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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why hire an executive coach to help on-boarding a new executive

This is the FINAL post in the on-boarding executives series. NEXT WEEK, I review the book, Difficult Conversations.

An executive coach has the new incoming executive’s best interest at heart, above all else. Of course, the organization is a concern as well but ultimately my focus (as a coach) is on making the executive, and ultimately the sponsoring company, successful. In a sense, I act as a bridge between the organization and my client, the new executive. My duties/functions include the following:

1. Address early questions: Coaches can find out from the organization what it wants from the new executive. What questions do subordinates, peers and their boss have for them (him or her), as they walk in the front door? Interviews, questionnaires and coordination with HR can help this process go smoothly.

2. Act as a sounding board. As a third party outsider, an executive coach can serve as a thoughtful sounding board for the new executive to discuss ideas, feelings, and issues. By being an objective, experienced outsider, an executive coach offers perspective, feedback, and a place to vent—to ensure the client doesn’t move in a precipitous and unthoughtful ways that might ultimately hurt personal credibility.

3. Take the temperature of the organization: Using periodic, regular inquiry, coaches can literally take the organization’s cultural temperature to find out whether the new executive is being perceived as a threat or an asset. I often do an early 360 evaluation and follow up with all-day meetings and interviews. Then the client gets this feedback, notes threats and works on them so that they can minimize negative impact early on in the tenure.

4. Become a safe harbor. Perhaps one of the least quantifiable but most important roles of an executive coach is to be a safe place for new executives to express their deepest thoughts and emotions. Leadership isn’t an easy place to be, and entering into a new organization’s culture only compounds the issue. Having someone in whom you can confide truthfully with complete confidence in their loyalty provides great relief.

5. The ROI is well worth it. The investment in executive coaching is 1-2% cost-to-risk outlay for the company. I just wish I could get that from any of my investments these days!

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