What is executive coaching?
A coaching relationship is one that facilitates the performance, learning and development of the individual, unlocking the potential to maximise their own performance and helping them learn, rather than teaching them, (i.e. mentoring or training).
Laura Whitworth, Karen & Henry Kimsey-House refer to a coaching relationship as a ‘a co-active’ one between coach and coachee or client, i.e. a relationship between two people of equal standing both providing insight into the conversation and outcomes. It is the process through which a client can discuss, explore and consider personal solutions to a topic of their choice. As opposed to a mentoring relationship or a conversation with a trusted friend a coach is not there to impart their personal opinion or experience, rather they are there to assist the client to find the solution that is right for them, using the client’s experience, resources, initiative and preference to make decisions and act accordingly.
It is this personal aspect of coaching that makes it such a powerful tool. Rather than relying on other people’s interpretations or environments to provide a solution, the coaching client can tailor a solution that fits their own skills set and situation and therefore be more confident of a successful outcome.
Why use executive coaching?
The aim for most coaching relationships is to achieve meaningful behavioural change for the client. Typically this means executive coaching is used to find solutions to four main areas of personal development; skills, (when a client wants to acquire or improve specific skills and abilities). Performance, (when a client wants to change an aspect of their behaviour or remove blockages to their performance). Developmental, (objectives are far more focused on the needs of the client than on the needs of their organisation; a more individualised process) and transformational, (a coach helps a client to identify their life purpose and what they need to get spiritual personal growth).
Each area requires a different approach, and a coach may rely on various tools or techniques to assist the client and manage the conversation towards a useful outcome.
This does not come without focus, application, patience and perseverance. Coaching relationships can therefore last many weeks or months. In many cases what starts as a conversation about a client’s skill or situation at work evolves into a much broader discussion and can provide the client with a huge amount of knowledge and understanding around self and their environment leaving them feeling more self-aware, confident, focused and willing to undertake whatever is required of them to change for the better.
What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?
The main difference relates to the nature of the relationship. In a mentoring relationship the mentee approaches a mentor specifically for their knowledge, experience, and expertise in a certain area. Discussing the issues they are facing at work in the hope that the Mentor’s experience might help them find a solution. Often run as a programme within an organisation it is typically used for more experienced employees to mentor new starters or junior member of the organisation.
A coaching relationship does not rely on any implicit experience or knowledge of the client’s area of employment. Although sometimes desirable, the power of a coaching relationship relies more on the chemistry between the coach and client and the skill of the coach to read the client’s situation and state of mind and guide them to their own solution. It can become a very personal and powerful relationship that revolves around trust, honesty, inquisitiveness, and authenticity.