We have a special treat for you today – my assistant Miranda is sharing what she’s learned over the last 2 ½ years about the unexpected value executives gain from working with an experienced executive coach (yes, that’s me.) I find her observations so interesting, and I thought you might, too!
I’ll be back in a few weeks, but in the meanwhile, here’s Miranda’s column!
No leader is an island. Leadership isn’t a solitary, immutable role, and it’s certainly not one driven by the desire for power and influence (or at least it shouldn’t be). Those who lead must be willing to invest time and energy into their growth, development, and ongoing education. For most leaders, the best way to do this is by working with an executive coach.
You likely know that working with a coach can help you uplevel your leadership skills, identify goals, or work through a specific challenge. These are some of the best-known reasons why executives work with coaches, but they’re not the only reasons.
So… Why do leaders hire coaches?
I’ve been the assistant to a coach for over two years, and while each client has their own unique challenges to tackle and goals to work towards, most are surprised to find that there are quite a few benefits to working with a coach that they hadn’t anticipated. In fact, for many, they’re the most valuable parts of the coaching experience!
Read on for three of the most impactful – but often underestimated – benefits of working with an executive coach:
Own It (For Better or Worse)
Leaders hold the most responsibility within their organizations, and with responsibility must come accountability. It seems simple, but holding ourselves accountable is harder than it looks – and it's even more difficult when dealing with the stress of a leadership role.
An extensive 2014 study by Partners in Leadership found that accountability is severely lacking in most organizations, leading to confused employees, delays and poor project management, or mistakes that would have otherwise been (mostly) avoidable. The onus of these issues, the study found, is almost entirely on leaders who lack a healthy understanding of accountability.
Searching for accountability tips and tricks will dredge up lots of advice from "experts" who suggest that making accountability a daily task (not to be confused with regular self-reflection or mindfulness practice) can help it become a natural reflex, but in reality, this is counterproductive – not only does this make accountability feel like a chore, it defeats the purpose altogether.
Accountability isn't a daily task; it's a mindset. Working with an executive coach can help you identify your current "accountability mindset" and teach you how to hold yourself and others accountable in a positive, respectful way. You'll learn that accountability isn't reserved for when things "go bad" – it's an essential part of leadership, boasting benefits like an increased sense of responsibility, a deeper sense of trust, and clearer communication between yourself and your team.
Get Friendly With Your Emotions
What's your EQ? Emotional intelligence (or EQ, your "emotional quotient") is now considered an indispensable leadership skill, one that’s potentially more integral than IQ or advanced education.
Many leaders, especially those new to their senior executive roles, underestimate the importance of EQ in the grand scheme of leadership – often resulting in poor communication skills and an inability to cope with major stress. Underdeveloped or otherwise lacking EQ can signal a lack of self-awareness (which we're likely dramatically overestimating), which drives leaders and their teams toward miscommunication and a lack of trust and confidence in one another.
Today, it's more important than ever to be aware of your EQ: a 2022 Gallup survey reveals that an overwhelming number of employees felt their boss' empathy decreased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, and the widespread transition to remote work has made it challenging to read social cues like body language.
Luckily, there are many ways to increase your EQ, especially if you're working with an executive coach! You'll learn to identify triggers and low-EQ behaviors via 1:1 exercises and gathering feedback from colleagues with tools like 360 assessments. Working to increase your EQ promises more effective decision-making, increased resilience, and a nearly 1500% ROI – and as a bonus, you're more likely to earn a higher salary!
The Truth is Out There (And It'll Help You Grow as a Leader)
Leaders often find themselves surrounded by "yes men" (“yes people?”) – close advisors or team members who, for whatever reason, avoid criticism or uncomfortable conversations like the plague. It can be difficult for leaders to get a clear view of their organization's shortcomings, resulting in a struggle to pinpoint the exact cause of issues. Others are aware of weak spots (especially if they're the problem) and are stumped about how to fix them. Without an "outsider’s view" to keep leaders grounded and help them work through tough situations, organizations suffer functionally and culturally.
An executive coach serves as an unbiased third party who will keep a leader honest and bring them back to reality. Coaches will review what leadership means to the client (and what all leaders should be doing) and take a look at the client's current leadership style in the context of any current challenges – so if your bad habits are stressing out your team, your coach can provide feedback, help you work through obstacles, and guide you to the best solutions for your personal and professional situation.
Working with a coach is the best way to get (and keep) yourself on the path to authentic, effective leadership. A good coach will encourage you to build on your strengths and preserve what makes you YOU, while working to help you to understand your weaker points and see the positives within them.
I think the LeadingLARGE mantra “Dare to grow. Choose to excel” perfectly encapsulates the appeal of the coaching experience – leaders who are courageous and committed to making positive change in their organizations have chosen to pursue leadership excellence!
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