The im­pact of coach­ing in ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion

The Smart Manager - - Contents - MARK SKIN­NER IS SE­NIOR EX­EC­U­TIVE COACH AT IMD.

Mark Skin­ner, IMD, stresses the grow­ing im­por­tance of ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing in lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment.

Putting ideas into ac­tion!

As a coach and fa­cil­i­ta­tor work­ing with some premier Euro­pean busi­ness schools at the be­gin­ning of this mil­len­nium, it was al­ways pleas­antly sur­pris­ing to meet other coaches pi­o­neer­ing their ‘value-added’ ser­vices within ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion. At that time busi­ness schools were clearly the do­main of pro­fes­sors and re­searchers. As coaches, we were brought in by en­light­ened clients or for­ward-think­ing lead­er­ship fac­ulty. We mostly helped ex­ec­u­tives in­ter­pret their 360 de­gree feed­back or fa­cil­i­tated small groups in sim­u­la­tions or other learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences as part of a lead­er­ship pro­gram, and then helped these in­di­vid­u­als make sense of their learn­ings.

As we fast-for­ward 16 years, it is now unusual not to find coaches in­volved in many dif­fer­ent ways in most lead­er­ship and other ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams too.

In­deed, many busi­ness schools have al­ready grown their own sta­ble of ex­ter­nal coaches to work with their ex­ec­u­tive clients and re­cently I was even asked to help a US school with the chal­lenges of build­ing up their own coach­ing pool. Coach­ing de­mand has in­creased to the point that in some schools there is even a role for coach man­age­ment. This in­crease in coach­ing in ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams fol­lows a grow­ing ac­cep­tance of coaches work­ing closely and suc­cess­fully with ex­ec­u­tives in many in­dus­tries, where you will hear se­nior peo­ple proudly re­fer­ring to ‘my coach’. This ap­petite for per­sonal coach­ing has also matched a trend to­wards less tra­di­tional man­age­ment hi­er­ar­chies, leaner or­ga­ni­za­tions, and higher ex­pec­ta­tions that has reen­forced the need for bet­ter and dif­fer­ent peo­ple lead­er­ship. This has also led to an in­creas­ing de­mand for fac­ulty spe­cial­iz­ing in lead­er­ship and a cor­re­spond­ing need for coaches to work within their pro­grams. It is kind of a triple-win for clients, fac­ulty, and coaches.

The de­mand for coaches is still of­ten client driven and from lead­er­ship fac­ulty, but coach­ing has also been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity among non-lead­er­ship fac­ulty who are be­gin­ning to ap­pre­ci­ate the value coaches can add to the im­pact of their ses­sions as well as to par­tic­i­pant en­gage­ment.

The data col­lected at IMD busi­ness school clearly shows the pos­i­tive im­pact of coaches and coach­ing on par­tic­i­pants when­ever they are used in a pro­gram. Beyond the gen­er­ally high rat­ings given by par­tic­i­pants at the end of their pro­gram for ‘coach­ing’, we also see an im­pres­sive re­ac­tion to pro­grams in­volv­ing coach­ing by par­tic­i­pants com­plet­ing feed­back six months later, in both scores and com­ments. Specif­i­cally, after six months, par­tic­i­pants who ex­pe­ri­enced coach­ing give higher scores than pro­grams with no coach­ing. With­out prompt­ing they write about their ex­pe­ri­ences and insights more openly and in more per­sonal ways, of­ten re­fer­ring to their coach and coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The data also demon­strates that par­tic­i­pants who had coach­ing are ac­tu­ally more likely to give feed­back about the pro­grams they par­tic­i­pated in. These re­sults

This in­crease in coach­ing in ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams fol­lows a grow­ing ac­cep­tance of coaches work­ing closely and suc­cess­fully with ex­ec­u­tives in many in­dus­tries.

con­sis­tently show that coach­ing on pro­grams adds im­pact and helps a par­tic­i­pant to per­son­al­ize, own, and use their learn­ing from their pro­gram ex­pe­ri­ence.

What is it that coaches are do­ing be­fore, dur­ing, and after a cus­tom or open pro­gram that is so ap­pre­ci­ated by par­tic­i­pants? I see five key ar­eas of im­pact:

01 per­son­al­iz­ing the learn­ing

Whether in small groups or in­di­vid­u­ally, coaches are able to help par­tic­i­pants per­son­al­ize and ap­ply their learn­ing to their cho­sen con­text through open dis­cus­sion, or shar­ing per­sonal busi­ness cases.

02 in­creas­ing aware­ness

Coach­ing can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease many as­pects of self­aware­ness for par­tic­i­pants as lead­ers and as team mem­bers; ex­ec­u­tives can fo­cus in on their styles of lead­er­ship as well as team roles and con­tri­bu­tions. They can bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate their per­son­al­ity, mo­ti­va­tions, and fears as well as how they im­pact oth­ers. This is im­por­tant and pow­er­ful learn­ing for many ex­ec­u­tives who of­ten un­der­es­ti­mate their im­pact as lead­ers and col­leagues and rarely get feed­back they can re­ally trust or take time to re­flect on these as­pects. This aware­ness can be raised through var­i­ous eval­u­a­tive tools as well as through ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing tech­niques and peer feed­back.

03 depth

Coaches can in­crease po­ten­tial for deeper learn­ing by cre­at­ing the trust nec­es­sary to al­low greater open­ness from par­tic­i­pants about them­selves as well as en­cour­ag­ing more au­then­tic in­ter­ac­tion be­tween par­tic­i­pants.

04 sup­port­ing sus­tain­able learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment

Coaches help par­tic­i­pants to em­brace a cul­ture of life­long learn­ing and are of­ten en­gaged in per­sonal fol­low up after a pro­gram. With real busi­ness projects be­com­ing an es­tab­lished way to ap­ply busi­ness school teach­ing, coaches are also used to help the team and in­di­vid­u­als fo­cus on project plans, to re­view con­tri­bu­tions and progress made, their team dy­nam­ics and stake­holder align­ment.

05 per­sonal touch

One-on-one time with a coach of­fers a rare, highly val­ued op­por­tu­nity for an ex­ec­u­tive hu­man be­ing to be heard, un­der­stood and chal­lenged by an ob­jec­tive non-judg­men­tal open mind that can of­ten be a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be­ing a vet­eran coach work­ing with par­tic­i­pants and clients ev­ery day, I ex­pe­ri­ence a de­mand for learn­ing that is more par­tic­i­pa­tive, per­son­ally use­ful and ben­e­fi­cial to the or­ga­ni­za­tion, even so­ci­ety. I meet clients who are in­creas­ingly more aware of ped­a­gog­i­cal choices than be­fore. They talk about ‘im­pact’ and the need to give their stake­hold­ers pos­i­tive prac­ti­cal change for their in­vest­ment. They ex­pect a shift from an ex­ec­u­tive re­turn­ing with a shelf-full of files, to the ex­ec­u­tive re­turn­ing with a full head of ideas and ex­pe­ri­ences that can be ap­plied by them within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Most ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion set­tings have be­come truly multi­na­tional and mul­ti­cul­tural as par­tic­i­pants work within a global con­text ev­ery day and this cre­ates a need for ever more tai­lored so­lu­tions.

Tra­di­tional aca­demic thought lead­er­ship in an ev­er­chang­ing and in­creas­ingly com­plex world needs some­how to be trans­lated by in­di­vid­ual ex­ec­u­tives into learn­ing that can be ap­plied to the unique­ness of their own sit­u­a­tion. Coaches can help in­di­vid­u­als se­lect and ap­ply ideas from their learn­ing along­side the breadth and depth of their ex­pe­ri­ence to move to­wards a sus­tain­able im­pact. In the end it is only learn­ings and ideas into ac­tion that will make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence for all of us. ■

Coaches help par­tic­i­pants to em­brace a cul­ture of life-long learn­ing and are of­ten en­gaged in per­sonal fol­low up after a pro­gram.

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