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Frequently Asked Questions

Executive Coaching

Can people really change?

Absolutely. We witness it every day with our clients. What they all have in common is that they are motivated and willing to experiment with fresh perspectives and new ways of working. Long-standing behaviors and ways of thinking are pretty difficult to change on your own.

Coaching works because it provides the guidance, support, insights and structure necessary to break out of old patterns and blind spots.
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How will we know if the coaching works?

We will know by the results. At the start of each engagement, we work with you to determine the focus of our work as well as measurable goals.

How long are typical coaching engagements?

When it comes to having a lasting change on behaviors, we find that six months is typically what we need to be able to assess what’s going on, create a plan,experiment with new behaviors and integrate them in to the modus operandi.
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Why do I need a coach? Can’t I just do this on my own?

You might be able to change long-standing behaviors and ways of thinking on your own. How long do you have and how important to you is this? Working with someone whose expertise is leading people through change is typically going to be faster and easier than doing it on your own.
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What’s the advantage of working with a coach outside my organization?

Internal mentors and coaches can be great resources, especially for junior staff at an organization. Executives need outside counsel both because the leadership expertise required at that level often can’t be found internally and/or they need to be able to share challenges openly without fear of repercussion or breaches of confidentiality.
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How do I ensure that a coach is a good fit for me?

Chemistry is important, no doubt about it. A large part of the power of coaching comes from the relationship itself, so choosing the right coach matters. You want to look for someone you can trust to be a strong partner for you in your growth. What is most important in establishing trust will vary for different people, but it may include the answers to questions such as:
  • Can the coach articulate how they work in a way that makes sense to you?
  • Are they smart and credible?
  • Do you feel comfortable and supported by them?
  • Do you think they can go toe-to-toe with you? Can they keep up and will they push back if that’s needed?
  • And last but not least, will you enjoy spending time with them?
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How confidential are the conversations between coach and client?

For us to be able to help our clients make real, lasting change, they need to be able to share sensitive things with us and know that we will hold them in confidence. We are obligated to report illegal or unethical behavior, but everything else stays in the room between the coach and client. The organization will need some visibility into the results of the work we're doing together, but that communication is entirely in the control of our coaching client. We work with each of our clients to help them determine how to share their progress with important stakeholders: HR, their boss, etc.

How is coaching relevant to CEOs and other C-level executives?

CEOs receive massive amounts of information; their challenge is making sense of it. They must rise above details, competing interests and daily emergencies to lead others to see what is really important and take action to achieve it. We function as thought partners to CEOs and other executive leaders by asking deep questions, interrogating assumptions and pushing them to identify what is key and what is not.

CEOs are also stressed people who operate in business environments that tend to encourage poor work/life balance, external validation (such as money, title and recognition) and herd-like behaviors. Coaching helps CEOs get clear on their core values and interests, create positive leadership identities and make conscious decisions on how to spend their time rather than react to pressure.
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How do you coach around diversity—including gender,race/ethnicity, LGBT, and global issues?

Some issues around diversity come down to understanding, appreciating and dealing with difference. Coaching helps leaders and teams challenge their assumptions about how “difference” operates and helps individuals assess their own blind spots, strengths to build on and personal growth goals.

Some issues around diversity deal with a company-wide culture that may relate to historic patterns of discrimination, the existence of privilege (both acknowledged and invisible), structures that inhibit inclusion, employment practices, and specific types of difference (e.g. ethnic, national origin or LGBT). For these issues, a diversity consultant with specific domain expertise is more appropriate than a general coaching approach.

Who makes a good coaching candidate?

A good candidate for coaching is someone who is motivated and willing to invest time in their own development, has some level of self-awareness and has demonstrated a strong ability to learn. S/he is also typically seen as high potential and has organizational and manager support.
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When does coaching NOT work?

Coaching isn’t likely to be successful when one or more of the following is true:
  • There is not a fit/chemistry between the coach and client.
  • The client doesn’t have an interest in learning and growing or this simply isn’t a priority for them at this point.
  • The client’s boss, peers and/or direct reports are not interested in supporting his/her success. Bridges have been burned.
  • There aren’t any organizational incentives to support a change in behavior or the incentives are not aligned with change (e.g. promotions and other forms of recognition).
  • The right resources including skills and knowledge to support the change are not made available to the client.
  • The individuals assumptions that stand in the way of sustained change are not identified and explored.
  • The individual is not given enough time to learn and make the changes.
  • There is an unrealistic expectation that many changes can be made at one time. In reality most people can make only one significant change at a time while balancing all the other expectations.
  • The things that the client needs to change are foundational job competencies. This is a sign that the person is in the wrong job.
Sometimes we have had successful coaching engagements when one or more of the elements above were present, however we set expectations that the chance of change is questionable.
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When is coaching NOT the right organizational approach?

When many leaders at the organization share the same development challenge, for instance working globally or executive presence or innovation, a group learning experience would be a better approach. In our Leadership Development programs, we typically pair group experiences with one-on-one coaching sessions to help participants integrate the material.
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Team Development

When is a good time to get help for my team?

Two signs point to the need for help for your team:
  • there are persistent patterns in team behaviors that diminish levels of trust and engagement, or
  • there are important upcoming decisions or issues and the team’s usual approach is unlikely to get to a high-quality outcome.
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What is needed to make a Team Development program successful?

Both team dynamics and key business issues must be addressed simultaneously. The work with team dynamics helps with the business issues and the work on business issues provides a needed reality check on whether team dynamics are truly better.
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Leadership Development

Our leaders are busy people with little patience. How can we ensure that our Leadership Development program is so good that they actually want more?

First, you need to offer content that is 100% relevant to your organization and its leaders. This often requires at least some custom creation.

Second, delivery matters. Participants need to trust the facilitators as leadership experts who also understand the challenges and culture of their organization. Engaging group learning experiences are best complemented with one-on-one coaching to help individuals integrate the material.
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When is the best time to launch a Leadership Development program?

Anytime but August (just kidding). Good times to launch a Leadership Development program include:
  • when a generation of leaders is nearing retirement and you need to prepare a new class of emerging leaders for succession
  • when many leaders in the organization are facing the same challenges such as global management or innovation
  • when the organization is launching a shift in culture
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Which is more effective: individual coaching or group programs?

It depends upon what you want to accomplish. The advantage of group programs is that you can align an entire class of leaders along the same initiative. Coaching allows for more targeted development around individual challenges.

In our Leadership Development programs, we typically combine the best of both worlds. Group session introduce participants to common material, while one-on-one coaching with participants helps them to integrate it.
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How custom are your leadership development programs?

Every client and every situation is different, so we approach every conversation with an open mind. That said, we often find that we can draw on our past experience to create an approach that stands a high chance of success. Most of our Leadership Development programs leverage tested tools as well as custom material.
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Career Transition

When and to whom should we offer Career Transition coaching?

Typically, an organization offers Career Transition services to employees leaving the company either due to lay-offs, termination or an employee’s decision to leave. Sometimes an organization will invest in a career development program for a talented employee who wants to thoughtfully chart the next step in their career within the company.
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Why would an organization provide Career Transition services to departing employees?

Every former employee is a potential future customer. Building goodwill with departing employees to help them transition smoothly to their next opportunity can be an invaluable way to also develop a strong alumni network and strengthen your business development opportunities.
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