The axiom “it’s lonely at the top” is often so very true. Today many top level executives find themselves in a world filled with isolation, uncertainty and challenge with no one around to lend support. Recognizing that they can’t do it alone, successful executives are turning to someone whom they can talk to and who will carefully listen–an executive coach.
Executives often find it difficult or nearly impossible to discuss certain issues with their staff. They need to speak with someone candidly, confidentially, without being concerned about what it sounds like and without the fear of offending.
As one president of a small organization told me, “Sometimes I just need a reality check…I can’t get that from my direct reports. My people are often so concerned about what they think I want to hear–and I just don’t need that! Frankly, I’m just not comfortable telling them certain things. I want to be able to formulate my ideas first and I need to be able to bounce them around…to get different perspectives, without being encumbered by the politics of the organization. As an outsider, you give me this.”
So what are executive coaches? Coaches are consultants, confidants, or friends with whom executives can turn to talk through issues, strategize on critical issues, bounce ideas off, tell intimate thoughts, or merely someone with whom they can just vent. Coaches can help executives think through problems, clarify issues, provide candid feedback, and formulate strategic goals.
Coaches help the executive to look at issues objectively. Sometimes executives are encumbered by various issues, personalities, and political agendas. The coach can help him/her to sort through the issues so that the executive can be objective and reach a better decision.
How often have you been sucked into the dynamics of your organization losing all perspective on the issues and problems? In fact, it is often the case that in the process, you become part of the very problem you are trying to solve! You can no longer see the problem–you get pulled into the day to day issues at hand and the dynamics of the situation, and your perspective is eroded. You can lose sight of the big picture–the very essence of your role. Effective coaches help executives to “step off the merry-go-round” and step back from the problem in order to recapture their objectivity–allowing them to once again to see the big picture.
The coach’s role should not be to swing an executive in a particular direction; nor to provide the executive with the answers. Merely it is a trusted individual who helps the executive to reach his/her own answers. Coaches can be tough and direct, but their role is to listen intently, ask thought provoking questions, and thereby help the executive to think through the issues in a clear, objective and unencumbered manner.