Recommendations for Engaging a Seasoned Executive Coach to Help You Successfully Lead Significant Change

Conclusions from the Wiznami® blog post:

"The Lonely Journey of the Executive as Change Agent - And How an Experienced Executive Coach Can Help"

1. Relevant change management experience.

Only consider an executive coach who has experience in managing large scale business change beyond expertise in process reengineering and total quality management. Those frameworks often forget to influence the stakeholders involved beyond using logic and data. He or she should have a conceptual model of large scale change which he/she can teach to you and transfer that capability to you and your team. Having experience on both sides of the desk as an internal stakeholder who has to live with the consequences of his or her decisions or recommendations and as an external consultant who has seen multiple ways to solve similar problems is ideal. The most important distinguishing characteristic is his or her demonstrated ability to focus his or her clients on how to influence key stakeholders and build momentum for change.

2. Adaptive coaching style.

The coach should have a style that easily adapts from non-directive to directive depending on your needs for how you entertain new thoughts and frameworks that you may use to broaden or deepen your assessment of the business and the possible alternative solutions to emerging problems. Being non-directive is not helpful when there is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed. But you also do not want a coach who essentially tries to take over your thinking, feeling, and decision-making processes. The coach should be an enabler who helps you "expand the box" to consider new tools and frameworks that help you anticipate and lead change more effectively.

3. Builds rapport and credibility easily with others to collect feedback and influence how you are perceived.

Use the coach to conduct 360° interviews to assist you with your situation analysis. A top performing coach will use the interviews to not only collect the perceptions of others, but through his or her questioning, will also influence others to perceive you in a more balanced way.

4. Uses an Individual Development Plan.

Have the coach create an individual development plan for you which becomes your baseline anchor of reality and enables you to select priority involvements in the midst of multiple competing demands. This is a living document which gets revised over time and is intended to serve as a useful ongoing tool for you.

5. Has a valid and coherent model for large scale organizational change and a clear sense of the different roles you can play as a leader of change. 

Allow the coach to guide you to not solve the business problems, but create space and an environment where knowledgeable others can diagnose the problems, generate alternative solutions, and ultimately own the successful implementation of those solutions, under your guidance.

6. Can help you assess the individuals on your team and key stakeholders.

Find a coach with experience in executive assessment and give them license to challenge you to make the difficult people decisions. If not, find someone else to provide an independent assessment as input for your coaching. This is especially true of assessing the loyal "tweeners" in the middle of the performance and contribution bell curve - they are "good," but are they "good enough" to lead and drive the requisite changes?

The coach should also be able to help you to identify the "hooks" and preferences for each individual stakeholder you want to influence and the mostly likely effective influence tactics to do so.

7. Has the "right stuff."

Select someone who has clearly demonstrated the following personal characteristics required of a senior executive coach:

1. Broad and deep business experience - who understands how change really does and does not occur in businesses;

2. Strong conceptual, critical thinking, and analytical skills so he or she can serve as a sounding board for you;

3. An independent, objective, systems thinker who can help you perceive more subtle patterns of relationships, connections, and undesirable unintentional outcomes from proposed change efforts and actions;

4. Emotional intelligence and accurate empathy. He or she attends to your emotional experience, your sense of readiness or resistance for learning or being influenced, so he or she can help you manage your own emotional enablers, inhibitors, and responses;

5. Someone who demonstrates a deep respect for you, the challenges you face, and the courage you have to face those challenges, accepting your weaknesses and limitations, while at the same time, helping you find ways to minimize your shortcomings and work more effectively by leveraging your current or emerging strengths.

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Wiznami Corp. is an a senior executive coaching service based in Naples, Florida.