Successful executive coaching requires sophisticated understanding of organizations as well as of individuals. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the intersection of business strategy and the executive coaching that supports it. Senior leaders play a critical role in setting direction, defining strategic positions, and providing focus for the business operations needed for successful execution. Through executive coaching, a leader can be more effective, as an individual, in guiding the execution of the strategy. Furthermore, given the positions these individuals occupy in their organizations, coaching can also affect the formation of strategy.
An essential HR responsibility is to support the business strategy with initiatives, programs, processes, and business partner consulting that may help the organization achieve its business goals. Executive coaching is one area in which HR has the potential to support not only the execution of the strategy but its development as well. Involvement of HR in executive coaching may take a variety of forms that include supporting an ad hoc request for coaching, developing a coaching program as part of a larger HR or executive development strategy, or providing executive coaching directly as an internal coach.
Four Different Coaching Roles
This approach (Witherspoon and White, 1996) defines each coaching role according to its purpose:
• Coaching for skills, which focuses on specific skills required for a current job
• Coaching for performance, which focuses more broadly on a present job
• Coaching for development, which is directed toward learning for a future job
• Coaching for the executive's agenda, which focuses on learning that is related to an executive's agenda in the broadest sense
The last role, coaching for the executive's agenda, is the most directly relevant to strategy. Building on Witherspoon and White's model, in this role, a coach might:
• Be a sounding board for an executive who needs to explore the feasibility of several potential strategy scenarios
• Help test an executive's assumptions regarding marketplace realities and the opportunities they present
• Point out blind spots on the part of the executive that are impeding implementation
• Enhance creativity
• Support the efforts required to pursue a given strategic direction by helping an executive lay out a change strategy that supports the business strategy
The role of coaching for the executive's agenda seems to have the greatest relevance for strategy; however, any of the roles could help focus learning that relates to business strategy. For example, when coaching for skills, an executive may need to address some of the following areas:
• Acquiring more knowledge about the new Internet economy in order to fully understand emerging strategic options
• Honing negotiation skills for new partnerships with customers who simultaneously become partners, suppliers, and competitors
• Further refining expert communication skills with the goal of implementing and providing leadership through major organizational change.
The other two roles, coaching for performance and coaching for development, may also be appropriate for specific situations involving strategy formation or execution.
Ref: Catherine Fitzgerald and Jennifer Berger