Change is at the root of coaching whether it is introducing healthier ways of being in our current lives or transformative depth work that brings about radical development.
Coaching occurs in a relationship between a coach and client. Coaching involves understanding issues differently and taking new action to produce objective, measurable results. Coaching works quickly and is practical in its focus.
Working with a coach enables the client to get underneath a challenge or issue to see how they have been approaching it up until now. There are usually some fundamental ‘Ah Ha’ moments as the client realizes, “No wonder I haven’t been able to sustain this.” Coaching enables the client to more effectively identify and work with long-standing patterns while building the ability to move in new directions. Both occur at the same time. The grip of a past way of being is loosened as it is more consciously worked with while simultaneously creating new ways of moving forward.
In actively working in both of these areas (the ‘past-based’ way of being and the ‘future-based’ desired outcomes) unprecedented results are attained in very short periods of time. The coach works with a client so that they explicitly and objectively come to see her/himself. The client is then able to shift quite quickly and radically into healthier, more productive, deeply satisfying, and more expanded ways of being in their life. The ‘Ah Ha’ moments that occur in coaching are powerful but more poignant are the capabilities developed by clients to shift long-standing patterns that have felt immovable and get results and outcomes they are looking for.
Roxanne follows the Integral coaching approach which provides a highly structured and rigorous framework. This rigor allows for relevant and personalized coaching programs focused on clear and measurable outcomes. Integral coaching is based on a number of principles drawn from various philosophical traditions.
From pragmatics Integral Coaching takes the notion that coaching must be outcome-based and that over the course of a coaching program there needs to be continuous correction based on feedback. The overall goal of coaching is long term change which is self sustaining and self generating. Insights alone are not sufficient although they are important to create the motivation and opening for behavioral change. Coaching involves cycles of development where insights are followed by new action and new action is followed by new results.
From phenomenology Integral Coaching takes the idea that the coach and the client do not need to go into the past and understand the why’s for various patterns of behaviors and beliefs. Instead everything that is needed for change is present in the moment and if we work with the present moment as it is unfolding we will build the awareness and experience the breakthroughs we need to move us forward.
From hermeneutics Integral Coaching focuses on observing how individuals construct interpretations about their existence, which are then reflected through their language and their actions. The idea that human reality is always historically shaped interpretation is vital to integral coaching. Through structured conversations the integral coach assists others to become aware of these interpretations and how they can be changed. The integral method to coaching gives access to a different way of observing and interpreting the world which in turn provides access to different behaviors that may better support commitments. The essential goal is change which is best accomplished by changing attitudes, beliefs and frames. Some of the most powerful tools used to expand limiting beliefs and judgments are around reframing and the use of metaphors. In fact each coaching client is offered a metaphor specifically developed for them describing how they in their coaching topic as they begin the coaching program and another metaphor which offers them an expanded way of looking at their topic and a new way of behaving. These fundamental metaphors provide a context for the competencies the client will be developing in the program.
Integral Coaching is fundamentally an ontological approach. This means that Integral coaching does not offer tips, techniques, coaxing, manipulation and will power as part of its methodology. In terms of long term sustainable change such methods do not work. What is needed is change at the level of being and at the level of doing. In other words you need to work on changing how you think and interpret situations at the same time as you change behaviors. If for example you are working on delegating more but you have a belief that the world is full of untrustworthy people you are unlikely to become an effective delegator if you don’t shift that belief. The Integral Coach works on the level of being and level of doing as parallel streams that need to be addressed. You can’t behave yourself into a new way of being and a new way of being in and of itself doesn’t build competencies. Both must be addressed and developed simultaneously. The fact that Integral Coaching is a personalized approach goes without saying. Each person has a unique way of being that is influencing how they are behaving. The coach and the client work together to gain access to this.
Finally, Integral Coaching is based on Integral philosophy and psychology. Integral means whole or complete. The notion here is that many approaches are effective to some degree but are partial – that is they don’t take into account the fullness of who we are in a given moment and in a sense do not help to align all aspects of ourselves when introducing change. The Integral Coaching approach attempts to take a more systemic approach through the use of a set of powerful assessment lenses which provide for a more complete experience and awareness of the client’s world and an opportunity to create a personalized and unique coaching journey for that person. The assessment lenses each provide a picture of an element of the client’s world and can help the coach observe where the client’s attention is and isn’t with respect to their topic. The key lenses include one on the 4 orientations to life, a levels of development lens, a lens on the lines of development, (cognitive, emotional, moral etc. ), a gender lens and a type lens. Taken together the lenses provide a constellation or picture of the unique world of the client and offer the coach insights into areas to focus on as the coach and the client work together to achieve the objectives they have set together.
Coaching a client starts with an initial intake where together the coach and the client determine the focus for the program in terms of themes, competencies. If assessments such as 360s have been conducted they are reviewed as data to help form the objectives for the coaching program.
At the second meeting the coach and the client review and agree on a proposed coaching program which the coach has prepared for the client. (This program is based on the initial intake meeting, the coach’s use of the assessment lenses described above and the topic the client came to the coach to address.) This document sets out the overall objective, sub objectives, competencies to develop, success criteria, possible activities and road map – number and frequency of meetings.
From that point on meetings usually take place every 2 weeks. Meetings are one hour to one hour and a half depending on the availability and needs of the client. Depending on the scope of the coaching program, the coaching meetings can take place anywhere from 3 to 6 or even 12 months. For clients enrolled in executive development programs the scheduling of coaching sessions is organized to support their other learning activities. This means that meetings may be more compressed or spread out over a longer period of time –for example for the Living Leadership program I offer 8 coaching sessions over an 18 months period.
The Coaching program plan is referred to at each coaching meeting as a compass directing and grounding the direction of the work. During the meetings the coach and client work on specific competencies outlined in the plan. They end each meeting with an activity the client is asked to engage in between meetings which will further his or her development. In this way the coach and client move through the cycle of reflection, decision, and action throughout the coaching program. As the coaching program ends the client and coach review their progress on the outcomes and competencies outlined in the coaching program and complete with an overview of what was learned and next steps.
- In the past ten years there has been a meteoric rise of executive coaching in organizations and within the public service. Executives have come to see the value of executive coaching both for themselves and for their organizations. There is no longer any stigma to having a coach – in fact coaching is now seen as a normal or even high-prestige development activity. The reason for this in part is because coaching provides a time out break in the face of work demands, for reflection, evaluation, feedback and purposeful dialogue. It gives leaders a rare breathing space and provides targeted strategies for improving executive’s less-developed sides. The most important benefit of executive coaching is its real potential to produce lasting and meaningful change.
- Executive coaching involves three levels of learning: problem solving, developing leadership capabilities and new ways of thinking and acting and generalizing these to other situations and roles, and learning how to learn, developing habits of self reflection that ensure that learning will continue after the coaching ends.
- A 1999 survey of 4000 companies conducted by the International Coach Federation cited the following benefits of coaching:
- Improved individual performance
- Increased bottom line results
- Improved client service
- Skill, relationship improvement & employee retention
- There are many different learning activities that tend to be part of leadership development: training courses, travel tours, case studies, mentoring, assignments, to name a few. There are a number of factors which distinguish executive coaching from these others types of learning activities:
- It involves a partnership among executive, coach and the organization
- The individual goals of an executive coaching engagement are linked back to strategic organizational objectives.
- Executive coaching is planned and undertaken with specific results in mind
- Executive coaching is concerned with the development of the executive in the context of organizational needs. The coaching objectives always include maximizing the executive’s effectiveness and contribution to the organization.
- Executive coaching requires the use of highly skilled and experienced professional coaches
- The integrity of the coaching relationship is key. All parties must function at the highest levels of integrity when involved in executive coaching activities.
- Judgment is key. There is no recipe for the perfect coaching intervention.
- Assessment of the coaching is often customized taking into account the needs of the executive, and the norms and culture of the organization.
There are many characteristics of effective executive coaches. What follows are 6 key ones:
- Discrete and acting with integrity
- An executive coach is often working with clients who share vulnerabilities, private views on themselves and others, concerns with respect to their abilities and others or directions and business issues. The coach must be someone who is relentless and vigilant in maintaining confidentiality around what arises in the coaching sessions. At times the coach has to navigate the interest shown in the coaching of an executive by the organization and ensure that no trust or confidentiality has been breached. The coach has to set up agreements and manage relationships with the client and others such that the needs of the individual, superior and organization are met while maintaining the integrity of the coaching itself.
- Love coaching
- Executives are for the most part highly competent, dedicated people who give of themselves to others and to their organizations. They work long hours, tend to love what they do and bring forward their talents in service to others. These people deserve a coach who is just as dedicated, who is fully engaged and who is fully committed to coaching. The executive coach must be someone who does all those extra things – prepares for sessions, thinks about the client between sessions, finds just the right book or just the right practice or just the right person for the client to meet with – all acts of love. The executive coach must bring energy, genuine interest, genuine empathy, awe, curiosity, creativity and presence to the coaching conversations each and every time and take risks to share what is happening in the sessions in service to the development of the highest potential of the client. Coaching must be an authentic and profound expression of who the coach is. They say that the quality of the coaching is in direct relation to the quality of the relationship the coach and the client have. This means the coach must sit in that third dimension – the spirit of love and care – that exists between people who genuinely care about each other.
- The executive coach must have intellectual and emotional agility. Intellectually the coach must be able to interact on multiple levels of development. The coach must meet the client where they are and be able to open the client to the next level if that is what the client is ready for. This means if the client is at an expert level of leadership development the coach must be able to communicate with them there and be understood. The coach must also be able to move to the next level, in this example to the achievist level and begin to open this up to expand the client’s way of being. This means the coach cannot be stuck thinking that any level of development defines reality but must be aware enough to recognize the value and need for them all and be able to at least help the client expand into new levels if this is required. At times the client may need to go to levels the coach hasn’t reached him or herself. The coach needs the agility to know how to recognize this and still assist the client. Intellectual agility is also needed to reframe stuck states, to be aware of the content, the context and process simultaneously in a conversation, to hear the story and be able to listen for patterns underneath. The coach also needs to be able to identify recurring patterns among the clients and be able to synthesize these and relay them back to the organization as part of the system level change within which the coaching is taking place. For example the coach needs to be able to identify a pattern in how executives are promoting or not promoting change which is stemming from an organizational source and be able to communicate this larger trend to senior leadership. Emotional agility is also required. The coach must be able to observe their own emotional reactions and unhook from them in order to stay connected to themselves and the client. The coach needs to be able to stay with the client’s emotions when necessary and have the skills required to help the client move through them.
- Continuous learner
- The executive coach needs to be reading, taking workshops, developing more self awareness at all times. The instrument of coaching is the coach. The coach must be developing him or herself as a lifelong learner. The coach needs to be taking risks, open like a sponge to anything and everything that might assist them in coaching. Like the best executives the coach must be open and curious, always on the lookout for what might work, what might offer something. The executive coach needs to do this learning on multiple fronts not as just a head experience but with their hearts and bodies. This means the coach has to try out new ways that are outside his or her comfort zone. Anything and everything that expands awareness can be explored. The coach also needs to be a continuous learner in the areas of leadership development, organizational change and trends in the public service.
- Stand for the highest potential of the client
- An executive coach must be able to connect with and communicate with the highest potential or highest expression of each client as if this is already there. In coaching jargon we say the coach must be a clearing for the essential self, authentic self of the client. The coach is a stand for the possibility that each client is. In this way the executive coach wakes up and connects with the power that lies within each client. This offers the client an expanded sense of themselves in the face of challenges and helps them unhook from limiting beliefs, limiting senses of who they are as leaders and what is possible for them or the situation.
- Reminder of freedom
- One of the most recurring and fundamental sources of difficulty for executives is that they, often for many good reasons, have lost their capacity to exercise freedom. They turn to a paradigm that weakens their leadership. They begin to believe that they can’t affect change, or that they can’t speak up or that the system won’t let them act. And once they feel like this they begin to hold back, they wait things out, they blame others or the system, they lose their sense of belonging and ownership, they withdraw, they marginalize possibility, they get cynical and self interested, they wait for someone else to come and save the day or they distract themselves with activity, restructuring, and seeing complex issues as nothing more than cognitive puzzles to be solved. The executive coach must be able to stand as a reminder of the freedom the executives actually have. The coach must challenge this victim paradigm and remind executives of who they are, what they stand for, what is more important than being comfortable. The executive coach must help executives remember the power of possibility and community, how to flow within an open system, the commitments that are living through them, the need for dissent, gifts that we all bring, and the choices that we are making.
- At the level of the individual
- The desirable outcome of executive coaching at the level of the individual being coached is long term change which is self sustaining and self generating. In other words the individual reaches his or her objective. This could be they have acquired a competency, they have clarified a direction, and they have overcome whatever obstacle they started with, they are now more effective in this area and they are moving toward the future they set out for themselves. Along the way the person is more self aware, more reflective, and has an expanded way of thinking about whatever the situation was that was the focus for the coaching. For many people the desired outcome also includes the fact that they and others see improvements in their effectiveness.
- At the level of the immediate group/team
- There are also desirable outcome of executive coaching at the level of the work unit or team that the person being coached works within. The desirable outcomes might be an improvement in effectiveness of the group, better morale, more involvement, better relationships with other teams or groups, more development of staff, and countless other outcomes which stem from working with a person who has been coached successfully. Since we are all interconnected the immediate group is bound to be affected positively by whatever improvements have been made by the person being coached.
- At the level of the organization
- The outcomes of executive coaching at the organization level are more around culture change. In organizations where numbers of leaders have been coached the culture tends to become one where there is more exploration of differing views, more in depth work on entrenched issues, more interest in exploring paradigms, and assumptions and basically a learning versus judging type culture. A Harvard Business Review article noted as well that when larger numbers of leaders are coached the overall leadership development level within the organization moves more solidly to the highest ranges. In some cases the base line functioning level of executives moved to the strategic level where the following became the norm: working across organizations, working with what emerges, being very aware of constructed meaning and having respect for others working at other levels of development.
- Difficult conversations
Executives at all levels have challenges dealing with problem employees and having difficult conversations with employees in general as well as those they report to.
- Authentic Leadership
Executives frequently ask for coaching in order to work on issues to do with what kind of leader they want to be, how to speak truth to power, how to hold values while going with the flow, how to fit in and stand out, and how to find a compass when the environment is changing so fast.
- Managing the context versus managing issues
At all executive levels work is being done around how to lead through others and create the context for others to thrive versus stepping in and taking on the work itself; this often involves becoming more aware of what pulls you into action and finding ways to resist this pull.
- Career decisions
Executive career decisions are often tied to the contribution they want to make and their desire to further their individual careers while serve the institution.
In this area coaching is often about the issue of self forgetting; executives’ attention is on action and immediate concerns most of the time. This leads to forgetting to take care of self and this leads to stress, losing a sense of your priorities, and being connected to what you are truly passionate about.
- Reacting versus generating
Executives like all of us get caught up in habitual activity and cynicism versus pausing, reflecting and generating despite the circumstances.
- Learning curve when taking on a new job
Often executives come to coaching when they are in the first 100 days of a new job; their concerns are around becoming fully functioning as soon as possible.