is no surprise – with the ever-changing work context and the
socioeconomic impacts on organisations – that executives need to
prioritise their time effectively. Leisurely meetings have become
obsolete and are replaced with short, punchy, results-oriented
decisions, matching the fast-paced environments that dominate business
nowadays. To the sceptic, a 90-minute chat, that the executive has to
pay for, with someone sometimes younger or less experienced is something
that drops to the bottom of the list of priorities, yet to the
executive reaping the rewards of a high-impact coaching session, this is
not so at all.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
Stephen Covey eloquently stated that creating a habit of taking time
out to “sharpen the saw” goes a long way to becoming a more effective
leader. What executive coaching does is create exactly this time for
leaders to reflect, consider alternatives, and obtain a different
perspective on challenging situations – thus providing a measure of
intelligence which may otherwise have been overlooked. What is most
interesting about the experience of coaching is that the shift in
mindset is often exponential in relation to the 90 minutes spent per
According to Bossons, Kourdi and Sartain, authors of Coaching Essentials, some of the challenges that executives face, and which may be fruitfully worked through with a coach, include:
- Leadership, communication and engagement styles
- Managing complexity, change and ambiguity
- Developing resilience
- Leading teams
- Delivering results quickly
- Managing transition – new role, new team, new portfolio
The reasons why working with a coach is helpful include:
- Coaching challenges typical ways of thinking.
- Coaching, when done well, encourages creative problem solving by considering various perspectives.
considering a potential solution to a problem, other solution options
are also considered and evaluated, thereby creating a more objective
view on the way forward.
- Being guided by a coach who is
objective but who is also supportive of one’s endeavours creates a space
to explore alternatives that one may not otherwise have considered.
sounds rosy, but this isn’t always the case. Coaching is a relatively
new and yet to be regulated profession. Like with all new ventures,
coaching standards range from excellent to poor. With that comes varied
experiences of coaches: some swearing by the value gained, and others
overtly ridiculing this so-called pseudo-profession. Attempts to
regulate the profession are perceived in different lights – either
negatively as an income-generating stream for the opportunist, or
positively, where clear attempts to quality assure the standard of
coaching are being made. Institutions like the International
Coach Federation(ICF), International Institute of Coaching and
Mentoring (IIC&M) (UK) and the English Coaching Management
Committee (ECMC) (Europe) have put in place robust mechanisms to assess
the quality of coaching offered, such as supervision of coaching,
submission of academic papers (research papers, reflective assignments,
studies), as well as the submission of coaching logs to demonstrate the
experience gained, much like a trainee pilot logs flying hours.
in recent years attest to the changes in brain function when one is
challenged with self-discovery and taking ownership of a particular
problem. Neuroimaging shows that brain cells in the cortices (where
problem-solving, judgement, reasoning, analysis reside), rather than in
the limbic brain (where sensory perception and the emotional centre that
triggers fight or flight responses reside) exhibit electrical
stimulation. Reasoning one’s course of action removes hindering
emotions and makes for committed action, coaching being the enabling
mechanism that enables this.
Coaching is not
just for executives. It is for anyone looking to achieve a
ground-breaking result in their careers or personal lives. We spend lots
of money on houses, furniture, cars, and leisure activities, so why not
invest in ourselves in a way that truly makes a marked difference?
In my book, The Mind Age™: Mastering Your Infinite Mind for Success for 2040 and Beyond,
my research shows that, with the population growth expected to climb
from 7,1 billion to approximately 9 billion by the year 2040, we will
have run out of natural food, fuel and water resources, and space on the
planet will come at a premium. Business magnates such as Branson, Gates
and Musk know this already and have begun venturing into alternative
energy and space colonisation – with the appeal of mining near-earth
asteroids catching the attention of progressive energy providers.
is also challenged by the impact that technology is having on business
models – automation is streamlining business performance and expediting
the route to market, but also reducing the need for people in many
industries. This is driving the need for more entrepreneurial thinking
about how households can afford the future cost of living. As
organisations increasingly reduce salaried employees and the contracting
market presents a compelling value proposition in eliminating the need
for office infrastructure and associated costs, people need to think
hard about their own market offering to organisations, buyers of their
products and services, and how well they differentiate themselves in
what is becoming a much larger labour market force.
this as the backdrop, executives increasingly need to consider the
demands of business along with the challenges that the environment
poses, and how – with these constraints – to stand out from the
competition, dominate the market share in the sector in which the
organisation operates, adopt ethical work practices, and build a solid
brand. What better way to achieve this than with a thinking partner in
the form of an executive coach!
Leeann C Naidoo
is faculty member at USB-ED. Her areas of expertise include change,
resilience, people management, coaching and other behavioural change.
She is a management consultant specialising in leading complex
organisational change programmes and developing leadership excellence in
the UK, SA and the UAE, using a variety of neuroscience based learning,
development and coaching interventions.