How To Select An Executive Coach?

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Sponsored Article. Challenged with increasing responsibilities and complexity, more and more executives seek the support of a coach.Manuelle Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a bilingual and bicultural executive coach, interculturalist and expert in leadership development with more than 25 years of experience. Here are her tips for selecting an executive coach that is a good fit for you.

Hello Manuelle, you are a French-American executive coach. What is an executive coach?

An executive coach is a highly specialized professional who typically works with executives, senior leaders and high potential managers in organizations, as well as with entrepreneurs. Executive coaching is quite different from Life Coaching, which focuses primarily on personal dilemmas. Executive coaching focuses instead on developing the competencies and the performance of leaders in high stakes leadership positions.

Why do leaders or managers decide to work with an executive coach?

Leaders are often offered executive coaching to succeed through times of accelerated and intense growth, such as transitioning to higher positions with increased responsibilities, or transitioning from a “technical leader” role to a “people leader” role, or yet again moving to a different location or subsidiary within a company, or relocating overseas as expatriates. What motivates these leaders is a desire or a need to develop new competencies to succeed through this stage of their career. An executive coach provides a space for reflection and development away from the fast pace and complexities of a leader’s high-pressured life.

A topic that comes up more often these days is the request from my clients to increase their “executive presence”. By that we often mean increased strategic thinking and confidence, combined with finding one’s true voice as a leader through more sophisticated communication and presentation skills. This executive presence requires a higher level of influence and emotional intelligence, as well as an increased understanding of the systemic and political forces at stake. Our leaders are courageous men and women from whom we demand so much. Executive coaches partner with their clients to keep them focused on the key competencies they need to succeed.

Do you have any advice on how to select an executive coach?

First, gather information: read on the Internet or talk to colleagues who have engaged executive coaches themselves. If you work for a large company, I recommend that you contact your Human Resources department. HR departments in both French and American global companies typically offer Leadership development programs that include in-house and external training, along with coaching services. They will typically have guidelines on who may be eligible for executive coaching and who will cover the fees for the services. Talk about your interest with your boss, so that you can get his/her support. Whether you work for a global organization, a mid-size company or work for yourself as an entrepreneur, spend some time thinking about your goals and what you want to accomplish. Interview a couple of people who were recommended to you and see how you feel interacting with them. Ask them questions about their work, experience and methodologies.

Can you recommend any coaching techniques that our readers could apply in their everyday professional life?

Absolutely! One of the easiest yet hardest things for leaders and for all of us to do is to increase our awareness of how we are perceived by others by asking for feedback. In a professional coaching engagement, an executive coach will often use in-depth 360-degree interviews or confidential surveys to gather such feedback data.

But in most cases, our readers can accomplish a great deal in everyday professional situations by asking for specific and focused feedback. An example would be asking at the end of a meeting: “Would you share with me one thing that worked really well with how I led the meeting today, and one thing I could do better next time?” Listen to people’s suggestions without becoming defensive and just say “Thank you” to each person who gave you feedback. I know, it’s not always easy to do… Then take some time to think about the suggestions you received and select two that you will implement at your next meeting. This can add so much noticeable value!

It also serves as an excellent role model for your direct reports and colleagues, who of course could make a couple of improvements themselves if they requested some feedback. It is free and can be done in 5 minutes. Just be sure to keep whatever you decide to implement going for the long run to get the results you want, since it is only change that sticks over time that really make a difference.

Is it harder for French people to receive feedback?

It depends. Feedback techniques can seem a bit explicit and flat for the French, who are well known for their analytic capabilities and critical thinking, although my French clients of course appreciate how specific and actionable this feedback is. The notion of feedback can also seem quite foreign for French people who went to school in France some time ago, when feedback was often delivered from a critical and hierarchical perspective and rarely from a benevolent position geared toward the recipients’ success. That being said, French or Americans, all of us deep down are somewhat fearful of finding out how we are seen by others. What I often tell my clients to reassure them is that whether your meetings are running over, or you are not delegating enough, or your strategic plan needs improvements, your colleagues and direct reports are most likely already thinking this about you. And they are probably talking to each other wondering how to suggest improvements to you in a way you can hear without feeling offended. Feedback allows us all to focus our development on a few key elements that produce results that matter. That’s a lot!


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The website of Charbonneau Leadership Consulting here

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