Home Tools and Applications Executive Coaching Differences in Personal and Executive Coaching

Differences in Personal and Executive Coaching

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Programmatic coaching is coaching with the fundamental goal of aligning executives with organizational goals and objectives. It will often include many leaders across an organization that is undergoing significant change. To cite one example, programmatic coaching was used to help drive culture change in two newly merged entities. The project was led by coaches/consultants who worked with organization leaders to determine the desired behaviors for their leaders in the “new” culture. The coaches were instructed as a group so they would understand the goals and leader expectations from the change project. They were then assigned executives and given a set number of sessions to assist each leader with the adaptive process of integrating defined new behaviors and cultural goals into their leadership.  In this context, we see the utility of coaching as a powerful tool for supporting change by addressing barriers to change that can often be different for each individual. One of the barriers can be how the clients understand the new behaviors asked of them and how they learn to integrate them into their leadership. Coaching also nurtures personal accountability and ensures that the client is committing to what they own as part of a change process.  Additionally, it helps the client to look at the strategic big picture questions inherent in change such as, “how do I need to work differently?”, “what mindset do I have to change?”, “what systems no longer work for me?” and “what kind of leadership is required in this new organization?”  Ultimately the success of the coaching engagement in programmatic coaching is the success of the organizational goals of change.

Team coaching is the coaching of a team and its leader to achieve better team performance or to achieve strategic goals. This form of coaching can involve team facilitation as well as one-on-one coaching with the leader and individual members. For example, I once worked with a technology group that was transitioning to a new leader. I conducted and summarized organizational interviews and worked closely with the team leader to design several phases of team coaching and facilitation to assist the team in setting new communication style awareness and norms.  The team had been “stuck” in a mental medal of how they worked, including norms of behavior that were blaming and non-collaborative.  With various facilitated exercises we were able to “name” the mental model and associated communication norms in the old way of doing business as a team.  Then we were able to define what new norms and thinking were required for a better model and implement those with the collaboration of the group leaders.

Unique Challenges of Executive Coaching

The unique challenges of executive coaching occur primarily because of the complexities introduced by the client organization and/or a coach contracting organization that subcontracts or employs the coach. These challenges include:

The need to manage across multiple relationships. The executive coaching relationship may involve multiple parties, including the client being coached, the client’s organization, and potentially also a coaching or consulting firm sub-contracting or employing the coach. The ICF Ethics Code emphasizes the need to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the client/coachee and sponsor. When they are the same person, they are jointly referred to as the “client.” When separate, the “sponsor” is the entity paying for and/or arranging for coaching services to be provided. In all cases, contracting agreements should clearly establish the rights, roles and responsibilities. The coach must consider the contracting implications for all involved parties. It is the coach’s responsibility to have agreements outlining expectations of the coaching engagement, communication channels, materials and assessments and confidentiality with all these parties.

The maintenance of confidentiality. Because of the importance of maintaining confidentiality between the coach and client in order to establish a relationship of trust, contracting is essential. The ICF Code of Ethics has several codes that apply to confidentiality between the coach and the sponsor and client. The most important elements of the code are that: 1) there should be clear agreement with these entities on maintaining the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information; 2) there should be clear agreement about how coaching information will be exchanged among coach, client and sponsor; and, 3) all entities knowingly agree in writing to that limit of confidentiality.

The executive coach can be faced with thorny issues around confidentiality. For example, if the coach coaches both a boss and the boss’s direct report, is the coach confident that confidentiality can be guaranteed? Or what if the CEO asks  the coach about the progress of the client in the coaching? From my experience on the IRB and in many organizations, I have seen many ethical dilemmas worthy of another article on the topic.

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