For many of our executive coaching clients or prospects, the question whether or not to go for coaching is a no-brainer. Executives seem to be convinced of the benefits – and we often find their conviction rising with the level of their position. Knowing which approach to choose for the collaboration, however, is an entirely different story.
Coaching, sounding-board or advice?
When thinking about coaching, first consider what you want to get out of it. True coaching is typically question- and self-discovery-based. With the clients as masters of their own affairs, the goal of a coaching process is to stimulate the right questions, metaphors or examples for creating transformative discoveries.
Often times, clients in higher and “lonelier” the positions are more likely to wish for a sparring partner or sounding board. This type of client wants to discuss business matters up-front and use the feedback to achieve the desired results. While typical coaching and sparring partnership can go hand in hand, it is important to clarify right from the beginning what you expect, bearing in mind that a mixed approach is possible.
Both, the typical coaching and sounding board situations are different from advice. Depending on the specific situation, a client may want to consider advice from a subject matter expert in areas such as organizational transformation, culture or crisis management. Again a typical coaching arrangement can be a mixture of these three forms, but it is good to discuss and gain clarity in advance.
Further distinctions for typical coaching situations are:
Skills coaching: This form focuses on developing a specific skill set that may only require short interventions – on average 10 sessions, depending on the range of desired skill sets. While this form of coaching seems to focus on skills, it also addresses behavior and identity. Therefore, it often includes a rehearsal and feedback process with sufficient time between coaching sessions for testing the desired skills, e.g. presentations, sales or negotiations.
Developmental/performance coaching is about improving performance over a specific period of time. Depending on the seniority of the client, this could be anywhere between 1 month and 2 years. This coaching focuses on the way the client sets goals, deals with obstacles and evaluates and monitors their performance as they work towards their goals. This kind of set-up tends to be more strategic than skills coaching, and often follows a performance review.
Transformational leadership coaching takes a broader strategic approach, often dealing with more personal questions and leadership development. Transformational coaching focuses on advancing emotional, personal and leadership competencies. It can encompass the client’s development as well as their team’s development. Engagements usually last between 10 and 30 sessions, depending on the situation.
Career coaching: Career coaching supports an executive’s job search and career advancement. This work often starts with a balanced assessment of the current situation and future visions. Then it moves on to analyze the values, success factors and strengths to be highlighted in the client’s resume and identifies jobs and careers that provide the perfect match. Since this work potentially reframes deeply held beliefs about the past, one's identity and that of the current or past work-places; career coaching is often paired with skill set, developmental and transformational approaches.
Obviously a coaching program can be a hybrid of all of these forms and possibly others as well. Since the list of set-ups, approaches and methods applied seems endless, it is worth-while to think about these differentiations you discuss which frame will be best for you. Your discussion should also include the frequency and duration of your coaching and whether you prefer your sessions face-to-face, online via video conferencing or on the phone – again bearing in mind that a tailored mix can potentially produce the best results.