“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”
-Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot
In one way or another I’ve been coaching people for more than 30 years. I started with college students, transitioned to small business owners and entrepreneurs, and then added senior executives in various industries, including the credit union industry.
Across that time period the idea of coaching business leaders has grown from a remedial approach to improve poor performance in specific areas to a booming business focused on helping leaders at all levels achieve better results.
From my perspective this is a very positive development, and a clear recognition that going it alone is not always (perhaps never) the best approach (even if you are in a top-level position).
However, not everyone sees it that way.
Some argue that executives don’t need coaching because they already have the knowledge, skills, and experience for the position they hold and therefore don’t need any help doing their job.
Others believe it is impossible for someone who has not worked at the same level within the specific industry to provide useful insight regarding the kinds of business decisions executives face on a day-to-day basis.
Then there are those who don’t understand the how the executive coaching process works and therefore question the wisdom of sharing critical inside information with an outsider. They also worry that the coaching process might distract the executive from the important issues they need to be handling.
And, of course, there are those who express concern about the level of investment required and how to accurately measure the return on it.
These are all legitimate areas to question, and they mirror the common questions people ask about products or services they haven’t yet experienced or don’t fully understand.
But in the final analysis the decision of whether your credit union should invest in coaching for your key executives boils down to one question: Why would an executive want to invest the time, energy, and money in a coach and how would that investment benefit them (and the credit union)?
That’s exactly the question I ask prospective clients, and here are the types of responses I hear:
- “I need a place where I can share my frustrations and concerns with the confidence that there will be no judgments or reprisals, no grapevine sharing of my concerns, and no unintended misunderstandings.”
- “My family members are getting burned out listening to me vent about the things and it’s not fair to keep forcing them to put up with it (and I am pretty sure they are tired of hearing it).”
- I want an independent place where I can kick ideas around about possible changes without freaking out the staff and fueling unnecessary fear about what might or might not happen.
- I need someone who will ask me the difficult questions that my team feels uncomfortable asking me, as well as the ones that we don’t think about because we are too close to the situation.
- It would really help me to be able to get an independent perspective on some of the decisions that I need to make—the kinds of things that I simply can’t share with anyone else.
- “I really need someone to listen without judgment to help me identify the real problem and borrow from experience working with others to guide me toward the right next step.”
- “I need a place where I can admit what I’m not sure of and share my concerns, openly and honestly without creating undue concern as I evaluate all available options to make the best decision.”
- “I need someone who can push me to become the best leader I can be and help me increase my impact every day.”
- “I need a fresh and different perspective on the things I deal with—the kind of insight someone from outside our industry can provide.”
- “As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I just need someone to kick me in the butt and remind me that there are actions I need to take, even though they are going to be difficult (and sometimes downright unpleasant).”
The overwhelming theme of tone of my conversations with these leaders who are interested in working with a coach is their desire to improve their personal performance—to be pushed beyond their comfort zone to go further than they believe they will go on their own. From my perspective that is not only a worthy goal, but one that cannot help but make the credit union more successful.
The bottom line: Based on the ability of a coach to provide support in the above areas of stated needs, and on the positive impacts that I’ve seen people experience when working with a coach, including (but not limited to)…lower stress, more focus, increased productivity, better relationships, increased clarity, less rework, and better company-wide results…I give an unqualified yes to the question of whether executive coaching is a worthwhile investment.
As they would say on the TV-show The Voice—“So who are you going to choose as your coach?”