Why do some executive coaching assignments yield much better results than others?
When I reviewed my coaching assignments of the past few years, I discovered one difference that makes a big difference.
My clients who were most successful in their personal development, often including a life-changing experience or a quantum leap in their leadership capabilities, had all one thing in common: prior to starting the actual executive coaching we gathered feedback from key stakeholders, either through a formal 360 degree feedback or via individual stakeholder interviews.
Leaders who did not involve a formalized feedback procedure as part of their coaching journey usually made significant progress, too, but sometimes the results seemed somewhat less “measurable”, or I just felt that— based on the coachee’s obvious potential — they could have accomplished more.
Whenever stakeholder feedback was involved in the coaching, positive changes in my clients’ behaviours were not only reported more frequently by others, but often they got promoted during or shortly after the coaching assignment as a result of these behavioural changes.
Why does stakeholder feedback make executive coaching more effective?
Three key elements make executive coaching programs with stakeholder involvement more successful than other programs:
1. Without candid feedback leaders just don’t know what they really need to develop.
When executives have not received honest feedback from others before, and I ask them what they want to be coached on, their answer will be highly biased based on their own view of themselves. Thinking about what you want to develop by yourself is a good start. It’s maybe not good enough though.
Without feedback, we only see a part of the whole picture. We just don’t know how others see us, and this can be mission-critical. In our own limited view of the world, we may think our attention to detail makes us super-effective as leaders — whereas our followers feel limited by our micro-management. We may see ourselves as amazingly creative having all these brilliant ideas all the time — whilst we confuse others with what they perceive as daily changing priorities.
Receiving stakeholder feedback is usually a truly eye-opening experience for my coaching clients. Honest and candid feedback helps you understand how others really see you, and accordingly what you need to develop specifically to enhance your leadership skills.
2. Feedback helps you to focus your energy on what really matters
I strongly believe that the client should set the agenda for each coaching session. A good coach does not impose their own agenda on the client. I have observed though that when coaching is done without stakeholder involvement, there is a tendency for coachees to frequently change topics. This month the coaching is on improving communication, next month it’s about time management. Whilst it does help the coachee to work on whatever is important to them at any given point in time, it may dilute the overall efforts made and lead to a less than optimum result of the coaching program.
Once people understand through feedback how they are perceived by others, they become very eager to manage (or to “correct”) this perception. They understand that focusing their efforts on changing behaviours in just a few critical areas will help them and their teams accomplish so much more.
3. Promotion is based on perception, not performance
Does the best leader get promoted? Or the one who is perceived as the best leader? Whether you like it or not, producing quality work alone is not enough. Others must also perceive your work as quality work.
As stakeholder feedback helps you understand specifically how others see you and what matters most to them, you will be enabled to manage perception. Effective perception management means fulfilling critical expectations from key stakeholders while remaining authentic in your individual leadership style. And effective perception management is what you need to get this job that you want so badly.
If feedback is so powerful, why don’t all leaders use this tool in their executive coaching journey?
Good question! I believe it’s the selfie effect: you take photos of yourself, you keep those that make you look good, and you delete the rest. Asking for feedback is like looking at all the selfies, including those you’d prefer to delete. They are a reality, and a part of you, even if you prefer not to see it.
Many perceive asking for candid feedback as inconvenient or unpleasant. Confronting yourself with reality may indeed take some guts. However, there is no other way if you really want to take your leadership performance to the next level. Just as in sports where you also have to do the heavy lifting if you want to become stronger. No pain no gain.
Excuses I often hear are that “it’s just not our culture” (particularly in Asia), or that “currently we have no budget.” (Well, these people would better think in terms of return of investment.)
Executive Coaching involving stakeholder feedback, be it formal 360 degree feedback or individual interviews, cannot guarantee success. But it dramatically increases your chances for exceptional coaching results compared to coaching without stakeholder involvement.
Would you like to explore how you can accelerate your leadership development and make it most successful? Contact me now for your personal consultation without ay obligations:
phone: +66-2 107 2025