds, “The other point about this is that the coach is there to help ex­ec­u­tives find so­lu­tions for their prob­lems not tell them what to do in a mas­ter/pupil re­la­tion­ship. Learn­ing at the foot of the mas­ter is re­ally not the point of coach­ing, it’s to help ex­ec­u­tives learn, dis­cover and be more ef­fec­tive along the way. Nor is it the pur­pose to sit and have a cup of tea and lis­ten to the ex­ec­u­tive’s on­go­ing nar­ra­tive. I think the fi­nal part of best prac­tice is that it’s ac­tive and it’s fo­cused on achiev­ing real busi­ness out­comes.”

It is that ap­proach that has de­liv­ered so much suc­cess for eci. One of its achieve­ments was re­alised just last week when a client re­ceived the big­gest bonus of her life.

“So we put the client on no­tice that we ex­pected that from her again next year,” Gwynne says.

“Our achieve­ments are the suc­cesses of our clients. It’s when they get a pro­mo­tion or when they suc­cess­fully take on a very ma­jor chal­lenge in a busi­ness and ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Eci strives to help across peo­ple’s en­tire lives. “It’s see­ing our clients have bet­ter lives. Their well-be­ing is im­proved, their en­gage­ment with peo­ple is im­proved, their self-re­gard is in a good space and their re­silience is bet­ter. Suc­cess can be mea­sured or­gan­i­sa­tion­ally, it can be mea­sured fi­nan­cially, it can be mea­sured emo­tion­ally, and we’re look­ing at all those as met­rics when we are work­ing with our clients.”

For the eci part­ners, suc­cess is also mea­sured by how quickly their own busi­ness is grow­ing.

“We’re nine plus years in, work­ing across a breadth of in­dus­tries and get­ting strong re­fer­rals and rec­om­men­da­tions from our ex­ist­ing clients. Strong client ad­vo­cacy and see­ing peo­ple gen­uinely ex­pe­ri­enc­ing suc­cess are things that in­di­cate that as a busi­ness we are on the right track.”

Gwynne and Corneil are de­ter­mined to con­tinue to look over the hori­zon and with their coaches, con­tinue to help ex­ec­u­tives suc­cess­fully nav­i­gate and thrive in an in­creas­ingly com­plex and fast paced busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

“As in pro­fes­sional sports, ex­ec­u­tives are re­al­is­ing 21st cen­tury busi­ness re­quires peak per­for­mance and this re­quires the sup­port of a pro­fes­sional coach”.

Chris Corneil (left) and David Gwynne (right)

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