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Executive Coaches Share Openly and Unselfishly: Dynamic Panel Discussion at ICF Annual Conference 2003

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Bill: There is a new alternative form of human services working with organizations that is being invented right now—its executive coaching! So, my advice to you, especially for those of you who have been in the field. Be servants to this field. Help out. Help us make this into something that is viable. I don’t know if you’re aware of the fact that my colleagues up here at the table are quite remarkable men and women. And why in the world are they here? Why is Linda here moderating and why are people here like Joan Wright who organized this track? There is this entity called The International Journal of Coaching in Organizations that some of you know we are now publishing. Two of our colleagues, who are both involved in marketing, wrote a piece about the history of executive coaching and where it’s going from here. They are actively making the effort to be a contributor. They are not simply thinking about their own individual practice, but about how they can contribute to this field in a variety of ways. You must do the same thing.

Bob: I have two practical pieces of advice. First, align, align and align. Stop coaching in isolation. There’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when we work in isolation. This is the most giving profession I see that seems to spend all our work in isolation. So, get together with everybody else—providing opportunities for our own growth and therefore growth of those organizations with which we work. Second, stop entering organizations with what I call the “fix it” coaching mentality. The world out there typically says: “Somebody needs to be fixed. Get them a coach.” Then we take on the assignment because we want to grow our practice. We go in and we brand coaching as “fix-it”. And we brand ourselves as “fix-it” practitioners. The natural result is that when there’s more fix-it to be done, they look to coaches for help. However, when there’s great growth to be realized they don’t look to us or even consider us a viable resource. So, it’s time to end fix-it coaching as the way that we enter organizations.

Mary Beth: My advice is to work hard to break polarized thinking both your clients’ and your own. I see it over and over again that human beings under stress tend to polarize. It is a symptom of anxiety. I urge you to consciously work at avoiding this trap. Leaders are constantly polarizing, splitting. They say, “If I give parameters to my team, they won’t take initiative.” But the team is thinking “Unless we get the parameters, we don’t know what initiative to take.” A typical polarization trap I see is this whole thing about ROI versus focusing on the people dimension. This does not have to generate polarized thinking.

Jeannine: The advice I would give to experienced coaches and those entering and growing their practice is: know your craft. Be grounded in a coaching model and methodology and what underpins it. That will help you set your boundaries. That will help you know what clients you are best suited for and aid you in knowing when to exit a client system. In addition to knowing your craft, be bold.

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