Phase One: Assessment of the Individual
The first phase of the executive coaching process involves a careful assessment of the individual, which begins with a study of the individual as a “whole.” Thus, we start with a psychological assessment, from which we are able to understand the individual’s self-perception, educational background and work history, goals and objectives, management philosophy, and view of the world, as well as the individual’s formative years in terms of family background and early life experiences. We gain a deeper psychological understanding of the individual through the administration of several personality inventories as well. Through this assessment we can draw conclusions about the individual’s personality profile and how the individual’s internal motivators (beliefs, emotions, assumptions) drive behavior and impact the individual’s effectiveness.
360º Feedback Survey:
The assessment phase also includes gathering information from those who work around the individual. In the process of developing a solid understanding of exactly how the individual’s personality traits and motivators manifest themselves behaviorally, it is important we be able to query the individual’s boss, direct reports, and peers/coworkers. Gaining feedback from all different perspectives helps paint a complete picture of the individual’s behavioral style and the effectiveness of that style across different perspectives.
The assessment phase can also include gathering further information from other sources to provide additional perspectives on the individual’s personality and behavioral style. For example, we might incorporate employee opinion survey results to reflect more systemic or organization-level information from those for whom the individual is ultimately responsible. In analyzing levels of morale, satisfaction, and other variables that tend to influence how the employees in the individual’s areas of responsibility feel about their place of employment, the individual can gain a deeper understanding of how his or her leadership style and management abilities are impacting others. This feedback provides yet another level of perspective to complete the individual’s understanding of his or her behavioral style and its impact and effectiveness on an organizational level.
Phase Two: Feedback to the Individual
The second phase of the coaching process is to provide feedback to the individual. The individual is provided with information from the psychological assessment and the feedback received from the different perspectives and levels through the survey processes. The psychological assessment, paired with feedback from the individual’s key constituencies, provides a rich tapestry of information from which the individual and the coach can draw conclusions and focus the work in the coaching process. We believe that bringing this information to the forefront in coaching conversations to deepen the individual’s own psychological understanding allows for more effective, deeper, and more lasting behavioral change. Increased self-awareness allows the individual to begin exerting control over those behaviors that have been unconscious responses.
This universe of feedback is a large amount of very personal data for the individual to absorb and can take multiple sessions to fully process. Individuals receiving feedback often experience a predictable series of reactions marked by surprise, anger, rationalization, and, finally, acceptance. It is only when the individual is in the acceptance stage that the true work of personal growth and development can begin.
Phase Three: Goal-Setting
Once the individual and the coach have a clear understanding of the individual’s personality, internal motivators, behavioral style, and effectiveness, the next task is to establish the developmental goals toward which the coaching work will be oriented. This is a critical process in terms of making sure the goals are well defined, measurable, realistic, and targeted toward the areas that will provide the individual with the “biggest bang for the development buck.” In addition, the individual must feel a high sense of commitment toward the goals that are chosen. The goals should include both weaknesses upon which the individual needs to improve as well as strengths the individual needs to further leverage. Each goal also needs a written action plan that specifies how the individual is going to work toward the goal, timeframes, and accountabilities. The writing of the action plan is one of the most difficult aspects of the development process and requires close collaboration between the individual and the coach. The biggest challenge in writing the action plan is in making it specific and measurable so that progress will be evident. The coach’s experience in constructing effective action plans can provide a huge assist to the individual at this point in the process. Finally, the individual’s boss must be heavily involved in the development planning process. The boss should not only sign off on the individual’s goals and action plans, but should also have defined responsibility for specific aspects of the action plan.
Phase Four: Follow-Up Review Sessions
Once the goals and action plans have been written, the real development work for the individual begins. In regular individual coaching sessions, the individual and coach discuss the progress the individual is making in working toward the goals. Thus, the action plan, with its goals, deadlines, and accountabilities clearly delineated, becomes the structure around which the coaching sessions are conducted. While the individual owns the responsibility for driving the action plan, the role of the coach is to add momentum to the development process and to bring an action orientation to the individual’s development work. During these review sessions, the coach could utilize any or all of the following techniques:
- Listen, support, and encourage the individual as new behaviors are tried and reactions from others are elicited, some predicted and desirable, and others not.
- Use the relationship between the coach and the individual as a behavioral sample from which learning can take place about how others feel in their relationship with the individual.
- Be an objective “safe place” in which the individual can surface sensitive issues, raise uncomfortable emotions, and experiment with new ways of behaving.
- Further build on the individual’s ideas and experiences. Help bridge between what is missing in the individual’s thinking and perspective, and expand the individual’s viewpoint.
- Challenge the individual on blind spots and points of disagreement. Be an objective sounding board.
- Keep the individual focused on the goals and on pushing through the development process. Be a “nag” for keeping current with the accountabilities in the action plan.
- Provide the individual with specific skills training and practical tools and techniques that can be put to use when the individual goes back to work. Make suggestions for other ways to acquire needed skills and experience.
Revise the individual’s development goals and action plans across time as plans are completed or fail to achieve the desired outcomes.
In these review sessions, the coach will also help the individual determine how to create an environment around himself or herself that supports the individual’s growth and development. This will include heavy involvement from the individual’s boss, as well as looping key coworkers into the development process who can provide feedback to the individual on a regular basis. The coach will regularly follow up with the boss to provide an update on the individual’s progress and to hear further feedback from the boss’s perspective. The boss is also expected to meet with the individual, independent of the coach, on a regular basis to review progress on the development plan and to revise it as necessary. The goal of this part of the process is to decrease dependence on the coach as the key feedback-giver by helping to build a more effective internal feedback mechanism. It is through this mechanism that those who work around the individual on a daily basis will be committed to providing the individual with “real-time” feedback on developmental issues.
Deliverables of the Executive Coaching Process
In discussing the “deliverables” of any process, we conceptualize them as falling into two categories: tangible and intangible. The tangible deliverables are the concrete items that individuals will actually carry away with them. For the executive coaching process, the tangible deliverables include the following:
Psychological Assessment Report : A report will be written for the individual based on the results of the psychological assessment. This report includes a description of the traits that were most elevated in the assessment process, a section written to the individual’s boss that includes how to best manage the individual and suggested areas of development in which the boss can assist the individual, and a section oriented more to the individual that talks about personal development issues.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Report : As part of the psychological assessment process, individuals will complete the MBTI and receive a report describing their individual personality profile in the work context.
360º Feedback Survey Report : Individuals will receive a report that feeds back information from the 360º feedback survey in such a way that they can compare how they view themselves with how they are viewed by their various constituency groups.
Leadership Development Workbook : Each participant will receive a workbook that takes them through a very structured leadership development process. This workbook specifically integrates information from the psychological assessment, the MBTI, and the 360º feedback survey, as well as other sources of feedback (e.g., employee attitude survey) and serves as a study guide that will be used during the duration of the process as participants work through the various stages of leadership development.
Individual Development Plan : Using the Leadership Development Workbook, each participant will develop a personalized plan for growth and development. This plan outlines the two or three major developmental goals for each participant, as well as an action plan for how to achieve those goals.
While these tangible deliverables are very useful and provide an important structure for the process, we have found the intangible deliverables to be as, if not more, important and valuable in terms of increasing individual and organizational effectiveness. These are the deliverables that are not concrete: you can not touch them, but you definitely know they are there. They help build an organizational discipline and culture of individual growth and development. They help create opportunities for feedback and enhanced relationships. For the executive coaching process, the intangible deliverables include, but are not limited to, the following:
Specific Skill Acquisition : Participants will improve their skills in many management and leadership areas such as communication, coaching, talent management, selecting the right people, running effective meetings, time management, etc.
Focus : The degree to which the entire executive team is going through the same structured process ensures a strong emphasis on the importance of self-development and personal growth.
Feedback-Rich Environment : The leadership development process strongly encourages the opening up of channels of feedback. In place of a feedback-starved environment, a culture evolves that invites, supports, and acts on constructive feedback.
Stronger Relationships : One of the very positive outcomes of the process is a deepening of relationships when feedback is easily given and received such that hidden agendas and back-biting is reduced.
Discipline : The process is based on a discipline that begins to naturally take on a regularity and rhythm of its own. This can “leak” over into bringing more discipline to bear on other important processes.
Accountability : As participants get caught up in, and invest in, the process, they begin holding each other accountable for continued development. It also increases the likelihood of individuals pushing the process down to their direct reports and holding their own direct reports more accountable for development.
In closing, as we describe the executive coaching process, it is important to add a couple of final statements. First, the coaching process is distinctly different across the levels of the organization. The higher the level of the individual in the organization, the more complex and abstract the developmental issues are likely to be. For example, the higher level individual is likely to be working more on leadership issues rather than management issues. Second, it is important to understand that, while the four basic phases listed above are those that comprise the typical executive coaching process, each individual’s process will look and feel very different based on the personalities involved, the environment in which the coaching is taking place, and the developmental issues at hand. The most effective coaching processes are tailored to the unique needs of the individual and the defining characteristics of the situation.
Please call us at 404/577-1178 to discuss how we can assist you with this service.