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Why We All Need Executive Leadership Coaching

The Executive Coaching Magazine, September 12 2017

So, what is executive leadership coaching exactly? “Executive coaches act as coach, educator, mentor, guide, confidant, and challenger to those that carry the burden of executive level leadership, the c-level executives as well as their direct reports,” says Jelmer Dijkhuizen, leadership and team consultant for Legacy Consultancy of The Netherlands. The goal is “personal development of the executive.”

Whether one-on-one or as a team, coaching typically takes weeks, months or, in some cases, even years. Jelmer Dijkhuizen however firmly believes in short term coaching. Five or six sessions should do the trick. If more time is needed, coaching becomes trying to mould a person to a desired point. When you do that you’ll probably go against the nature of a person. Aligning work with ones natural being should take just a couple of hours. Executive coaching done the right way unlocks leaders’ potential to maximize their own performance and that of their organization.”

In addition to c-suite execs who tap leadership coaches, all employees can benefit from developing new skills, behaviours and embarking on journey’s towards being better business people. Here’s why:

Learn how to become an effective leader.

“Leaders are those who are willing to create an impact or make a difference that adds value in a given situation that benefits all concerned,” Dijkhuizen states. “They are willing to take total responsibility for that impact and be fully accountable for it.”

Leadership isn’t something that accumulates alongside the number of years you have spent at a company or in an industry. It is something that must be learned and honed.

“C-level executives, as well as those who aspire to lead at that level, need a safe place to have their ‘growing’ and ‘learning’ conversations.” Company leaders often feel unable to have mentorship conversations for fear of appearing vulnerable or incompetent. However, having a leadership coach allows an employee to dive deep into their growth without embarrassment. “These conversations need to be rigorously honest, challenging, authentic, vulnerable, and compassionate to support growth and development.”

Gain a competitive advantage in your industry or team.

Years ago, companies would seek out coaching for executives who were perceived to have a problem or needed fixing. However, these days, it’s seen as a proactive measure that any individual can take on. More and more companies and individuals view coaching as providing a competitive advantage to both individual and company by creating outstanding leadership competence.

Think of it as learning CPR before an emergency arises. Getting coaching for how to deal with leadership challenges and obstacles will better prepare a person for climbing the ladder. “Organizations and their leaders operate in increasingly complicated environments: the military acronym VUCA is often used to describe it (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous),” says Dijkhuizen. “I believe leadership is a huge privilege and a responsibility: leaders are at the forefront of establishing the culture in which their people operate and which their customers respond to.”

Improve self-confidence and human effectiveness.

While many people approach coaches to learn to deal with tactical challenges such as decision-making, conflict resolution skills or improving communication with direct reports, it’s the “soft skills” that are most often improved. Jelmer uses Taylor Protocol’s Human Operating System to achieve “human effectiveness” in his clients’ professional and personal lives. This includes, “building deeper relationships in work and in life, making a difference in the lives of others in work and through powerful and authentic communication, vulnerable exchanges with others. All this is done from the place of the natural inclination of the person being coached.”

Jelmer also found that the lessons he works on with clients tend to be “beneath the surface.” He adds, “We find that the initial objective for a coaching engagement might start out as rather tactical, such as ‘improve my communication with my direct reports’ or ‘move from being operational to strategic’… then we start exploring and improving the leader’s self-confidence and emotional intelligence, improving their ability to see the big picture or to deal/exist with ambiguity and complexity, improving their resilience, etc.”

A professional resume writer once wrote, “Employers aren’t looking for robots that can only execute on a job description. They need people who can positively impact the culture and see what’s around the corner.” This doesn’t just apply to candidates, but also to current employees.

Dijkhuizen focuses on “emotional intelligence, emotional literacy, the role of vulnerability and authenticity in leadership, well-defined accountability and responsibility, impactful communication, dealing with difficult exchanges and individuals, vision, self-awareness and self-management.

Learn to trust your team.

One of the toughest skills for employees (and managers alike) is learning to trust others to contribute to the overall group’s success. Often, we find comfort in being our own source of success and being solely responsible for both our wins and losses. However, climbing the professional ladder means becoming a managerand helming a team. Enter: trust. Trust is the key factor in Mission Command. Mission Command is the structure along which Jelmer builds teams and helps individuals to see and develop their role within the (executive) team.

Coachees most often set goals around “moving from a technical to a strategic view, staying proactive rather than reacting, delegating and trusting reports. We believe it’s vitally important for leaders in today’s world to be values-driven, have broad and deep vision, be true to their nature or, in other words: be authentic (be who they really are, and not be afraid to be so in front of others), be agile and be aligned. Coaching and other forms of self-development are great ways to explore and develop these parts of oneself.”

Develop oneself to thrive in the stresses of work and home.

All of us lead busy lives where we answer to titles such as mother, father, son, daughter, employee, employer, leader and doer. For many of the CEOs and executives that work with Dijkhuizen, creating a “vision for each of the roles of their many lives” is one of the biggest benefits of coaching.

Working with a leadership coach allows people to develop this vision which, according to Dijkhuizen, speaks to the 4 to 6 core values that person wants in their busy lives. “That vision helps refine their intentions, choices, and actions in their various relationships.”

The second biggest benefit that Dijkhuizen says his clients report receiving from coaching is the ability to manage their emotions and think clearly, no matter what is coming at them. “They learn to control their breathing to slow themselves down inside, shift away from the hectic of fighting ‘bears’ all day long and then choose who they want to be as they engage different parts of their lives by consciously stepping into their innate different core values personas,” says Dijkhuizen.

Here’s an example of this 2-minute drill that we can all use before going to the office in the morning or heading home at the end of the day, according to Dijkhuizen:

Spend 90 seconds slowing the breathing and deepening the breathing; 2 to 4 seconds in, 4 to 6 seconds out, quieting the mind, focusing on stillness, breathing and sensations only. No thinking is required. Christians could focus on God, and His power in and through them. Then another 30 seconds of focus on your vision of who you want to be as you engage home or work environments and those therein — how do you want to show up to be closer to that vision you’ve identified for that part of your life and those relationships. Christians should ask God to help them doing just that. Then go through the door and be that dad, that husband, that that wife, that mom, that leader, etc.

Work purposefully towards a promotion.

Dijkhuizen insists that executive leadership coaching can help any employee attain the promotion that he or she wants. “One example is an operations manager who wanted to become a director,” says Dijkhuizen. “At the start of the coaching, the person leading him told him that he had years to go before he would reach that. However, through the Core Values coaching, he got aligned on what he needed to improve such as improving delegation so that more time was created to focus on strategy. Six months later, the ops manager received his promotion.”

Perhaps, like the aforementioned example, your boss told you that your promotion is still years away or your workplace is lacking mentorship opportunities. Consider seeking out a coach that has the appropriate training and is a good fit for you. “Generally, though, once people have had coaching, they understand the benefits,” says Dijkhuizen. “As one client said, ‘if I had known the impact, I would have paid for it myself and done it years ago!’”

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