Executive coaching involves a series of one-on-one interactions between a manager or executive and an external coach. The goal of coaching is to equip people with the knowledge and opportunities they need to develop themselves and become more effective. Behaviour change is the goal of most executive coaches.

The phrase coaching is popular in today’s management circles and has received both complimentary and critical attention. One of the most popular types of coaching to emerge from management development research is executive coaching. It is a custom-tailored intervention that has become popular in corporations over the past thirty years (Smither, London, Flautt, Vargas & Kucine, 2003).

One of the top researchers in the field of consulting provides the following definition:

It is defined as a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioral techniques and methods to help the client achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve his or her professional performance and personal satisfaction and, consequently, to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organization within a formally defined coaching agreement”

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Executive Coaching Has Become A Popular L&D Intervention

In the past, the view of coaching was seen as an intervention that organizations could utilize to deal with troubled managers and avoid leadership derailment. Now, this negative image of coaching has faded and multiple stakeholders, including organizations, psychologists and accredited bodies, have jumped on the bandwagon to benefit from the surge in coaching as a Learning & Development (L&D) intervention for high profile managers.

Executive Coaches Focus on Work Issues

One of the issues with the diversity among coaching qualifications is in making a distinction between psychotherapy and coaching (Kilburg, 2004). One way in which The International Coaching Federation distinguishes between coaching and therapy is through whether the intervention focuses on the person or is focused on a work issue.

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Background of Executive Coaches

In order to be successful, organizations must screen coaches and examine their backgrounds in order to confirm that the coach has the necessary skills and experience for the coaching assignment. Several experts have advocated for all executive coaches to have a background in psychology.

Dean and Meyer (2002) have argued that psychological training “will assure that the coach has the basic knowledge and clinical skills needed to accomplish the objectives and goals.” (p.12). However, it is worth noting that executive coaching is probably not a place for psychologists who are not interested in business (Foxhall, 2002).

A qualification in the area of organizational behavior provides another valuable source of knoweldge for executive coaches. This especially applies to complex work issues that require an understanding of processes on team and organizational level.

Managers Have to be Ready for Coaching

It is also important to ensure that the executive is ready for coaching. Employees can undergo psychological evaluation before coaching to screen out those are not prepared to benefit from the process (Berglas, 2002). If the executive is motivated to become a better performer then this motivation is important in the coaching process because it ensures that the executive is prepared to accept the feedback from the evaluation.

This is not A Panacea but is A Useful L&D Yool

Based on the evidence, this is a valuable tool for management development. However, it is important that organizations carefully select a coach who meets the requirements for executive development. It is not a panacea for all organizational problems but is a useful tool in training and development management-level staff.

Coaching is not Just Beneficial for Executives and Managers

It is not just executives and managers that can benefit from coaching. In the 21st century knowledge economy professionals have become the backbone of organizations. This makes it important to provide coaching interventions to a broader target group beyond traditional line managers and executives.

For instance, an experienced project manager with the necessary qualification for coaching can establish a coaching relationship with a junior project manager. This relationship has to have a clear objective such as successfully completing a complex project. The coach helps the junior project manager to evaluate how the project is going and defines measures how to keep it on track.

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